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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...

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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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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

Jackie Robinson

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Jackie Robinson

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The 1997 baseball season belonged to the memory of Jackie Roosevelt Robinson, the African American who broke Major League Baseball's colour barrier fifty years earlier. In commemoration of Robinson's courage, integrity, and determined excellence as a player and as a model for young people, every major league player wore a Jackie Robinson insignia, and Robinson's uniform number, 42, was retired by every team in the National and American Leagues.

The 1947 season was a turning point in the history of sports, and a significant moment in the African American's struggle for civil rights. But the season before, 1946, was Robinson's first big test in the world of "white" sports. Jackie 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.

It was on April 18, 1946 that Robinson stepped onto the field in Jersey City, New Jersey in a Royals' uniform. In his first game, he displayed the kind of play that would make him a legend: he drove in four runs with four hits and stole two bases.

Jackie Robinson won the hearts of Montréal baseball fans that year. For most of the season he batted around .370, ending with a .349 batting average, scoring 113 runs, and stealing 40 bases. He electrified De Lorimier stadium with his daring base running, but it was his dignity and serious demeanor that gained the fans' respect.

That 1946 season was more than a test of Robinson's baseball skills. It was also a test of his character. Branch Rickey, the President of the Brooklyn Dodgers organization, was determined to break baseball's colour barrier. A smart baseball man as well as a man of principle, Rickey knew that the great players in the Negro Leagues would change baseball if they had the chance to play in the Majors. He also knew that the first African American to put on a major league uniform would face racist insults and violence. He searched for a superb athlete who also had the courage necessary to open the door to other African American players.

Jackie Robinson was one of the great all-round athletes of the century. At UCLA he was the first person to win varsity letters in four sports - football, basketball, baseball, and track. He was named to the All-American football team in 1941. After rising to second lieutenant in the US Army during World War Two, he joined the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues. Actually, baseball was not Robinson's best sport, but there were few other opportunities for an African American athlete.

Veterans in the Negro Leagues were rather surprised when Rickey approached Robinson. Other players were probably more "ready" for the Majors in terms of baseball savvy, but Rickey knew what he was doing. He saw in Robinson the intelligence and moral strength. In a legendary interview in Brooklyn, Rickey bombarded Robinson with an hour of racist insults, an example of comments Robinson would hear from the stands, from opponents, and even from teammates. He made Robinson agree "not to fight back" until he proved to everyone that African Americans deserved to play in the Major Leagues.

That great experiment began with Montréal. In that 1946 season, Robinson proved that he was ready for the "Big Leagues" by his play on the field and by the way he endured the bigotry he faced, particularly in the southern cities with minor league teams.

Montréal may not have been free of racism in 1946, but Jackie Robinson and his wife Rachel were always thankful for the generosity and enthusiasm that they received there. According to the Royals' popular French-Canadian pitcher, Jean-Pierre Roy, Robinson often said that he would never have made it without the inspiration he got from the Montréal fans. "He loved the city," recalls Roy.

And the Montréal fans loved him back. Robinson helped lead the Royals to victory in the Little World Series. After they won the final game, fans carried Robinson around the field on their shoulders. Robinson finally had to sprint to the safety of the locker room, "probably the only day in history," one writer noted, "that a black man ran from a white mob that had love, not lynching, on its mind."

CAST
  • Robinson – Anthony Hylton
  • Mr. Rickey – Vlasta Vrana
  • Player Royal – Alex Hamilton

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