The St. Pats organization had operated amateur hockey clubs in the Toronto area since the first decade of the 1900s, including the senior amateur St. Patricks team in the Ontario Hockey Association.
The Toronto franchise of the National Hockey League (NHL), since the NHL's founding in 1917, had been operated by the Arena Company, operators of the Arena Gardens in Toronto. The Arena Company had been granted a temporary franchise for the 1917-18 season, and leased the players from the Toronto Blueshirts from owner Eddie Livingstone while litigation was underway between Livingstone and the NHL. This temporary franchise won the Stanley Cup in 1918. However, instead of returning the players to Livingstone, the Arena Company formed the Toronto Arena Hockey Club, popularly known as the Toronto Arenas, with Arena Company auditor Hubert Vearncombe as team president. This new organization was duly admitted to the NHL as a full member in good standing, touching off a new round of litigation with Livingstone which forced the Arenas to unload most of their stars. They only won five games in 1918-19, and were forced to suspend operations in February.
Livingstone won a $20,000 judgment against the Arena Company, which declared bankruptcy to avoid paying the bill. Before the 1919–20 season, general manager Charlie Querrie learned that the Arena Company wanted to sell. As an interim measure, Querrie changed the team name to the Tecumsehs on December 7, 1919. The following day, Querrie reached agreement with the owners of the amateur St. Patrick's club to purchase the franchise. Frank Heffernan was named as manager. On December 13, 1919, the NHL transferred the Toronto franchise to the Querrie-St. Patricks group, for the fee of $5,000. The incorporation date of the club was December 22, 1919, and listed Fred Hambly, Percy Hambly, Paul Ciceri and Querrie with 99 shares each, and Richard Greer with 4 shares. This move was possible because the Arena Hockey Club was a self-contained corporation, and was therefore beyond the legal reach of Livingstone.
Although Querrie returned, player turnover was nearly 100%, partly because the Quebec NHL franchise was activating for this season, and the players that had been loaned to the Arenas and other NHL teams had been returned to Quebec. Additionally, with the poor performance of the previous season, and the turnover in franchise management, the franchise essentially started over. The club improved to second and third-place finishes in the halves of the schedule.
In 1920–21, the club placed second and first in the schedule halves, enough to make a playoff appearance. Unfortunately, the 'Super Six' of Ottawa would dominate the club 7–0 in a two-game total goals playoff. The experience would be helpful in the following season, however.