History

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
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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.”

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