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.

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.

10 thoughts on “Hockey and Canada, 1914-18

  1. My grandfather played hockey in Canada in the early 20th century. When I was 6 or 7 years old, I wore his old hockey skates with the toes stuffed with newspaper. He frequently came to Springfield, Massachusetts from Williamstown, Ontario where he “courted” my grandmother. Not only did I have his skates, I had his sweater which I was told was his hockey team sweater. Sadly, the skates and sweater are long gone as my parents had no interest in keeping those items or hundreds of others.

    Clement Alexis Dickson died in 1955 when I was very young. My only direct memory of him was when he would swing me back and forth between his legs. Although much of what should have been kept is gone, I have a large collections of photos, his wallet (which contained 2 25¢ paper bills) a photo album on his work for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad and one other interesting item.

    Grandpa was a blogger in every sense of the word. He kept a small, pocket sized, leather bound diary in which he wrote every day in 1913. From 1 January to 31 December, he “posted” anything he could think of that may have been interesting.

    I would like to be able to rediscover his life as a hockey player. I was told that he would skate for various towns but I’m not sure if there was any particular team he may have skated with. I also have his Attestation document from the Canadian Expeditionary Forces and his helmet from the “War to End All Wars.” I’m really happy my parents overlooked those items!

    Thanks for this post. It may provide some leads for me to finally rediscover Grandpa.

    1. You may want to try looking at newspapers for where he lived and played. Games were often reported in the newspapers and then if you can get some team names, there are avenues to see if any records survive for those teams.

      1. Thanks Rhonda! Great idea, but I’m like the “Cobbler With No Shoes!” I research for clients and teach but have nearly no time for my own research. However, this one is a worthy project for me. My aunt once told me the team’s name, but memory fails me.

  2. Hockey goes back a long way in Canada. First mentioned in 1836 by Haliburton as “Ball on Iice”, the college students at Kings College played the game of Hurley on ice leading eventually to the game of Hockey. Here’s one of many websites devoted to the subject. http://www.birthplaceofhockey.com/ .The pond is called Long Pond and is on the property of the Dill family, descendants of my cousin, Howard Dill known world wide as “The Pumpkin King”. Although Canadian, Howard was a rabid Boston Bruins fan and many Bruins attended the Pumpkin Regatta in Windsor, NS and floated on the river on hollowed out giant pumpkins.

  3. Although it wasn’t the main point of your post, thanks so much for posting the info about the CEF in WW I. My husband’s uncle was killed in France and I was able to find his enlistment papers and his burial record. His father served in the RCAF, but apparently his info must be in a different database. But now I have some leads on where to look.

    P.S. They all played recreational hockey, as did my husband, who supposedly learned to skate when he was 2 😉

    1. It was the hockey that grabbed my attention, but it was the fascination of the digitization of the records that had me digging deeper. I am glad that you have new leads. — Rhonda

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