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Edmonton Grads

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Edmonton Grads

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They would go on to become the most successful team in Canadian sports history.

Archival photos courtesy of the Provincial Archives of Alberta.

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Winnipeg Falcons

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Winnipeg Falcons

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The Winnipeg Falcons, a team of Icelandic-Canadian hockey players once rejected by their hometown league, won the very first gold medal in Olympic hockey in 1920. The triumph of the Winnipeg Falcons is a story of perseverance over adversity and of underdogs beating the odds.

The Winnipeg Falcons began as The Falcon Hockey Club, formed in 1909 when two rival teams from the Icelandic Athletic League combined. The Icelandic Athletic Club (IAC) and the Vikings, the only two teams in the league, formed in the late 19th century in response to the discrimination faced by Manitobans of Icelandic heritage who wanted to play competitive hockey. Though nearly all of the players were born in and around the Winnipeg area, the fact that their parents had come from Iceland meant they were perceived as foreigners by the predominantly Anglo-Saxon community. They were stigmatized to the point of not being welcome into the region’s mainstream leagues. Early success was difficult, but in 1911, the Falcons joined four other teams in the intermediate-level Manitoba Independent League.

When the First World War broke out in 1914, many players from the local Winnipeg hockey leagues enlisted to serve. By the spring of 1916, seven Falcons had enlisted in the 223rd Scandinavian-Canadian Battalion of the Canadian Army Regiment. After training for a year in Winnipeg and at Camp Hughes (near Carberry, MB), they left Halifax by ship for England in April 1917 to join the war effort.

Frank Fredrickson, the team’s Captain and Centre, trained pilots in Scotland until he was injured in a plane crash in 1918. Right Defenceman Konnie Johannesson served as a pilot in Egypt, and goaltender Wally Byron fought in the Battle of Amiens. Left defenceman Bobby Benson took part in a number of battles in France from the time he arrived on active duty until the war ended. Club President Hebbie Axford gained the rank of Captain in the Royal Air Force, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his bravery.

Among the nearly 61,000 Canadians killed during the conflict were two early Falcons: Frank ‘Buster’ Thorsteinson and George Cumbers, best friends and players during the 1914 - 15 season, were separately killed in action in March 1918.

When the war was over, the serving Winnipeg Falcons returned home and the team was reformed. Of the enlisted Falcons players, four went on to win Olympic gold in 1920.This Heritage Minute explores the Falcons’ wartime experiences through flashbacks during an imagined locker room speech ahead of their gold-winning game.

In the 1919–20 season, the team was accepted into Winnipeg’s senior hockey league, from which they emerged as champions. This led to a Western Hockey Championship victory and an Allan Cup win that qualified the team as Canada’s Olympic entry to the Games in Antwerp, where ice hockey would make its Olympic debut. Technically speaking, the 1920 Antwerp Games were Summer Olympic Games, but they also included a week of winter sports prior to the summer events. The matches were played between April 23 and April 29, 1920, and also served as the first World Hockey Championships. All matches took place in the Palais de Glace d'Anvers.

Contemporary newspapers reported that the Canadians were welcomed warmly by the Belgians. The Falcons were the favourites of the European fans and they did not disappoint, rolling up a tally of 29–1 as they skated to the gold. This included a 15–0 win over Czechoslovakia, a hard-fought 2–0 win over the United States and a 12–1 decision over Sweden that completed the single-knockout tournament. In a show of sportsmanship, the Falcons gave their sticks to the Swedish team as a memento.

The newspapers referred to them as ‘the champions of the world’ and their victories and gold medal triumph were headline news across Canada. A Toronto Globe reporter likened their Olympic performance to the “gallantry of Canadian troops on Belgian soil in the defense of Ypres in the Great War.” When the victory was announced in the House of Commons, the Toronto Globe reported that the “entire House” responded with “enthusiastic applause”.

Upon their return home to Winnipeg in May 1920, the Falcons were given a hero's welcome. There was a nearly two-kilometre-long paradeof more than 200 cars, trucks and horse-drawn vehicles, and the city proclaimed a half-day holiday to celebrate the return of the champions. On May 22, 1920, a packed civic banquet was staged in their honour at the Fort Garry Hotel, where the city presented the team with gold watches. Winnipeg’s Icelandic people were exceptionally proud of the team’s achievements, and the Falcons told their fans that that their proudest moment after the gold-medal win was their welcome home by Winnipeggers.

A local paper also reported that the Falcons’ quick rise to supremacy at home and abroad prompted an about-face by high-ranking hockey trustees who apologized for their initial discrimination of the team, acknowledging in the Manitoba Free Press that “this wonderful team had placed Winnipeg at the top of the cities of Canada and had helped make Canada known among nations.” After the dream year that was 1920 for the team, the Falcons were in high demand by professional teams across the country. However, over time, the victory and the stories faded from the collective memory as the players moved on and eventually passed away.

In 2006, the Winnipeg Falcons were inducted into the Canadian Olympic Committee Hall of Fame. Visitors to The Hockey Hall of Fame can see Konnie Johannesson’s Olympic jersey, gold medal and a pair of his skates – all donated by his family – as part of a special Falcons display.

CAST
  • Hebbie Axford – Jared Keeso
  • Wally Byron – Jesse Collin
  • Frank 'Buster' Thorsteinson – Ryan Irving
  • George Cumbers – Dustin MacDougall
  • Konnie Johannesson – Craig McCue
  • Frank Frederickson – Jonathan Purvis
  • Narrator – George Stroumboulopoulos

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The Paris Crew

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The Paris Crew

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Canadians have made an impact on the world of sports, and the athletes' stories also demonstrate personal courage and integrity.

 

At the 1867 Paris International Exposition, a lighthouse keeper and three fishermen from Saint John, New Brunswick dramatically announced the arrival of the new nation of Canada on the international sporting scene by scoring surprising victories against the best rowers in the world.

 

"Rocket" Richard's explosive 18-year career made him the most exciting player of his generation and a national hero.

 

Jackie Roosevelt Robinson, the African American who broke Major League Baseball's colour barrier, had his first big test in the world of "white" sports in 1946. Robinson entered the history of Canadian sports that year, too, as a member of the Montréal Royals, the minor league affiliate with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

 

Dr. James Naismith, the modest Canadian who invented the game of basketball over 100 years ago, would be amazed by the fast, powerful giants who dominate the game today.

 

These Minutes honour some of Canada's sporting legends.

 

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Maurice "Rocket" Richard

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Maurice "Rocket" Richard

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A part of our heritage...

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Canadians have made an impact on the world of sports, and the athletes' stories also demonstrate personal courage and integrity.

 

At the 1867 Paris International Exposition, a lighthouse keeper and three fishermen from Saint John, New Brunswick dramatically announced the arrival of the new nation of Canada on the international sporting scene by scoring surprising victories against the best rowers in the world.

 

"Rocket" Richard's explosive 18-year career made him the most exciting player of his generation and a national hero.

 

Jackie Roosevelt Robinson, the African American who broke Major League Baseball's colour barrier, had his first big test in the world of "white" sports in 1946. Robinson entered the history of Canadian sports that year, too, as a member of the Montréal Royals, the minor league affiliate with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

 

Dr. James Naismith, the modest Canadian who invented the game of basketball over 100 years ago, would be amazed by the fast, powerful giants who dominate the game today.

 

These Minutes honour some of Canada's sporting legends.

 

Jacques Plante

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Jacques Plante

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A part of our heritage...

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Canadians have made an impact on the world of sports, and the athletes' stories also demonstrate personal courage and integrity.

 

At the 1867 Paris International Exposition, a lighthouse keeper and three fishermen from Saint John, New Brunswick dramatically announced the arrival of the new nation of Canada on the international sporting scene by scoring surprising victories against the best rowers in the world.

 

"Rocket" Richard's explosive 18-year career made him the most exciting player of his generation and a national hero.

 

Jackie Roosevelt Robinson, the African American who broke Major League Baseball's colour barrier, had his first big test in the world of "white" sports in 1946. Robinson entered the history of Canadian sports that year, too, as a member of the Montréal Royals, the minor league affiliate with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

 

Dr. James Naismith, the modest Canadian who invented the game of basketball over 100 years ago, would be amazed by the fast, powerful giants who dominate the game today.

 

These Minutes honour some of Canada's sporting legends.

 

Jackie Robinson

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Jackie Robinson

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A part of our heritage...

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Canadians have made an impact on the world of sports, and the athletes' stories also demonstrate personal courage and integrity.

 

At the 1867 Paris International Exposition, a lighthouse keeper and three fishermen from Saint John, New Brunswick dramatically announced the arrival of the new nation of Canada on the international sporting scene by scoring surprising victories against the best rowers in the world.

 

"Rocket" Richard's explosive 18-year career made him the most exciting player of his generation and a national hero.

 

Jackie Roosevelt Robinson, the African American who broke Major League Baseball's colour barrier, had his first big test in the world of "white" sports in 1946. Robinson entered the history of Canadian sports that year, too, as a member of the Montréal Royals, the minor league affiliate with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

 

Dr. James Naismith, the modest Canadian who invented the game of basketball over 100 years ago, would be amazed by the fast, powerful giants who dominate the game today.

 

These Minutes honour some of Canada's sporting legends.

 

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Basketball

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Basketball

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Canadians have made an impact on the world of sports, and the athletes' stories also demonstrate personal courage and integrity.

 

At the 1867 Paris International Exposition, a lighthouse keeper and three fishermen from Saint John, New Brunswick dramatically announced the arrival of the new nation of Canada on the international sporting scene by scoring surprising victories against the best rowers in the world.

 

"Rocket" Richard's explosive 18-year career made him the most exciting player of his generation and a national hero.

 

Jackie Roosevelt Robinson, the African American who broke Major League Baseball's colour barrier, had his first big test in the world of "white" sports in 1946. Robinson entered the history of Canadian sports that year, too, as a member of the Montréal Royals, the minor league affiliate with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

 

Dr. James Naismith, the modest Canadian who invented the game of basketball over 100 years ago, would be amazed by the fast, powerful giants who dominate the game today.

 

These Minutes honour some of Canada's sporting legends.

 

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Baseball Glove

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Baseball Glove

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A part of our heritage...

LEARNING RESOURCES

Canadians have made an impact on the world of sports, and the athletes' stories also demonstrate personal courage and integrity.

 

At the 1867 Paris International Exposition, a lighthouse keeper and three fishermen from Saint John, New Brunswick dramatically announced the arrival of the new nation of Canada on the international sporting scene by scoring surprising victories against the best rowers in the world.

 

"Rocket" Richard's explosive 18-year career made him the most exciting player of his generation and a national hero.

 

Jackie Roosevelt Robinson, the African American who broke Major League Baseball's colour barrier, had his first big test in the world of "white" sports in 1946. Robinson entered the history of Canadian sports that year, too, as a member of the Montréal Royals, the minor league affiliate with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

 

Dr. James Naismith, the modest Canadian who invented the game of basketball over 100 years ago, would be amazed by the fast, powerful giants who dominate the game today.

 

These Minutes honour some of Canada's sporting legends.

 

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The Paris Crew

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The Paris Crew

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In 1867, just weeks after Confederation, a lighthouse keeper and three fishermen from Saint John, NB took the sporting world by storm. The place was Paris, France and the event was the World Amateur Rowing Championship, part of the International Exposition.

The European press, which favoured the traditional competitors from France and England, greeted the arrival of the "colonials" with indifference, if not scorn. Referred to as "quaint" and even "strange looking," the Canadians were given no chance at all of winning. Their flesh-coloured jerseys, dark trousers, leather braces and pink caps provided a stark contrast to their well-dressed upper-class rivals. The New Brunswickers' boat, described in the English newspapers as "a curious old-fashioned outrigger," outweighed the sleek European boats by more than 100 pounds. The Canadians also thwarted tradition with their unorthodox rowing style. Even more ridiculous, they had no coxswain to shout instructions and steer the boat, preferring to steer with a foot-guided rudder.

It was with some astonishment, therefore, that the crowd watched the Saint John four take the first event with such ease that one of the crew could stop rowing and wave as the boat crossed the finish line. These upstarts were taken a bit more seriously in the second event, but here again they upset expectations by out-distancing their famed competitors by a full three lengths. The "Paris Crew," as they were called from that day on, proved themselves the undisputed world champions.

Robert Fulton, George Price, Samuel Hutton and Elijah Ross returned in triumph to a jubilant young Canada. In Saint John 7,000 people in carriages, wagons, rowboats, canoes and steamers, cheered as the band played "Hail the Conquering Heroes Come." For the next two years, the Paris Crew dominated the sports pages. Thousands of Canadian fans turned out to watch them defeat various American rowing teams. On September 15, 1870 they were matched against a championship British team from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. The Canadians lost this one when the choppy water spilled over the low sides of their boat and threatened to swamp it. Rematched against the same British team on the 23rd of August 1871, the Paris Crew won the race [but were robbed of a satisfying victory with the death of one of the English rowers during the race].

The sadness of this event took the shine off rowing as a popular spectator sport, and the Paris Crew never again competed in international competition. However, their victory in Paris, and their few years in the public spotlight, put the young country of Canada on the map, and gave its citizens a newfound sense of pride and unity. As the Toronto Globe pointed out at the time, the Paris Crew's achievement brought home "to the broad mass of our people that our bold Maritime friends are now our fellow-countrymen in name and in fact."

CAST
  • Fulton – Dean McDermott
  • Price – Kevin Jubinville
  • Ross – Simon Reynolds
  • Hutton – Hugh Thompson
  • Rogers – Neil Dainard
  • Young – Gordon Michael Woolvett
  • Leger – Robert Godin
  • Plummy – Adrian Hough
  • Percy – Steve Cumyn
  • Claire – Torri Higginson
  • Guard – Christian Laurin
  • Gentleman – Rodger Barton
  • Reporter – Jim Bearden
  • Indiantown Man – Jeff Clarke
  • Randall – Christopher Marren
  • Bert – David Harvey
  • Young Woman – Fiona Loewi
  • Bookmaker – Michael Copeman
  • Additional Cast – Trudy Anne Artman
  • Additional Cast – Rob Greenway
  • Additional Cast – Deborah Jarvis
  • Additional Cast – François Klanfer
  • Additional Cast – Sam Malkin
  • Additional Cast – Paul Saunders

Jacques Plante

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Jacques Plante

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Jacques Plante broke with tradition and changed the face of hockey forever.

Jacques Plante was to become one of the National Hockey League's greatest goalies, but was never one to rest on his laurels. He would dare to be different and go against the game's "macho" traditions by wearing a protective face mask, and developed a very personal style of play in front of and behind the net.

The turning point came in a game at Madison Square Garden on November 1, 1959, when a powerful slap shot shattered his nose. After receiving a total of 200 stitches on his face, he decided he had paid his dues to the gods of the national sport and stubbornly held his own against coach Toe Blake, who believed a player had to "fight for his life" to play well. That same night, with his face sewn from nose to lip, Plante agreed to return to the ice only if he was allowed to wear his mask, which he had worn in practices since 1955. This cream coloured mask drew a mix of criticism, admiration and wisecracks. Nevertheless, the team won by a score of 4 to 1. To keep wearing the mask [which he was supposed to give up once he was healed], Plante outdid himself by leading the team on an 11-game winning streak and eventually winning the Stanley Cup the following spring.

A resourceful and stubborn individual, Plante did not fit hockey stereotypes. The oldest of 11 children in a Shawinigan family during the Depression, he knew how to cook, sew, and knit. A sports columnist remembered seeing him in goal for the Montréal Royals at age 22 wearing a toque and jersey he had knitted himself.

Plante produced the masks himself. He made several models for himself and fellow players, constantly improving their strength, visibility and lightness. In the 1960s and 1970s, protective masks with captivating graphics flourished in the NHL. Today, players wearing helmets and visors are a common sight.

But even his masks could not outshine Plante's free-ranging style in the goal crease. The mask made Plante more confident, daring and astute. He had a very unique technique of moving out of the crease to cut down angles and stop pucks or pass them to his defencemen behind the "cage." In various ways, Jacques Plante managed to influence and shape the rules of the game. His innovative spirit gave hockey a new face.

CAST
  • Plante – Jason Cavalier
  • Toe – Pierre McNicholl
  • Doctor – Norris Domingue
  • Harry, the young trainer – Brian Furlong
  • Newspaper #1 – Al Vandercruys
  • Newspaper #2 – Mark Hellman
  • Narrator – Len Watt
  • Additional Cast – Marc Denis
  • Additional Cast – Aidan Devine
  • Additional Cast – AJ Henderson
  • Additional Cast – Pierre Lenoir
  • Additional Cast – Robert Parson
  • Additional Cast – James Rae
  • Additional Cast – Anthony Ulc

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