Hockey Central
Senior Hockey & the Allan Cup – Part 1
Once the Highest Level of the Sport, Senior Hockey is Almost Extinct

There has been a dramatic decline in senior hockey in Canada these recent years and senior amateur hockey could be very near its demise. Only a handful of teams are left to compete for the Canadian senior hockey championship and the Allan Cup. This is quite a drastic change from the early days of hockey when the amateur game was the only game in town.

In 1885 the first hockey league in Canada was formed in Kingston, Ontario, paving the way for other cities like Montreal, Quebec, Toronto, Peterborough, London and Niagara Falls to form the senior hockey league teams. The Amateur Hockey Association of Canada was formed in 1886-87 and in 1890 the Ontario Hockey Association was organized.

This was the era of seven-man hockey teams and 60-minute men as the clubs were only allowed to carry one spare and could only use him in case of injury. The championship team was decided by whoever finished in first place in the league standings at the end of the regular-season schedule. There was no competition from the West even though Winnipeg had formed a senior hockey league in 1891.

In March of 1892, Lord Stanley of Preston, the sixth Governor-General of Canada announced his intention to obtain a Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup. The first recipient of the trophy that was soon known as the Stanley Cup was the Montreal AAA club in 1893.

In 1896 the Winnipeg Victorias traveled to Montreal and blanked the hometown Victorias 2-0, bringing the Stanley Cup west for the first time. Team captain Jack Armytage scored the winning goal in the game while Winnipeg goaltender George "Whitey" Merritt wore white cricket pads. Dan Bain, a future Hockey Hall of Famer, appeared in the Winnipeg Victorias lineup and got his first taste of Stanley Cup play. The Montreal club challenged Winnipeg later that year and with Hockey Hall of Famers Mike Grant and Graham Drinkwater, recaptured the Stanley Cup for the easterners. At the turn of the century hockey was on the move as were some of the future Hockey Hall of Fame players. Lester Patrick appeared with Brandon during the 1904 season, Fred "Cyclone" Taylor played with Portage la Prairie in 1905-06, Art Ross and Joe Hall were in Kenora's 1907 lineup and Edouard "Newsy" Lalonde played one game with Portage in 1907-08.

Of the many great early championship teams, the Ottawa Silver Seven club was perhaps the best. They won the Stanley Cup in 1903, 1904 and 1905 and successfully defeated two challengers during the 1906 season before losing to the Montreal Wanderers.

There were six Hockey Hall of Famers in the Ottawa lineup: Frank McGee, Harvey Pulford, Harry Westwick, Alf Smith, Billy Gilmour and netminder Bouse Hutton. It was around this time that professional hockey came into the picture and in 1908-09 the word amateur was dropped from the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association.

With top teams now willing to pay high salaries for talent, senior amateur clubs found they could not compete successfully with these professional outfits. As the Stanley Cup became the championship trophy of professional hockey senior amateur hockey in Canada was left without a championship cup. This problem was rectified in 1908 when Sir Montagu Allan of Montreal came forward and donated a new hockey trophy. The Allan Cup would be presented annually to the senior amateur hockey champions of Canada. There is a lot of history connected with the Allan Cup over the many years that have followed and longtime senior hockey fans like to spin stories of rinks jammed to the rafters from Glace Bay to Trail. Their anecdotes usually include folklore about the Trail Smoke Eaters, Edmonton Flyers, Toronto Dentals, Moncton Hawks, Whitby Dunlops, Saskatoon Quakers, Winnipeg Maroons and Thunder Bay Twins. They also feature names like Dick Irvin, "Bullet" Joe Simpson, Jerry LaFlamme, George Hainsworth, Frank Fredrickson, Reginald "Hooley" Smith, Grant Warwick, Bill Durnan and Harry Sinden.

In its heyday senior hockey in Canada rivalled, and in some places exceeded, the professional National Hockey League in terms of popularity. NHL teams would only ever represent a handful of Canadian cities (and just Toronto and Montreal from 1934 until 1970) while virtually every community of any size across the country could ice a senior amateur team. Players on these teams lived in the community year-round. Most of them had grown up there. To the fans, they were friends, neighbors and co-workers. Even when teams brought in "ringers" to bolster their roster, they would be given jobs in town and become a part of the community. The game had a much less mercenary feel than did early pro hockey and could foster genuine civic pride and fierce local rivalries. The Allan Cup was as big a deal on the hockey calendar as the Stanley Cup, and its East-West playoff format pushed the game's local rivalries across both regional and provincial boundaries and made senior amateur hockey a truly national spectacle.

The Ottawa Cliffsides were the first winners of the Allan Cup and in 1909 Queen's University of Kingston won the crown. Toronto St. Michael's College captured the Allan Cup in 1910 with team captain Jerry LaFlamme leading the charge. The Winnipeg Victorias were the first western club to win the Allan Cup in 1911 and became the first team to win back-to-back Canadian senior hockey championships when they repeated in 1912. In December of 1914 the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association was formed with branches in the provinces of Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Sashatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.

Remembering St. Mike's
    In terms of its hockey history, St, Michael's College in Toronto is generally associated with the junior game, winning the Memorial Cup four times while sending more than 140 players to the NHL. But hockey history at St. Mike's predates the birth of the Memorial Cup in 1919 by more than a decade and it was the senior game that provided the school with its first national championship.
    St. Michael's College was founded in 1852 but it was not until after the turn of the 20th century that the Catholic institution began to integrate into Protestant Ontario. Beginning with the school year of 1904-05, Father Henry Carr committed the College to adopting the high school curriculum prescribed by the Ontario department of education. Carr also believed that sports was a key to community involvement and formed the school's first hockey team in 1906. Competing with clubs from St. Andrew's College in Aurora and Upper Canada College in Toronto, St. Mike's won league titles in 1907 and 1908. Carr's hockey team challenged Stratford for the Ontario Hockey Association junior championship in 1908, but was defeated.
    Despite the loss, Carr moved St. Michael's into the senior OHA in 1909 and promptly won the John Ross Robertson Cup as league champions. The following year, St. Michael's went through the season undefeated, not only retaining the Robertson trophy but going on to capture the Allan Cup. A new tradition of hockey excellence had been born.

The Winnipeg Monarchs were the 1915 Allan Cup winners with Hockey Hall of Famers Dick Irvin and Fred "Steamer" Maxwell playing key roles in the championship season. Irvin scored the Cup-winning goal in the final that year as the Winnipeg club defeated the Melville Millionaires 4-2. World War I was now raging in Europe and many of the hockey players joined the Canadian Armed Forces. Hockey was still being played during the war years from 1914 until 1918 and leagues still operated in Canada. The senior loops took on names like the Military and Patriotic leagues and in 1916 the Winnipeg 61st Battalion, lead by the Hockey Hall of Famer "Bullet" Joe Simpson, captured the Allan Cup. The Kitchener club defeated the Winnipeg Ypres, a military team, and won the 1918 Allan Cup title. Hockey Hall of Famer goaltender George Hainsworth was outstanding in the nets for Kitchener.

In 1920 the Winnipeg Falcons were the Allan Cup champions, beating Toronto Varsity in the final. After their Cup victory, the CAHA asked the Winnipeg club to represent Canada at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, Belguim. The Falcons defeated Czechoslovakia, the United States and Sweden in the tournament and captured the gold medal in the first demonstration of hockey at the Olympics. Frank Fredrickson, a future Hockey Hall of Famer, led the Falcons with 12 goals in three games.

The Toronto Granites, who were Allan Cup champions in 1922 and 1923 represented Canada in the first Winter Olympics held at Chamonix, France in 1924. Team Canada demolished all opposition in its road to the gold medal with victories over Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Great Britain and the United States. In the five games Canada scored a total of 110 goals while allowing only three. Harry Watson led the Canadians with 36 goals in the tournament while Bert McCaffery chipped in with 20 and Reginald "Hooley" Smith added another 18 markers. Both Watson and Smith were later elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Another team member was defenseman and captain Dunc Munro, who would also captain the Montreal Maroons when they won the 1926 Stanley Cup title.

The Port Arthur Bearcats won back-to-back Allan Cup titles in 1925 and 1926, defeating the University of Toronto in the Canadian senior final both years. Port Arthur's Lorne Chabot was the best amateur goalkeeper in the country during these years and would later backstop the 1927-28 New York Rangers and the 1931-32 Toronto Maple Leafs to Stanley Cup victories.

The University of Toronto made its third straight Allan Cup final in 1927, this time against Fort William, and captured the championship with a 2-1 overtime triumph in the final game. All four games of the series were played in Vancouver and this was the first time that British Columbia had hosted the senior final. As Allan Cup winners, the University of Toronto represented Canada at the 1928 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Canada continued its dominance of international hockey as the Varsity Grads defeated Sweden 11-0, Great Britain 14-0 and Switzerland 13-0 to capture the gold medal. Hugh Plaxton and Dave Trottier led the Canadians with 12 goals apiece in the three-game set while goaltenders Joe Sullivan and Stuffy Mueller were both unbeatable in the net. It was a good year for scholastic hockey clubs in 1928, as the University of Manitoba won the Allan Cup championship over the Montreal Victorias in the final at Ottawa. Andy Blair was one of the westerners' key players and would later play a role in the Toronto Maple Leafs' 1932 Stanley Cup victory.

In 1931 the Winnipeg Hockey Club captured the Allan Cup and represented Canada at the 1932 Winter Olympics held at Lake Placid, New York. With only four countries represented that year, the officials decided on a double round-robin tournament for the first and only time in Olympic history. The Canadians were hard pressed to win the championship as they battled the United States to a 2-2 tie that could not be broken despite 30 minutes of overtime. Wally Munson led Canada in the scoring department with seven goals in the six-game series.

In 1933 the Moncton Hawks became the first Maritime team to win the Allan Cup as they recorded two shutout victories over the Saskatoon Quakers in the Canadian senior hockey final at Vancouver. Moncton goaltender Jimmy Foster was simply outstanding in both games, stopping everything the Quakers had to offer. Moncton repeated in the following campaign as Canadian senior hockey champions and Allan Cup holders. The Hawks defeated Fort William two games to one in the final played at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens. Jimmy Foster was again at his very best in the Moncton goal while teammate Dub James led the team in scoring with six points. One of the officials in the series was Clarence Campbell who would later become the president of the National Hockey League.

The Maritime provinces continued their hold on the Allan Cup in 1935 when the Halifax Wolverines won the Canadian senior hockey championship, defeating the Port Arthur Bearcats in the final in front of their hometown fans. The Wolverines were designated to represent Canada in the 1936 Winter Olympics at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. However, before the 1935-36 season began, several members of the Halifax team had jumped to other clubs and the CAHA replaced them with a hybird team that included several members of the Port Arthur Bearcats. It was a disappointing 1936 Olympics for the Canadian Club as they lost only one game in the tournament, but this 2-1 loss to Great Britain was enough to hand the gold medal to the British team. Canada settled for second place. It was also a very controversial tournament as the Olympic officials had overturned the rules and format.

The Trail Smoke Eaters won the Allan Cup in 1938 with a three-games-to-one victory over the Cornwall Flyers in the championship finals. A key figure for Trail was Johnny McCreedy who would later be a member of two Stanley Cup -winning teams with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Smoke Eaters represented Canada in the 1939 World Hockey Championships in Switzerland. They won all eight games of the tournament, scoring 42 goals against the opposition while allowing only one goal, and returned home as gold medal winners.

World War II began in Europe in the fall if 1939 and there was no sports competition internationally until 1947.

The Winnipeg Falcons

So high was the caliber of senior amateur hockey in Canada that until 1961, the Allan Cup champions and other top clubs could generally be counted on to bring home Olympic and World Championship gold. Canada's domination in international hockey began with the Winnipeg Falcons in 1920.

With World War I finally over, and the international sporting world hoping to return to normal after the cancellation of the 1916 Olympics in Berlin, it was decided to stage a spring sports festival in April of 1920 as a lead-in to the Antwerp Games. Canada would send its Allan Cup champion to the Olympic tournament, but there was one problem. The Allan Cup playoffs had not finished until March 29 and the Olympic hockey tournament was scheduled to start on April 20. The Falcons, who had traveled east to defeat the University of Toronto, would not have time to return to Winnipeg before leaving for Belgium. (Transatlantic travel meant boarding a steamship in 1920.) But for the Falcons, overcoming adversity was nothing new. Funds for new clothes and uniforms were hastily raised by the hockey community in Toronto, and the Winnipeg team left by train, first for Montreal, then St. John, New Brunswick, where they set sail for Europe on April 3.

The Falcons long voyage to Belguim had begun in the 1890s when Winnipeg's Icelandic community had began to form its own athletic clubs. The Icelandic Athletic Club and the Vikings played their first hockey game in 1896 and it drew so much interest from the Icelandic community in Winnipeg that is was decided to form a league. It consisted of just two teams. By 1908, finances were running low and the rent was rising at local ice rinks, so what resulted was the merger of the Vikings and IACs into one team. The Winnipeg Falcons were born, taking their name from the national bird of Iceland. Unfortunately, the Falcons found no place to play. The teams of Winnipeg's British-Protestant majority wanted no part of the immigrant squad and it was not until 1912 that they could form a rival league in which to play. Only after the player shortages and patriotic fervor created by World War I were the Falcons finally permitted to play with the other top Winnipeg teams. Yet after the war, even though every Falcons man of military age had served overseas, the Icelandic team was again on the outs.

Forced to structure a rival league again in 1919-20, the Falcons not only won the championship of the Manitoba Senior Hockey League, they then defeated the champions of Winnipeg, beat Fort Williams for the championship of Western Canada and went on to win the Allan Cup. After winning Olympic gold, the Falcons returned to civic receptions in Toronto and Winnipeg, where the city's hockey fans had always appreciated the team even if the hockey establishment hadn't.

Senior hockey continued in Canada throughout World War II with an abundance of military teams, some of which would be stocked with NHL players who had been drafted for war service but had not yet been shipped overseas. Future NHL star Bill Durnan helped the Kirkland Lake Blue Devils capture the Allan Cup in 1940, while fellow goaltender "Sugar" Jim Henry and future NHLer Grant Warwick led the Regina Rangers to victory in 1941. In 1942 the Ottawa RCAF Flyers hockey club captured the Canadian senior championship by defeating the Port Arthur Bearcats three games to two in the finals. The Flyers were bolstered by the Boston Bruins' famed line of Milt Schmidt, Woody Dumart and Bobby Bauer who all played key roles in the victory. Edgar Laprade played well for Port Arthur in the series and in 1948 would win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year with the New York Rangers.

The Ottawa Army Commandos won the 1943 Allan Cup title by defeating the Victoria Army Club three games to one in the final. Reg Reardon and Neil Colville were two future Hockey Hall of Fame members that sparked Ottawa's championship club, while "Sugar" Jim Henry played on his second Allan Cup winner in three years. In 1944 the Quebec Aces were the senior hockey champions of Canada and winners of the Allan Cup. They were led to victory by team captain Billy Reay who would go on and play on Stanley Cup championship clubs with the Montreal Canadiens in 1945-46 and 1952-53. Reay would also coach after his playing days for 17 seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Black Hawks.

There was no Allan Cup competition in 1945 (it being the sixth year of World War II) and the majority of hockey players of military age were in the Canadian Armed Forces. World War II ended in 1945 and hockey leagues resumed action on all fronts in Canada. The Calgary Stampeders ruled the senior hockey picture in 1946, winning the Allan Cup over the Hamilton Tigers by a four-games-to-one margin in the championship series. In the 1946-47 campaign the Montreal Royals dominated senior hockey in the east all season and then went on to defeat the defending Cup holders from Calgary in a tough seven-game final to win the Allan Cup. Six of the Royals players found themselves in the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens the following season: Gerry McNeil, Floyd Curry, Rip Riopelle, Tod Campeau, Jacques Locas and Doug Harvey. It would be 18 years before the Allan Cup would return to Quebec courtesy of the Cherbrooke Beavers in 1965.

In 1948 the Olympic Games resumed and were held at St. Moritz, Switzerland. The CAHA changed its format by sending a group of RCAF amateur players instead of the previous Allan Cup champions. In the tournament Team Canada (the RCAF Flyers) was led by forwards Wally Halder and George Mara. Canada and Czechoslovakia completed the tourney with identical records of 7-0-1 but the gold medal was awarded to the Canadians because of a better scoring differential.

The Ottawa Senators (called the "Barber Poles" because of their striped jerseys) were Allan Cup finalists in 1948, losing the final to the Edmonton Flyers four games to one. Goaltender Al Rollins was a standout in the Flyers net and would go on to a fine NHL career. (He would win the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP with Chicago in 1953-54.) Ottawa came back the following campaign and this time made no mistake in the final, beating the Regina Capitals four games to one to win the Allan Cup. Even with former NHL greats "Sudden Death" Mel Hill and Dave "Sweeney" Schriner, Regina could not skate or generate any offense against their eastern opposition.

One of the greatest amateur goaltenders in this era of hockey was Ottawa's Bill "Legs" Fraser. He was certainly a crowd favorite and after every Ottawa victory "Legs" would throw his goal stick into the stands. Fraser never played in the NHL but did have numerous offers from the professional clubs. He turned them all down.

The Toronto Marlboros were the senior amateur hockey champions of Canada in 1950. In the Allan Cup final that year the Marlboros defeated the Calgary Stampeders four game to one. Members of the winning team included Frank "Flash" Hollett who was on Stanley Cup championship clubs with the Boston Bruins in 1938-39 and 1940-41. Another member of the team was George Armstrong who would later play his entire NHL career (and be on four Stanley Cup-winning teams) with Toronto Maple Leafs. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975. Another Maple Leafs Hall of Famer, Joe Primeau, coached the Marlies this year. Having won the Memorial Cup as a coach with St. Michael's in 1947, Primeau would score an unprecedented hat trick by coaching the Maple Leafs to the Stanley Cup in 1951.

Canada was represented by the Edmonton Mercurys at the 1952 Winter Olympics at Oslo, Norway. The Canadians were most impressive in this tournament, starting with seven straight victories which led up to the gold medal game against the United States. It was a hard-fought match that finished in a 3-3 draw, giving the Mercurys the Olympic championship. Canada has not won an Olympic gold medal since this victory by the senior amateurs from Edmonton.

In 1954 the Penticton Vees captured the Canadian senior hockey championship with an exciting four-games-to-three triumph over the Sudbury Wolves in the finals. After falling behind three games to one, Penticton stormed back to win the last three contests and the series. The newly crowned Allan Cup winners were led by the Warwick brothers, Grant (playing coach), Dick and Billy who all played key roles in the victory.

The Penticton Vees represented Canada in the 1955 World Championships at Krefeld, Germany. With the championship on the line, Penticton blanked the Soviet Union by a 5-0 score. The Vees were led to victory with a two-goal performance by Billy Warwick in the final game.