This article is over 5 years old and may contain outdated information.


Legacy of the Memorial Cup

The cup’s history as tribute to the hockey players who died in the First World War

  • Mar 31, 2014
  • 256 words
  • 2 minutes
Mark Potter, President of the International Hockey Hall of Fame, Mel and Bev Price, and Don Cherry pose with the Memorial cup Expand Image

In the trenches it never mattered who was a hometown hockey star. But in early October 1914, when the first Canadian contingent of nearly 33,000 troops headed to Europe, many of those young men were more comfortable wielding a hockey stick than their new rifle.

But as the First World War escalated and more Canadians enlisted, James T. Sutherland, president of the Ontario Hockey Association and quartermaster of the 146th Overseas Battalion in England, noted that the “nerve and gameness” crucial in hockey were also necessary in battle. “The bell has rung,” he said. “Let every man play the greatest game of his life.”

In 1919, to honour the Ontario Hockey Association’s dead, Sutherland conceived of the OHA Memorial Cup, for which junior teams across Canada could compete.

“The bulk of hockey players of that age had enlisted,” says Bill Fitsell, hockey historian and former curator of the International Hockey Hall of Fame in Kingston, Ont. “But Sutherland was sparked by the deaths of Allan ‘Scotty’ Davidson and George Richardson — two hockey greats whom he’d coached when they were Kingston Frontenacs players.”

The first cup title, in 1919, went to the University of Toronto Schools team, after they trounced the Regina Patricias 14–3 and 15–5 in two games at Toronto’s Arena Gardens. Still considered one of the most difficult trophies to win in hockey, the Memorial Cup’s legacy is sometimes overlooked. “It was a tribute to the OHA players who died,” says Fitsell, “but it was a gift to all of hockey across Canada.”

Expand Image

Are you passionate about Canadian geography?

You can support Canadian Geographic in 3 ways:

Related Content

Calgary Stampeders players Jabari Arthur, Quincy Butler and Marvin White meet fans and sign autographs

People & Culture

The Grey Cup turns 100

With the 100th Grey Cup set to kick off this November, the Canadian Football League and its rough-around-the-edges charm is winning converts

  • 4212 words
  • 17 minutes


Rock, star: the fast life and tragic death of Teacup Rock

Remembering P.E.I’s iconic natural wonder after being washed away by Hurricane Fiona in the fall of 2022

  • 793 words
  • 4 minutes
A maquette of a proposed design for a Stanley Cup monument in Ottawa

People & Culture

Design finalists unveiled for Stanley Cup monument in Ottawa

Canadians encouraged to submit feedback on the design they'd like to see installed in the nation's capital in 2017, the 125th anniversary of the first Stanley Cup

  • 518 words
  • 3 minutes
Mya Chau and Eve Helman science fair project


Calgary 6th-graders petition Starbucks to make a fully recyclable cup

Mya Chau and Eve Helman will travel to Seattle this week, where they hope to deliver their petition in person

  • 530 words
  • 3 minutes