Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets was the name of three separate ice hockey teams based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The original team was part of the United States Amateur Hockey Association (USAHA) from 1920 to 1925 and developed from predecessors dating back to 1915. They evolved from being an amateur to a semi-pro team and are one of the earliest sports organizations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After winning the USAHA Championship in 1924 and 1925, the Yellow Jackets were sold to attorney James Callahan and soon became the Pittsburgh Pirates of the National Hockey League. However, after the demise of the Pirates in 1930, a second Yellow Jackets club (founded by the owner of the original club) played for two seasons in the International Hockey League, a minor professional circuit. A third team of the same name was organized at the amateur level in 1935 by John H. Harris and competed in the Eastern Amateur Hockey League before folding in 1937.

Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets I

Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets
CityPittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
LeagueUSNHL (1918)
USAHA (1920–1925)
Home arenaDuquesne Gardens
ColoursBlack, gold (1916)[1]
Red, gray (1916–1920)
Black, gold (1920–1925)
Franchise history
1916Duquesne Garden hockey team
1916–1920Pittsburgh Athletic Association
1920–1922Pittsburgh Hockey Club
1922–1925Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets
League championships1 USNHL (1918);
2 USAHA (1923–24, 1924–25)
Division championships2 (1923–24, 1924–25)


The roots of the Yellow Jackets trace back to late 1915, when Roy Schooley, a local politician and former hockey referee, began putting together an amateur team to play exhibition games at the Duquesne Gardens. Schooley brought in Canadian players including Dinny Manners, brothers Larry and Joe McCormick, and Russell McCrimmon.[2] The team, known as the "Duquesne Garden hockey team" after its home arena, compiled a 20–3–0 record in early 1916 against teams from Canada and the US.[3] A highlight of the season was a three-game series sweep of the St. Paul (Minnesota) Athletic Club, which had won the MacNaughton Cup as champion of the American Hockey Association and had defeated the Lachine club of Canada, holders of the Art Ross Cup.[3] After beating St. Paul, the Duquesne Garden team was claimed to be the hockey champion of the world,[3][4] though this claim was not officially or widely recognized.

P.A.A. era (1916–1920)

P.A.A. team of 1916–17
P.A.A. team of 1916–17

Starting with the following season of 1916–17, the team bore the name, colors, and "Winged Head" insignia of the Pittsburgh Athletic Association (P.A.A.), a private athletic and social club, while continuing to play at Duquesne Garden.[5][6] The team played exhibition games that season, finishing with a 37–3–0 record.[7]

During the winter of 1917–18 the P.A.A. joined the New York Wanderers, Boston Arenas and Boston Navy Yard in forming the United States National Hockey League, which lasted only one season. The P.A.A. won the league title and went on to defeat the Montreal Hochelaga club, holders of the Art Ross Cup, in an international amateur championship series to win the Fellowes international trophy.[8][9] That season's overall record of 24–3–2 included a 22-game winning streak.[10]

There was no 1918–19 season for the P.A.A., with Duquesne Garden being used as a barracks[11] and most of the players in military service.[12] The team however was able to resume its dominance in 1919–20, going 26–2–5.[13]

When ice hockey debuted as an Olympic sport in 1920, the P.A.A. furnished four of the eleven players on the silver medal-winning U.S. team: Herb Drury, the McCormick brothers and Ray Bonney.[13] Joe McCormick was named the Olympic team's captain.[14]

Entry into USAHA

In late October, 1920, the United States Amateur Hockey Association was formed, with Schooley and W.S. Haddock serving as co-founders and respectively acting as the league's secretary-treasurer and president.[15] The team that had been playing under the P.A.A. banner organized as the Pittsburgh Hockey Club, discarding the red and gray colors of the P.A.A. for new uniforms of black and gold.[16] An original member of the USAHA, the team played only a few exhibition games in its inaugural season before suspending operations because of eligibility problems.[17] It was reapproved for league play for the following season.[18] The team became known as the Yellow Jackets.[19]

"Pittsburgh's Canadians"

The Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets won the USAHA title in 1923–24
The Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets won the USAHA title in 1923–24

According to former sports reporter Paul Sullivan, who covered hockey for much of his life for the Pittsburgh Gazette-Times, the USAHA wasn't a completely amateur league. Sullivan noted that even though the USAHA was called an amateur league, "They didn't come down from Canada because they thought Pittsburgh was a nice place." This leads one[who?] to believe that money was paid out to top players in the league.[20] The eastern teams of USAHA soon imported Canadian players, to add to their rosters of local players. In 1923, Schooley had invited Lionel Conacher, a future Hall of Famer, to come to Pittsburgh and officiate games in February 1923, "to see if the crowd would take to him". Schooley then asked Conacher to play with the Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets in a four-game series against his former team, the Toronto Aura Lee hockey team, and against the Hamilton Tigers. Conacher impressed the Pittsburgh fans by scoring 11 of the Yellow Jackets' 23 goals in the four games.[21] Schooley then used his connections in the Pittsburgh media[22] to promote Conacher to the city's hockey fans. After seeing how well the fans took to Conacher, Schooley made him the team’s captain, and asked him to invite a number of his friends to play for the Yellow Jackets. These players included Harold Cotton, Hib Milks, Harold Darragh, Rodger Smith, Duke McCurry, "Tex" White and goalie Roy Worters.[15]

Dick Carroll, who had coached the Toronto Arenas to the Stanley Cup in 1918,[23] was appointed the team's coach once Conacher and his teammates arrived in Pittsburgh for the 1923–24 season by Schooley. However the use of Canadian players drew criticism, with the Boston-based teams leading the charge. In one instance, the Boston Herald questioned why: "Boston hockey … [was] hooked up with Pittsburgh at all… [After all] the best hockey in Boston is played by our own boys … [and Pittsburgh hockey] … is played mainly by a bunch of traveling mercenaries, who practically all are of Canadian birth and training." Some circles[who?] also referred to the Yellow Jackets as "Pittsburgh’s Canadians". These imported players joined current Yellow Jackets players Dinny Manners and Herb Drury, the latter of whom was about to win his second silver medal as a member of the U.S. Olympic hockey team.[15][24]

Championship era: 1924 and 1925

In the Yellow Jackets' opening game at the Duquesne Gardens, Conacher scored a hat trick.[21] The Yellow Jackets posted a 15–5–0 record for the 1923–24 season, to earn first place in the league's Western group. Pittsburgh then defeated the critical Boston Athletic Association to win Fellowes Cup 4 games to 1 in playoffs.[25] A Boston newspaper, the Boston Traveller, on January 29, 1924, termed the Yellow Jackets "a wonder team" and another account referred to Conacher as "Canada’s Wonder Athlete". The trio of Rodger Smith, Conacher and Roy Worters was part of Pittsburgh’s "stonewall defense."[21] The Yellow Jackets were so dominant by 1925 that they spun off another Pittsburgh team, named the Fort Pitt Hornets, who played in the Eastern Division.[20] Dinny Manners, who served as player-coach of the Yellow Jackets in the 1922–23 season, when they were only a .500 club, still played for the team during the 1923–24 season, however the following season he joined the Hornets.[15][26]

In their 1924–25 season, the Yellow Jackets finished their regular season with a 15–3–2 first season half record for first place in the Western Group, followed by a 10–8–2 second half record for second place in the west.[25] The Yellow Jackets would go on to defeat their same-city rivals, the Fort Pitt Hornets, at the Duquesne Gardens, and win their second Fellowes Cup, three games to none with one tie.[27]

The Pittsburgh Pirates and the NHL

The Yellow Jackets stopped playing after the USAHA folded at the end of the 1924–25 season. When Schooley encountered financial problems he sold the team to James Callahan, a lawyer from Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville. Callahan was granted an NHL expansion team and simply transferred the Yellow Jackets into the NHL as his expansion club keeping the entire roster of the Yellow Jackets intact. Schooley wanted to keep the rights to the "Yellow Jackets" name per the sale of the club, so Callahan had to rename the team when it entered the NHL. He choose Pittsburgh Pirates, stealing the name from the baseball club, something the new NFL team would also do eight years later.[28] Callahan kept the Yellow Jackets black and yellow uniforms. He simply modified the "P" logo on the front and had a word mark arched over the "P" that read "Pirates". Because of this, the NHL club wore a black and yellow color combination before the Major League Baseball team did who at the time were red, white, and blue. The Pirates made it to the Stanley Cup semifinals within a year.[29] The Pirates were also barely nudged out of the playoffs. In 1926, the playoff series was just two games long, with total goals deciding the issue. The Pirates, who finished third in the seven-team NHL, lost to the Montreal Maroons, 3–1, in the opener in Pittsburgh and tied, 3–3, in Montreal. The Maroons' 6-4 edge in goals gave them the series and they went on to win the 1926 Stanley Cup. Among the Jackets-turned-Pirates were two Hockey Hall of Famers—Lionel Conacher and goalie Roy Worters. The Pirates would operate from 1925 until 1930.[28]

Season-by-season record (USAHA)

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against

Season GP W L T Pts GF GA Finish Playoffs
1921–22 12 5 7 0 10 third in Group 2 Missed Playoffs[25]
1922–23 20 10 10 0 20 49 35 fourth in West Missed Playoffs[25]
1923–24 20 15 5 0 30 first in West Won USAHA Championship over Boston Athletic Association 4–1[25]
1924–25 40 25 11 5 55 first in East Won USAHA Championship over Fort Pitt Hornets 3–0–1[27]

Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets II

Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets
CityPittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
LeagueInternational Hockey League
Home arenaDuquesne Gardens
ColoursBlack, gold
Owner(s)Roy Schooley
Head coachCharlie Reid
Playoff championships0

The Pirates left Pittsburgh and became the short-lived Philadelphia Quakers in 1930, due to issues related to the Great Depression and the failure to find a replacement for the aging Duquesne Gardens. Shortly afterwards, Schooley applied for an expansion franchise in the International Hockey League. He gave the team the name of "Yellow Jackets" which he still had to the rights to. The team competed in the IHL for only two seasons.

In 1932, the Yellow Jackets served as a farm team for the Chicago Black Hawks who often took several of their key players in mid-season. Before a March 1932 game against the Buffalo Bisons, Pittsburgh's Doc Romnes was recalled to Chicago to aid the team in their NHL title chase. This and other roster moves over the season left the Yellow Jackets' coach, Charlie Reid to constantly change his forward lines.[30]

By 1932, the Yellow Jackets were having financial problems, despite the support Pittsburgh fans gave them, leaving some doubt as to whether the team would operate in 1932–33. On August 22, 1932, it was reported that the defunct Pittsburgh Pirates would be returning to the NHL for the upcoming season. The news put the Yellow Jackets in limbo, since the Pirates still held territorial rights and could deny the team permission to operate. However the trust company that owned the Jackets had the right to deny the NHL team the right to play at Duquesne Gardens. However the optimism was short-lived and on October 1, 1932 the Pirates formally suspended operations.[31] The Yellow Jackets went dormant as well,[31] and ultimately disbanded without playing another season.[32]

Season-by-season record

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against

Season GP W L T Pts GF GA Finish Playoffs
1930–31 48 21 18 9 51 101 108 fourth in IHL fourth in round robin[33]
1931–32 48 17 22 9 43 91 118 fifth in IHL Missed Playoffs[34]

Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets III

Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets
CityPittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
LeagueIndependent (early 1935)
Eastern Amateur Hockey League (1935–1937)
Home arenaDuquesne Gardens
ColoursBlack, gold
Owner(s)John H. Harris
Head coachDinny Manners
Playoff championships0
The Yellow Jackets relied on several unknown amateur players, including Carl Lehto and Jack Tuten, in early 1935.
The Yellow Jackets relied on several unknown amateur players, including Carl Lehto and Jack Tuten, in early 1935.
The Yellow Jackets in February 1935
The Yellow Jackets in February 1935
Yellow Jackets players Gus Giesebrecht, left, and Byron McDonald at the Duquesne Gardens in 1937.
Yellow Jackets players Gus Giesebrecht, left, and Byron McDonald at the Duquesne Gardens in 1937.

In January 1935,[35] Pittsburgh theater chain owner John H. Harris, who had taken a lease on the Gardens in 1932,[36] hired coach and former player Dinny Manners to put together an amateur team with the intent of placing it in the Eastern Amateur Hockey League.[37] This was the third hockey team in Pittsburgh to take the name Yellow Jackets, not including yet another team of the same name in a local commercial league.[32]

The team spent its shortened first season in early 1935 as an independent playing various exhibition games against other clubs. Then on October 29, 1935, the Montreal Gazette reported that the Yellow Jackets had joined the EAHL with the New York Rovers.[38] During the team's three seasons of play, Frank Brimsek served as the team's goaltender. Brimsek would go on to win 252 games in goal, which gave him the record for winningest American-born netminder. His record would stand until February 15, 1994, when Tom Barrasso and the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Winnipeg Jets, 5-3, at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena.[23][39]

The Yellow Jackets had a hand in providing Pittsburgh with another professional hockey team, the Pittsburgh Shamrocks. The idea for the Shamrocks team came about when Yellow Jackets' owner, John Harris, and Charles King, president of the International American Hockey League, met in Pittsburgh to discuss Pittsburgh’s possible entrance into the league in the fall. The meeting resulted in the establishment of the Shamrocks and established that the Gardens' ice time would be split by the new IHL team and the Yellow Jackets, who became the newest members of the Eastern Amateur Hockey League.[23] During his tenure as owner of the Yellow Jackets, John Harris made two notable decisions. First, on March 31, 1936, he hired Sonja Henie, 24-year-old Norwegian figure skater to perform before a Yellow Jackets’ game, leading to the creation of the Ice Capades.[40] Then, on October 4, 1936, Harris purchased the Detroit Olympics and moved the team to Pittsburgh, where they were renamed the Pittsburgh Hornets. Some players from the Yellow Jackets and Shamrocks players then joined the Hornets. After the 1936–37 season, the club folded.[41]

Season-by-season record

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against

Season GP W L T Pts GF GA Finish Playoffs
1935–36 40 22 16 2 46 108 74 second in EHL second in round robin[42][43]
1936–37 48 19 24 5 43 119 147 third in EHL Missed Playoffs[42]


The Yellow Jackets wore yellow wool jerseys with a "P" on the front of their jerseys in 1924. The wool jerseys featured black felt lettering would become the Pirates first set of jerseys. The team used the Pittsburgh's city crest emblems on the uniform sleeves. John McMahon, a sports writer for the Pittsburgh Press once referred to the color of the home jerseys as a "dingy mustard yellow." When the Yellow Jackets evolved into the city's first NHL team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the color scheme followed. In fact when the City's second NHL team, the Pittsburgh Penguins wanted to change their uniform colors from blue and white to black and gold, a move protested by the Boston Bruins, the Pirates-Yellow Jackets jerseys were showcased as precedence for the move.[44]

Prominent players

The following Yellow Jackets players are enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame:

Original Yellow Jackets:

EAHL Yellow Jackets:

See also


  1. ^ "Canucks Here for Ice Game". The Pittsburgh Post. January 10, 1916. p. 10 – via Newspapers.com.
  2. ^ Landucci, Fred (September 27, 1961). "First 'Pros' Start League Play in 1902". Pittsburgh Press. p. 21.
  3. ^ a b c McVicker, W.B. (1916). "Ice Hockey in Pittsburgh". In Howard, Tom (ed.). Official Ice Hockey Guide 1916–17. Spalding's Athletic Library. New York: American Sports Publishing Co. pp. 55–56 – via Internet Archive.
  4. ^ "Duquesne Wins World's Hockey Title". The Pittsburg Press. March 26, 1916. Sporting sec., p. 7.
  5. ^ "Hockey Fans Made Happy". The Pittsburgh Sunday Post. October 8, 1916. Sec. 3, p. 5 – via Newspapers.com.
  6. ^ Gibson, Florent (December 16, 1917). "P.A.A. May Withhold Use of Its Name from Garden Hockey Team". The Pittsburgh Sunday Post. Sec. 3, p. 4 – via Newspapers.com.
  7. ^ Howard, Tom, ed. (1917). "Hockey in Pittsburgh". Official Ice Hockey Guide 1917–18. Spalding's Athletic Library. New York: American Sports Publishing Co. p. 33 – via Internet Archive.
  8. ^ "Pittsburgh Gains New Hockey Honor". The Boston Globe. March 27, 1918. p. 7 – via Newspapers.com.
  9. ^ "Large Variety of Hockey Champions This Year". The Sun. New York. March 30, 1918. p. 13 – via Newspapers.com.
  10. ^ "Local Hockey Season Was a Big Success". The Pittsburg Press. April 7, 1918. Sports sec., p. 6 – via Newspapers.com.
  11. ^ Daniel (October 11, 1918). "Pittsburg[h] Follows New York Out of Hockey Activity". The Sun. New York. p. 17 – via Newspapers.com.
  12. ^ Guy, Richard (October 12, 1918). "Hockey Players Will Join U.S. Army". The Gazette Times. Pittsburgh. p. 10 – via Newspapers.com.
  13. ^ a b Howard, Tom, ed. (1921). Official Ice Hockey Guide and Winter Sports Almanac 1921. Spalding's Athletic Library. New York: American Sports Publishing Co. p. 17 – via Internet Archive.
  14. ^ Godin, Roger A. (2005). Before the Stars: Early Major League Hockey and the St. Paul Athletic Club Team. Minnesota Historical Society Press. p. 60. ISBN 0-87351-476-9.
  15. ^ a b c d Spence, Ron (September 10, 2008). "USAHA Hockey: Not a Parlour Game". Crashing the Goalie. Archived from the original on February 23, 2012. Retrieved April 23, 2012.
  16. ^ "Banner Season of Hockey Here Is Anticipated". The Gazette Times. Pittsburgh. November 21, 1920. Sec. 3, p. 6 – via Newspapers.com.
  17. ^ "Local Hockey Official Denies Statement of Duquesne Garden Head". The Pittsburgh Post. December 30, 1920. p. 10 – via Newspapers.com.
  18. ^ "Hockey Body Names Local Men Officers". The Gazette Times. Pittsburgh. October 30, 1921. Sec. 3, p. 8 – via Newspapers.com.
  19. ^ Lokka, John (May 9, 2020). "Schooley Scandal Plagues Pittsburgh Pucksters". Society for International Hockey Research. Retrieved October 4, 2021.
  20. ^ a b Bouchette, Ed (May 2, 1999). "Ice Age". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  21. ^ a b c Morrow, Don (Spring 1979). "Lionel Pretoria Conacher". Journal of Sports History. 6 (1): 20–21.
  22. ^ "Roy Schooley is Dead After Long Illness". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. November 14, 1933. pp. C1, C3.
  23. ^ a b c "1915–1925 Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets". Pittsburgh Hockey.net. Retrieved April 22, 2012.
  24. ^ Smith, Brady (January 20, 2011). "Let's Learn From the Past: Herb Drury". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  25. ^ a b c d e "St. Paul Athletic Club". Vintage Minnesota Hockey. Retrieved April 23, 2022.
  26. ^ "Manners Made Manager of Local Sextet". The Pittsburgh Press. November 12, 1922. Sporting sec., p. 4 – via Newspapers.com.
  27. ^ a b "Yellow Jackets Again Hockey Champs". The Gazette Times. Pittsburgh. April 12, 1925. Sec. 3, p. 2.
  28. ^ a b Christman, Paul. "1925-30 Pittsburgh Pirates Hockey (NHL)". Pittsburgh Hockey.net. Retrieved April 23, 2012.
  29. ^ Trietley, Greg (November 1, 2011). "Oakland once the hockey center of Pittsburgh". Pitt News.
  30. ^ Huhn, Joe (March 19, 1932). "Yellow Jackets Encounter Buffalo Six Here Tonight". Pittsburgh Press. p. 9.
  31. ^ a b Christman, Paul. "1931–1936 Former Pirates Franchise Looking for Rebirth". Pittsburgh Hockey. Retrieved April 24, 2012.
  32. ^ a b Taggart, Bert P. (February 11, 1936). "Yellow Jackets Living Up to Name's Great History". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – via Newspapers.com.
  33. ^ "1930–31 International Hockey League Standings". Retrieved February 20, 2022.
  34. ^ "Standings for the Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets of the IHL". HockeyDB.com. Retrieved April 23, 2012.
  35. ^ Shatto, Carl W. (January 20, 1935). "Manners Coach of Hockey Team". Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph. Part II: p. 1.
  36. ^ Landucci, Fred (September 29, 1961). "Ice Hockey's Cradle: Harris' Teams Hit Top". The Pittsburgh Press. p. 13 – via Newspapers.com.
  37. ^ Shatto, Carl W. (December 24, 1936). "Hockey, the Pittsburgh Cradled Sport". Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph. p. 18 – via Newspapers.com.
  38. ^ "U.S. Hockey League to Operate With 5 Clubs". Montreal Gazette. October 29, 1935. p. 14.
  39. ^ "This day in Pittsburgh Penguins history..." Retrieved April 24, 2012.
  40. ^ Grove, Bob. "Pittsburgh hockey thriving for more than a century". Pittsburgh Hockey.net. Retrieved April 24, 2012.
  41. ^ "1935-36 Pittsburgh Shamrocks (IHL)". Pittsburgh Hockey.net. Retrieved April 24, 2012.
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  43. ^ Taggart, Bert P. (April 3, 1936). "Orioles Take 'Cheese' Title of Ice League". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 20 – via Newspapers.com.
  44. ^ "Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets Jerseys". Pittsburgh Hockey.net. Archived from the original on July 16, 2012. Retrieved April 24, 2012.