MANITOBA HOCKEY HERITAGE DAY
ANNUAL MANITOBA HOCKEY HERITAGE DAY, DECEMBER 20th
December 20, 2020 will mark the 130th anniversary of the first organized hockey game in Western Canada. This was a seminal event in Manitoba's long sporting history as the game continues to captivate and engage the public.
The Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame and Hockey Manitoba, are pleased to announce that the Province of Manitoba has designated December 20th as Manitoba Hockey Heritage Day.
Honorable Minister Cathy Cox Minister of Sport, Culture & Heritage has declared December 20th, Manitoba Hockey Heritage Day. Annually, December 20th will now be a significant date reminding us of the game of hockey's journey from the banks of the Assiniboine River on December 20, 1890 across 130 years of our province's history.
Through its smallest communities and larger urban centers, hockey has gripped Manitobans every winter exposing them to everything that makes the game great. In the poorly-lit wooden barns and makeshift rinks of yesteryear to today's modern arenas, the wins, the losses, the championships and the pure joy of athletic achievement, large or small, have left an enduring legacy.
Manitoba has produced Olympic, World and Stanley Cup championship teams and some of the greatest players in the history of the game. The Builders of the game played a key role since the beginning in organizing and growing the sport. Out of the limelight, the Officials and Volunteers kept the games running and the Media reported on the results.
The Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame and Hockey Manitoba are proud to be a part of this exciting day. Regretfully, the current situation with the Covid pandemic will curtail our first celebration. Despite the delay, there is much to celebrate over the coming years with special events and initiatives in communities to be organized across the province.
In the early 1880's, the young City of Winnipeg was experiencing its first economic boom. A wild and wooly location at the time, the tough freighters, railroaders and labourers making up the bulk of the population preferred boozing and gambling as their favourite forms of leisure.
However, for those citizens that were looking to build and not lose fortunes, more civilized activities were pursued. Soccer, lacrosse, rugby and baseball were popular in the warmer months and by 1886 snowshoeing, curling and skating were popular winter sports.
One of the many Easterners who migrated to Winnipeg was lawyer Patrick Anderson Macdonald who had settled in Winnipeg in 1880. In 1886 while on a visit to Montreal, MacDonald observed that organized hockey had captured the interest of Easterners. Hockey clubs and leagues had formed and fans were packing the rinks, and paying, to watch.
A noted sports enthusiast, MacDonald returned to Winnipeg with the type of hockey stick used in the East. That winter, he arranged a few informal games which were played on the Red River and other outside rinks.
Skating was a wildly popular sport in the 1880's and a number of indoor skating rinks were quickly built in Winnipeg. It was not until 1887 however, that hockey was played indoors, at what was known as the Royal Rink.
The teams playing against each other in most of these informal games--both indoors and outdoors--were the"Bankers" and the "All-Comers. With no suitable facility available the game struggled to catch on. Outdoor rinks were make-shift leaving players and observers at the mercy of prairie winter conditions.
In February, 1890 the public took notice through newspaper reports of a group of hockey regulars playing the Eastern game of hockey. It seemed the rough nature of the matches required ambulances to wait nearby.
Interest slowly grew among young males and the formation of a hockey league took shape. On November 3, 1890, at the instigation of Jack Armytage the Victoria Hockey Club was formed. The Winnipeg Free Press reported that the new club was going to "go into the sport for all they are worth."
On December 20, 1890, the first recorded hockey game in Western Canada was played between the Winnipeg Victorias and the Winnipegs at the outdoor Winnipeg Railway Rink on the Assiniboine River. A sparse crowd paid 15 cents each to watch the Victorias post a 4-1 victory over the Winnipegs.