The Legacy of the Montreal Winter Carnival

The Montreal Winter Carnival Hockey Tournament would see Canada’s (and the World’s) elite hockey clubs play for supremacy between 1883 and 1889. The MWC Tournament was the first ever organized ice hockey tournament that lead to the creation of the first ice hockey league, making the MWC Tournament the direct predecessor to the AHAC for historical and statistical purposes.

The Tournament helped establish Ice Hockey through the following important events:

  • First organized inter-city ice hockey competition, establishing Montreal as the premier ice hockey city in 1883.
  • First international ice hockey tournament when Tournament was moved to Vermont, USA for one year in 1886.
  • The top tournament teams went on to form first ice hockey league in 1887.
  • Canada’s Governor General Lord Stanley was inspired by watching MWC Tournament play in 1889 to the point that he considered donating a Championship Cup to Canada’s top hockey teams. He would later donate the Stanley Cup in 1893, ten years after the Tournament was established.

Montreal Winter Carnival Hockey Tournament Summary:

Year Montreal Winter Carnival Hockey Tournament Location Champion # of Teams
1883 St. Lawrence River McGill University 3
1884 McGill University’s Rink Montreal Victorias 5
1885 Montreal Crystals’ Rink Montreal Hockey Club 5
1886 Cancelled due to smallpox epidemic* Montreal Hockey Club
3
1887 Various Rinks Montreal Hockey Club 4
1888 Cancelled due to AHAC none nil
1889 Montreal Victorias’ Rink Montreal Victorias 4

 * Tournament played in Vermont, USA.

 

Montreal Winter Carnival Hockey Tournament Cumulative Standings:

Team TGP TW TL TT TGF TGA TW/TP
Montreal Victorias 11 7 3 1 18 7 2/4
Montreal Hockey Club 7 5 1 1 8 2 2/3
McGill University 11 5 5 1 10 23 1/5
Ottawa Hockey Club 7 3 3 1 8 5 0/2
Montreal Crystals 8 2 6 0 10 13 0/4
Quebec Hockey Club 2 0 0 2 2 2 0/1
Montreal Wanderers 3 0 3 0 0 1 0/1
Montreal Football Club 1 0 1 0 0 3 0/1

TW = Tournaments Won / TP = Tournaments Played

 

Montreal Winter Carnival Hockey Tournament Cumulative Championship Points

Championships to 1889 Montreal Winter Carnival Tournament (Final)
Team # of MWC Championships MWC Championship Points
Montreal Hockey Club 3 (1885-87) 8
Montreal Victorias 2 (1884,89) 7
McGill University 1 (1883) 2

 

Amateur Hockey Association of Canada, 1887

In 1887, the teams that made up the main circuit for the Montreal Winter Carnival decided to create a stand-alone hockey league that did not coincide with the popular winter festival. The powerful Montreal Hockey Club was joined by other MWC teams: McGill University, Montreal Crystals, Montreal Victorias, and the Ottawa Hockey Club. These five teams participated in a season of series challenges at the Crystal and Victoria hockey rinks, following the same format found in the predecessor Montreal Winter Carnival.

The first season played in 1887 (played from January 7 to March 11) saw The Montreal Crystals win the challenge Tournament by winning the last game of the season.

 

Championships to 1887 Season for Amateur Hockey Association of Canada
Carried over from 1886 Burlington Winter Carnvial
Team # of Championships Premier Championship Points
Montreal Hockey Club 2 (1885-86) 5
Montreal Crystals 1 (1887) 4 (+4)
Montreal Victorias 1 (1884) 4
McGill University 1 (1883) 2

 

Starting in 1883 with only three teams playing three games over two days, the humble beginnings of the MWC Hockey Tournament lead to the creation of the first persistent league. Four Montreal-based teams plus one team from Ottawa played in the MWC and also formed the AHAC in 1887. It is because of this direct linkage the MWC Hockey Tournament is considered to be the direct predecessor to the AHAC for historical and statistical purposes.

Amateur Hockey Association of Canada, 1888

In 1888, the teams that made up the main circuit for the Montreal Winter Carnival played a season-long stand-alone hockey league that did not coincide with the popular winter festival. In fact, the MWC Hockey Tournament was cancelled as the teams decided to play for the first time a balanced schedule against each other instead of the series challenge format that had been played up to now. The Montreal Hockey Club, McGill University, Montreal Crystals, and the Montreal Victorias participated in a balanced schedule at the Crystal and Victoria hockey rinks.

The second season played in 1888 (played from January 13 to March 15) saw The Montreal Hockey Club win the Championship in a one game playoff against the Montreal Victorias after both teams were tied at the end of regular season play. This was the first ever playoff game and the first ever tie in regular season play.

Championships to 1888 Season for Amateur Hockey Association of Canada
Team # of Championships Premier Championship Points
Montreal Hockey Club 3 (1885-86, 88) 8 (+3)
Montreal Crystals 1 (1887) 4
Montreal Victorias 1 (1884) 4
McGill University 1 (1883) 2

The MWC Tournament being the first ever organized Ice Hockey tournament lead to the creation of the first persistent league. The four Montreal teams plus Ottawa who all played in the MWC formed the AHAC in 1887 which became the first ever Ice Hockey League. Thus MWC Tournament is considered to be the direct predecessor to the AHAC for historical and statistical purposes. From this humble beginning ice hockey and its leagues established their beginning.

Amateur Hockey Association of Canada, 1889

In 1889, the teams that made up the main circuit for the Montreal Winter Carnival played a season-long stand-alone hockey league that coincided with the popular winter festival. In fact, the MWC Hockey Tournament was cancelled as the teams decided to play for the first time a balanced schedule against each other instead of the series challenge format that had been played up to now. The Montreal Hockey Club, Montreal Crystals, Quebec Hockey Club, and the Montreal Victorias participated in a balanced schedule at the Crystal and Victoria hockey rinks, following the same format found in the predecessor Montreal Winter Carnival.

The third season played in 1889 (played from February 2 to March 27) saw The Montreal Hockey Club win the Championship.

Championships to 1889 Season for Amateur Hockey Association of Canada
Team # of Championships Premier Championship Points
Montreal Hockey Club 4 (1885-86, 88-89) 11 (+3)
Montreal Crystals 1 (1887) 4
Montreal Victorias 1 (1884) 4
McGill University 1 (1883) 2

The MWC Tournament being the first ever organized Ice Hockey tournament lead to the creation of the first persistent league. The four Montreal teams plus Ottawa who all played in the MWC formed the AHAC in 1887 which became the first ever Ice Hockey League. Thus MWC Tournament is considered to be the direct predecessor to the AHAC for historical and statistical purposes. From this humble beginning ice hockey and its leagues established their beginning.

Amateur Hockey Association of Canada, 1890

In 1890, the teams that formerly made up the main circuit for the Montreal Winter Carnival played a season-long stand-alone hockey league that was a successor to the popular winter festival. In fact, the MWC Hockey Tournament was cancelled as the teams decided to focus on their own league play. The Montreal Hockey Club, Montreal Dominions (use be the Montreal Crystals), Quebec Hockey Club, and the Montreal Victorias participated in a challenge schedule at the Dominion and Victoria hockey rinks, following the same format found in the predecessor Montreal Winter Carnival.

The fourth season played in 1890 (from January 7 to March 14) saw The Montreal Hockey Club win the Championship.

Championships to 1890 Season for Amateur Hockey Association of Canada
Team # of Championships Premier Championship Points
Montreal Hockey Club 5 (1885-86, 88-90) 14 (+3)
Montreal Crystals 1 (1887) 4
Montreal Victorias 1 (1884) 4
McGill University 1 (1883) 2

The AHAC was the first ever organized Ice Hockey league. It was formed by four Montreal-based teams plus a team from Ottawa. Because these five teams all played in the preceding MWC Hockey Tournament, the AHAC is considered to be the direct descendant to the MWC for historical and statistical purposes.

Amateur Hockey Association of Canada, 1891

In 1891, the teams that formerly made up the main circuit for the Montreal Winter Carnival played a season-long stand-alone hockey league that was a successor to the popular winter festival. In fact, the MWC Hockey Tournament was cancelled as the teams decided to focus on their own league play. The Montreal Hockey Club, Montreal Crescents, Montreal Shamrocks, Montreal Victorias, Quebec Hockey Club, and the Ottawa Hockey Club participated in a challenge schedule at the Crystal hockey rink, following the same format found in the predecessor Montreal Winter Carnival.

The fifth season played in 1891 (from January 2 to March 5) saw The Montreal Hockey Club win the Championship.

Championships to 1891 Season for Amateur Hockey Association of Canada
Team # of Championships Premier Championship Points
Montreal Hockey Club 6 (1885-86, 88-91) 19 (+5)
Montreal Crystals 1 (1887) 4
Montreal Victorias 1 (1884) 4
McGill University 1 (1883) 2

The AHAC was the first ever organized Ice Hockey league. It was formed by four Montreal-based teams plus a team from Ottawa. Because these five teams all played in the preceding MWC Hockey Tournament, the AHAC is considered to be the direct descendant to the MWC for historical and statistical purposes.

Amateur Hockey Association of Canada, 1892

In 1892, the teams that formerly made up the main circuit for the Montreal Winter Carnival played a season-long stand-alone hockey league that was a successor to the popular winter festival. In fact, the MWC Hockey Tournament was cancelled as the teams decided to focus on their own league play. The Montreal Hockey Club, Montreal Shamrocks, Quebec Hockey Club, and the Ottawa Hockey Club participated in a challenge schedule at the Crystal and Rideau hockey rinks, following the same format found in the predecessor Montreal Winter Carnival. Ottawa Hockey Club became a temporary Champion from January 8 (by defeating the Montreal Hockey Club) until March 7 which was the final game of the season, when the Montreal HC defeated them at their home Rideau Rink. It was the Montreal HC’s only win of the season.

The result is said to have displeased Governor-General Stanley, and after the season, he announced his donation of the Stanley Cup at the Ottawa HC end-of-season banquet, and asked for changes in the determination of the championship. 1892 would be the last season played in a challenge format.

The sixth season played in 1892 (from January 8 to March 7) saw The Montreal Hockey Club win the Championship.

Championships to 1892 Season for Amateur Hockey Association of Canada
Team # of Championships Premier Championship Points
Montreal Hockey Club 7 (1885-86, 88-92) 22 (+3)
Montreal Crystals 1 (1887) 4
Montreal Victorias 1 (1884) 4
McGill University 1 (1883) 2

The AHAC was the first ever organized Ice Hockey league formed by four Montreal-based teams plus Ottawa. These five teams all played in the MWC Tournament so that tournament is considered to be the direct predecessor to the AHAC for historical and statistical purposes. From this humble start ice hockey and its leagues established their beginnings.

Amateur Hockey Association of Canada, 1887-1892 Summary

The Amateur Hockey Association played five of its first six seasons in a challenger format, a championship process we see in boxing where the winning party continues to hold the championship title until defeated. The AHAC did play its second season in 1888 in a balanced, round-robin format but switched back to challenge play from 1889 until 1892.

The first six seasons of 1887 to 1892 are summarized below as a single entity because so much changed in 1893:

  1. The AHAC would become the official premier hockey league when its champion was gifted the first ever Dominion Challenge Cup.
  2. The AHAC switched to an ongoing round-robin format for each subsequent season, a tradition that has been followed ever since.
  3. The membership of the AHAC would become set with five premier clubs: Montreal Hockey Club, Montreal Victorias, Montreal Crystals/Shamrocks, Quebec Hockey Club, and Ottawa Hockey Club.

 

Team TGP TW TL TT TGF TGA SW/SP
Montreal Hockey Club 30 24 6 0 103 54 5/6
Montreal Crystals* 18 5 13 0 39 57 1/5
Montreal Victorias 19 11 8 0 58 36 0/5
Ottawa Hockey Club 9 6 3 0 32 21 0/3
Quebec Hockey Club 5 0 5 0 6 14 0/4
McGill University 8 0 8 0 5 49 0/2
Montreal Shamrocks 3 0 3 0 5 17 0/2

* Includes three seasons as the Crystals,  one season played as the Dominions, and one season as the Crescents.

SW/SP = Seasons Won / Seasons Played

Rugby-Football and its impact on Hockey

As I was reviewing and posting some of the statistics I was perplexed why a team called Montreal Football Club would show up in some of the results. This team shows up in hockey’s early exhibition games and it also shows up once at the 1885 Winter Carnival Hockey Tournament.

So why would a club of football players play hockey?

To compete and to stay in shape! In fact the first ever ice hockey game that was played indoors in 1875 was organized by a rugby (football) player…

“An enterprising young engineer named James Creighton changed all that. Anxious that he and his rugby-playing friends had something to keep them in shape during winter, he started by bringing hockey in from the cold.” Montreal Gazette

Back in the 19th century sports was practiced differently than now. Athletic groups like the marquee Montreal Amateur Athletic Association fielded multiple clubs to participate in diverse sports like lacrosse, football, skating, and more. It was the MAAA that created the hockey and football powerhouses that dominated their respective sports.

The MAAA in the late 1800s was the premier grouping of ‘sportsmen’ who excelled at almost everything they played. The MAAA was known informally as the ‘Winged Wheelers’, the name being inspired by its bicycle club. It was only later in the first decade of the 1900s we see increased specialization in sports, especially with the rise of professionalism. Given the MAAA’s amateur purpose it would eventually wither under the pressure of such specialization and become irrelevant in elite hockey.

Quest for the Grail – Hockey and its Championship Cups

In 1893 we see the establishment of Ice Hockey’s premier sporting trophy; the Stanley Cup! While it is now considered the premier trophy for hockey, Lord Stanley’s mug was not the first trophy awarded. The first hockey trophy and cup was awarded for winning the Montreal Winter Carnival Hockey Tournament, appropriately called the Carnival Cup.

 

Carnival Cup (MWC 1883)

 

When the AHAC was formed, it needed its own championship trophy and adopted a very ice hockey symbolized design with crossed hockey sticks crowning it. It differed from the Carnival Cup by not being a cup and was appropriately called the Senior Championship Trophy.

 

Senior Championship Trophy (AHAC 1887)

 

Since the Senior Championship Trophy was property of the AHAC, a new trophy was needed to symbolize hockey supremacy across a growing sport and growing nation. The Stanley Cup was originally named the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup.

 

Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup a.k.a the Stanley Cup (inter-league champion 1893)

 

When the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup was donated and competed for, there was officially and unofficially only amateur teams playing for it. As industrialization and wealth spread across North America, the desire to pay to see high level hockey took root and by 1909 we had an official split of professional and amateur hockey championships. The amateur teams formed their own league to play for the Allan Cup in 1909. The professional teams then challenged each other for the Stanley Cup. By 1926 the National Hockey League became the sole professional hockey league and the Stanley Cup became the league’s championship trophy. Today, the Stanley Cup is 124 years old and is considered to be one of sport’s top trophies. Hockey further cemented its love for Cups by having its top minor league compete for the Calder Cup in 1936.

I speculate that ice hockey adopted the championship cup from Britain’s sports traditions. Canada was a British colony and adopted many of its social traditions including having a cup become its championship trophy. The British cup tradition is best enshrined in its football (soccer) league competing for the FA Cup every year since 1871.

It is not lost on me the shared symbolism of sporting campaigns leading to championship cups and heroic tales of knights questing for a chalice. The Stanley CupDavis Cup, America’s Cup and numerous World Cups are all now famous cup-shaped/themed trophies given to sport’s winners.

 

Our modern society keeps alive the symbolism of a Holy Grail (a carry-over from Arthurian literature) rewarding the finder happiness, eternal youth, or food in infinite abundance. Such an accomplishment becomes retold year after year, again not unlike children’s tales that are ritually retold.