Tag Archives: Regiment

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.

Ice Caps Answer the ‘Hockey’ Call

“Some of our best puck chasers are in khaki …”

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives:; Royal Newfoundland Regiment Hockey Team (Click on the photo to enlarge)

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives:; Royal Newfoundland Regiment Hockey Team (Click on the photo to enlarge)

The First World War (1914- 1918) took a terrible toll, claiming the lives of hundreds of young Newfoundlanders, including many athletes. Among these sportsmen were some of the best hockey players in Newfoundland. The newspapers of the day reported “at present some of our best puck chasers are in khaki.”

With the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 some of the first men to ‘sign up‘ were the young men from the hockey teams in St. John’s. The powerhouse team in St. John’s at the time was the team known as the Crescents, these young men signed up, almost to a man. Len Stick a member of the team was the first and holds the distinction of holding the title ‘Regimental #1.’

The Newfoundland Regiment also known as the ‘First 500’ or ‘Blue Puttees’ following a short period of military training in St. John’s at Pleasantville departed St. John’s on the SS Florizel for England on October 4, 1914. After a short stint of military training at Salisbury Plain, England they were transferred to Fort George, Inverness, Scotland arriving on December 7, 1914.The young Newfoundland hockey players were passionate about their sport and were determined to play in their adopted country. Northern Scotland’s climate was very like Newfoundland’s allowing for the same opportunities for outdoor skating. Less than three weeks after their arrival in Scotland the local St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram reported on January 18, 1915:

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.

“The Newfoundland Hockey League have cabled Lieutenant Tait at Fort George (Scotland) to get a set of hockey uniforms at the expense of the league. It looks as if there is some chance of ice hockey in Northern Scotland.”

A few short weeks later the Telegram reported that the Newfoundlanders were playing at the Haymarket Rink, Edinburgh. The report read:

“the ice hockey match between two teams from the Newfoundland Regiment …. the exhibition must have been a good one the result was a draw, both sides scoring one goal.”

Hockey was one of the few leisure activities for the young men while preparing for war, they had played hockey with all of their passion as young men with great Newfoundland hockey teams like the Crescent’s, the Feildians, the Terra Novans. They were now playing with the same passion on the ice in Scotland for recreation with their friends. These same young men were to soon find themselves in the trenches of Turkey and later France. Many dying for their country.

IMG_00002047Almost 101 years to the day (January 14, 2016) Danny Williams, President and Chief Executive Director of the St. John’s Ice Caps has announced the launch of another Regimental hockey uniform.   The St. John’s Ice Caps on February 5 and 6 at Mile One Stadium will wear a jersey designed to recall the history of the Newfoundland Regiment, celebrating Newfoundland’s hockey history.

Recommended Archival Collection: The Rooms Provincial Archives – Sports Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador photograph collection. Hockey Royal Newfoundland Regiment Hockey Team

Recommended Link: Library and ARCHIVES Canada. Hockey and the First World War: http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/news/videos/Pages/hockey-first-world-war-exhibition.aspx

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.




How to name a war

Archival Moment

September 2, 1914

home1With the outbreak of war in August 1914 pundits began to coin phrases to best name this new conflict. In the very early days of the war the tendency had been to refer to it as the “European War.” As the war progressed and more nations became involved in the conflict it became known as the “Great War” and the “First World War”.

In Newfoundland, the first term given to the conflict was “The Great War” the term was first used on September 2, 1914. Copying an article from the New York Independent the St. John’s, Evening Telegram reported:

 Some wars name themselves, the Crimean War, The Civil War, the Franco – Prussian War, the Thirty Year war, the Revolutionary war, and many others.

This is the Great War

It names itself

The term “First World War” was another term that emerged shortly after the start of the war; the phrase is credited to the German philosopher Ernst Haeckel. Haeckel wrote:

“There is no doubt that the course and character of the feared “European War” will become the First World War in the full sense of the word.”

The “European War” became known as “The Great War”, and it was not until 1931, with the beginning realization that another global war might be possible, that there is any other recorded use of the term “First World War”.

During the Interwar period (1918-1939), the war was most often called the World War and the Great War in English-speaking countries.

After the onset of the Second World War in 1939, the terms World War I or the First World War became standard, with British and Canadian historians favoring the First World War, and Americans World War One.

Recommended Archival Collection:   At the Rooms Provincial Archives there is available 6683 individual service files, 2300 have been digitized and are available at: http://www.therooms.ca/regiment/part1_entering_the_great_war.asp   This searchable database for military service records includes the attestation papers: name, service number, community and district of origin, next of kin and relationship, religion, occupation, year of enlistment, fatality, and POW status (if applicable). Take some time to read the stories of these young men.

Recommended Exhibit: Pleasantville: From Recreation to Military Installation. Level 2 Atrium.   Pleasantville before the First World War was the site of the St. John’s cricket grounds. With the declaration of war, Pleasantville quickly emerged as a tent city, the home of the storied “First 500”. It was here that the First Newfoundland Regiment recruits began preliminary military training during the months of September and October of 1914. This exhibition highlights some of the activities and training of the Blue Puttees up to their embarkation on the SS Florizel for overseas service.