What happened to the ‘hockey’ Rover?

Archival Moment

January 1917

20uzhx4Hockey has evolved over the years and one of the more profound changes that came about during the First World War was the introduction of six aside hockey.

Previous to the war years, Newfoundland teams put seven players on the ice. The additional player was known as the “ROVER’. The rover did not have a set position per se, but rather “roamed” about the ice.

There were two other positions that fans would have known, the “POINT” and “COVER POINT”, eventually they became today’s Defense.

In the winter of 1917 a contingent of the Newfoundland Regiment departed Newfoundland by boat   destined for Halifax where they were to join a flotilla destined for England. On route to Halifax it was discovered that all of the men had contracted mumps and or measles.   So as not to infect the rest of the troops the Regiment was sent from Halifax to Windsor, Nova Scotia where they were to recuperate.

Among those aboard ship were some of the best hockey player’s that the Dominion of Newfoundland   had ever produced. Known as the Windsor Contingent of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment some of the hockey players in quarantine were H.G.R. (Harry) Mews, Charlie Strong, Ernie Churchill, Rex White, Duke Winter and Lionel Duley.

The team played a series of games in Windsor during their ten-week quarantine before sailing to England and the trenches of France  in April.

This was the first time that Newfoundland put a team on the ice playing with six players per side. The Newfoundland players liked the new game. With the rover removed the players had much more ice surface to cover. The game became much faster.

In 1918, Nova Scotian teams visited St. John’s and the new rule change was introduced. The change was formally adopted in 1919 by the Newfoundland Hockey Association. The ‘Rover’ was no more.

Duley, was Killed in Action in 1918, Strong died of wounds sustained in battle in 1918, Mews returned to Newfoundland and later became Mayor of St. John’s.

The St. John's Ice Caps will be wearing a special jersey to remember the Newfoundland Regiment on February 5th and 6th.

The St. John’s Ice Caps will be wearing a special jersey to remember the Newfoundland Regiment on February 5th and 6th.

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


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.