Monday, May 20, 2013

Victoria Day

Today is Victoria Day in Canada, a holiday celebrated on the last Monday prior to May 25th, the birthday of Queen Victoria, who was born on May 24, 1819. The holiday informally symbolizes the beginning of summer and celebrations of her birthday date back to official recognition of the occasion on her 26th birthday in 1845 - prior to the official founding of Canada in 1867.

It's celebrated in all of the provinces and territories of Canada, save Quebec, which calls the date National Patriots Day and celebrates those who fought against the British colonial power of the province back in 1837.

Following the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, the celebration was formally given the name Victoria Day. Today, various cities will hold parades, with the largest being in Victoria, British Columbia. Fireworks displays are also common.

Queen Victoria became the Queen of the United Kingdom on June 20, 1837 at the age of just 18 when the third of her late father's three older brothers, King William IV, passed away at the age of 71 with none of the three brothers leaving any legitimate surviving children to inherit the throne ahead of her.

Queen Victoria photo QueenVictoria.jpg
Queen Victoria's coronation portrait

She married Prince Albert in 1840 and had nine children together. Her reign would last 63 years and seven months, during which time there were great changes in industrial, cultural, political, scientific and military changes in the United Kingdom, as well as great expansion of the British Empire - a time which came to be known as the Victorian Era.

Queen Victoria photo QueenVictoria2.jpg
Queen Victoria

Beloved in Canada, Victoria, British Columbia, Victoria Island in Nunavut, Regina, Saskatchewan, Victoria, Newfoundland, Victoriaville, Quebec and numerous hospitals, bridges, streets, parks and even Queen's University are named in her honor, as were any number of hockey teams (roughly 25).

The most successful of the hockey teams named in her honor include the second team to ever hold the Stanley Cup, the Montreal Victorias in 1895, however, despite the Victoria's having won the Amateur Hockey Aassociation of Canada championship in 1895 but were not originally awarded the cup, as the trustees of the cup has already accepted a challenge for the cup, still held by the Montreal Hockey Club, from Queen's University of Kingston, Ontario.

The trustees of the Stanley Cup, in a most unusual decision, decided that if  the Montreal Hockey Club (also known as Montreal AAA) defeated Queen's University to defend the supremacy of the AHAC, the Victoria's, champions of the league that Montreal AAA belonged to, would be awarded the cup! The Montreal Hockey Club did win 5-1 and the Montreal Victorias became the second holders of the Stanley Cup for 1895.

Montreal Victorias
The Montreal Victorias in 1895 with the Stanley Cup
won for them by the Montreal Hockey Club!

The AHAC champion Victorias were challenged by the Winnipeg Victorias of the Manitoba Hockey League during the Montreal Victorias AHAC season on February 14, 1896. The Winnipeg Victorias came away victorious in the battle of Victorias by a score of 2-0, led by goalie Whitey Merritt, the first goalie to ever wear leg pads.

1896 Winnipeg Victorias team photo 1896WinnipegVictoriasteam.jpg
The Winnipeg Victorias, the first team from
the west to capture the Stanley Cup

Two weeks later the Winnipeg Victorias locked up the MHL season title to retain ownership of the cup and were immediately challenged by the Montreal Victorias when their regular season concluded with them repeating AHAC champions in early March.

The only problem was that no suitable ice could be found with spring now on hand and the Montreal Victorias challenge, while accepted by the trustees, was postponed until the following winter. When cold weather again arrived, before the start of the 1896-97 season, the Montreal Victorias challenge of the Winnipeg Victorias was scheduled for December of 1896 to be played at the Granite Rink in Winnipeg.

It was described at the time as the greatest sporting event in Winnipeg history, with fans paying as much as $12 for a seat while fans back in Montreal gathered for up to the minute reports via telegraph.

Things went well for the home team as Winnipeg led at halftime by a score of 4-2. Montreal fought back, and while Winnipeg was able to score again, the team from the east was able to tie the game at 5-5 before the 20 year old Ernie McLea, who had already scored twice for Montreal and with time winding down, fired his third goal of the game past Winnipeg goaltender Merritt to win the game in the closing seconds to regain the cup for the Montreal Victorias in what was called "the finest match ever played in Canada" when it was all over.

McLea's three goals were the first hat trick in Stanley Cup history.

1896-97 Montreal Victorias photo 1896-97MontrealVictorias.png
The AHAC champions and Stanley Cup holders, the Montreal Victorias.
Note the diminutive size of the Stanley Cup during it's formative years when compared to the AHAC championship trophy next to it.

Graham Drinkwater and Mike Grant from the 1986 Stanley Cup champion Montreal Victorias would eventually be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, both in 1950.

The Montreal Victorias would retain control of the cup until March of 1899, which included a defense of the cup against the Winnipeg Victorias in February of 1899, won by Montreal 5-3 in a two-game, total-goals series, the third and final time the two Victorias would meet head to head for the Stanley Cup, with Montreal prevailing twice, in 1896 and 1899.

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The 1898-99  Montreal Victorias - note the change in
font for the "V" on their sweaters from earlier

The Winnipeg Victorias would regain control of the Stanley Cup in late January of 1901, just nine days after Queen Victoria's passing. Winnipeg retained their grip on the trophy until March 17, 1902. They would attempt to regain the cup through a challenge in February of 1903, as would the Montreal Victorias a month later, but neither were successful.

1901 Winnipeg Victorias team photo 1901WinnipegVictoriasteam2.jpg
The 1901 Stanley Cup holders, the Winnipeg Victorias

The Ottawa Victorias challenged the Montreal Wanderers for the cup in 1908, as did the Moncton Victorias in 1912 when they met the Quebec Bulldogs, but both were turned away. The final games of the challenge era of the Stanley Cup again involved the name Victoria, but this team were the Victoria Aristocrats from the city of Victoria, BC, who fell to the Toronto Hockey Club in March of 1914.

From that point on the Stanley Cup became an annual competition between the champions of the top professional leagues that had emerged, the National Hockey Association and the Pacific Coast Hockey League. It would take 11 years under this arrangement, by which time the PCHL had been absorbed by the Western Canada Hockey League, for the name Victoria to once again appear on the Stanley Cup when the Victoria Cougars (the same franchise once known as the Aristocrats) would defeat the Montreal Canadiens 3 games to 1 in 1925. The Cougars would return to the finals again in 1926, only to lose to the Montreal Maroons in the final Stanley Cup playoff before the WHL folded.

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The 1924-25 Stanley Cup champion Victoria Cougars

The folding of the WHL led to a series of developments, which saw the Victoria Cougars cease to exist and their roster being transferred to a new expansion club, the Detroit Cougars of the 11-year-old National Hockey League, who became sole holder of the cup, ending the "Victoria Era" of the Stanley Cup.

Today's featured jersey is an 1895-96 Winnipeg Victorias jersey. This sweater with the buffalo logo was worn by the Winnipeg Victorias, which unusually had no imagery, such as a "V" or crown to even suggest the team name of Victorias. One can only imagine the reaction today if a team named after a queen was represented with an image of a buffalo!

 photo WinnipegVictorias1895-96jersey.jpg

Today's bonus jersey is a 1896-97 Montreal Victorias jersey. The Victorias represented the Scottish population of Montreal and wore burgundy sweaters with a "V" logo in various fonts during their early days. Like many clubs in the late 1800's the Victorias were named after Queen Victoria of England.

Montreal Victorias sweater

Today's video is a look at the Winnipeg Victorias first championship and how it helped the Stanley Cup become known across all of Canada.

This next video contains footage of the funeral of Queen Victoria and a brief overview of her reign as Queen.

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