Hockey and Canada, 1914-18

1917 interned canadians switzerland The Champion Hockey Team, 1917. Canada Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada

There is one thing that many people know about me, and that is that when I am not busily researching family trees and helping patrons here at the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s research center, the odds are pretty good that I am off somewhere watching hockey or studying its history. In fact, I just returned from a trip to Montréal to see the Montréal Canadiens beat the Boston Bruins. Had I known then of the exhibit currently on display at the Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa, I might have headed west, once I crossed the border, instead of going on to Montréal. However, it wasn’t until I had returned and was finalizing some pieces for a webinar that I saw the item on the website of the Library and Archives Canada (LAC).

From now until 22 January 2016, the Library and Archives Canada has an interesting exhibition that shows how the First World War affected hockey players – both men and women – at their repository at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa. The exhibit includes a variety of items including reproductions of photos, posters, and documents from the collections of LAC, as well as those found in the Hockey Hall of Fame. The curators have also digitized some copies of Canadian Expeditionary Force files and included the attestation papers of more than 25 Hockey Hall of Fame inductees.

To those who are familiar with the current 30-team National Hockey League, some of the teams mentioned may not be recognizable. In fact, the National Hockey League was founded in 1917 and by then Canada had been involved in the “war to end all wars” for three years; by the time it was over, in 1918, 60,000 brave Canadians would have perished.

The LAC site displays photographs of teams that existed in and around the time of the First World War, including the Ottawa Senators (nope – not the team that plays presently) and the Winnipeg Falcons. Perhaps the most touching photo is that of the Champion Hockey Team, made up of Canadians interned in Switzerland in 1917. Of course, as with most hockey players, it certainly didn’t stop them from playing their sport.

Because of this item on the LAC site, I found myself quickly seeking out information about Canada’s time line in the Great War, which led me to the Historica Canada web site. This site has an informative timeline of how Canada responded to the threats of World War I, including purchasing submarines, establishing internment camps for “enemy aliens,” and sending 31,000 troops in 31 ocean liners from Québec City to England on 3 October 1914.

While I will probably be unable to visit the exhibit, just seeing the banner on LAC’s web site pushed me to check into some history and gave me a couple of additional web sites to add to my list of “go to” places when it comes to Canadian research. After all, history and genealogy do go hand-in-hand and when I can get some hockey in there, then I feel like I have won the trifecta!

For those who are more interested in the Canadian Expeditionary Force files and the digitization of those files, be sure to visit LAC’s page: Soldiers of the First World War, 1914-1918.

Rhonda McClure

About Rhonda McClure

Rhonda R. McClure, Genealogist, is a nationally recognized professional genealogist and lecturer specializing in New England and celebrity research as well as computerized genealogy; is compiler of more than 120 celebrity family trees; has been a contributing editor for Heritage Quest Magazine, Biography magazine and was a contributor to The History Channel Magazine and American History Magazine. In addition to numerous articles, she is the author of ten books, including the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition, Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors, and Digitizing Your Family History.View all posts by Rhonda McClure