January 19, 1915
During the Great War years (1914-1918) most hockey players in the Dominion of Newfoundland were driven by their patriotic duty to “exchange the stick and puck for a Ross rifle and a bayonet.” As a result, the vast majority of hockey teams in the winter of 1915 were left struggling to find players to make a team, the lads had all signed up to fight for King and Country.
At the very first League Hockey game in Newfoundland on January 19, 1915, following the declaration of war, the local newspapers reported that the two teams on the ice, the Feildians and Victorias were “probably the youngest bunch that ever occupied positions on league hockey ice.”
The sports writers reported that League Hockey in St. John’s had altered with many of the Newfoundland Hockey stars now in khaki uniform:
“owing to the absence of several of the most prominent puck-chasers, including the two Herder brothers, the Stick Brothers, Bert Tait, Charles Strong and a couple of other reputable stick-handlers all of whom are now at Salisbury Plains (England) preparing duty at the front.”
The Newfoundland Regiment was assigned to Salisbury Plain in southern England from October 21 – December 8, 1914 where the men were undergoing military training. In December they were transferred to Northern Scotland for more military training. In Scotland they were quick to discover that the weather as not unlike Newfoundland and soon many of the young soldiers were playing hockey for recreation. Within weeks two Regimental teams had formed playing games for recreation.
Soon many of these young Newfoundland hockey stars, turned soldiers would find themselves in the trenches of Turkey and France. Many would die in the trenches.
Hubert Herder of St. John’s was a lieutenant in the Newfoundland Regiment, he was killed at Beaumont Hamel, July 1, 1916; Ralph Herder, also a lieutenant, was seriously wounded July 1, 1916, Fred Wilcox considered one of the best hockey players in Newfoundland lay dead on July 1, 1916 at Beaumont Hamel. They were but a few of the great hockey players who would not return to the ice.
On January 14, 2016 with great pride and respect, the St. John’s IceCaps , at The Rooms , unveiled a Royal Newfoundland Regiment tribute jersey to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme at Beaumont-Hamel.
The logo on the tribute jersey features a black silhouette of a First World War Royal Newfoundland Regimental solider encircled by the words: Royal Newfoundland Regiment 1916-2016. The entire IceCaps team was on hand to model the new jerseys.
The IceCaps will wear the jerseys Friday and Saturday, February 5th and 6th versus the Utica Comets. Many in the seats at Mile One will be remembering their ancestors who loved the game.
Tickets can be purchased at the Mile One Centre box office or online at www.mileonecentre.com.
LEST WE FORGET
Recommended Archival Collection: The Rooms Provincial Archives – Sports Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador has a substantial collection of photographs detailing the history of League Hockey in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Recommended Reading: ICING THE PUCK: THE ORIGINS, RISE, AND DECLINE OF NEWFOUNDLAND SENIOR HOCKEY, 1896-1996 by Gregory B. White. A thesis submitted to the School of Graduate Studies in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Sociology\Faculty of Arts\Memorial University April, 1997 St. John’s Newfoundland.