Hockey is one of the most popular of the winter past times in Canada.
The game is so popular that it has come to be considered part of Canadians’ identity.
Few events unite Canadians more than watching a national team compete on an international level, either at an Olympics or the annual World Ice Hockey championships.
This year marks the centennial of one of the most important developments in the history of hockey in Alberta.
On Nov. 7th, 1914, the Alberta Amateur Hockey Association officially created the category of junior hockey.
There were many reasons for the decision. In the two decades since the first official hockey games were played in Alberta, the sport had really matured.
Instead of teams being made up of men who had previously played hockey elsewhere in Canada, there were now credible teams of homegrown players.
With the official recognition of junior hockey, these promising young athletes could now compete in organized junior leagues across Alberta.
As is often the case with new initiatives, there were not a lot of junior hockey leagues created at first.
However, other factors soon boosted the concept. One of the most important ones was the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914.
Young men, particularly those in their late teens and early 20s, rushed off to enlist. This drastically reduced the pool of available players for senior and intermediate level hockey. People consequently looked to junior hockey to fill the gap.
Another big factor involved the semi-professional Central Alberta Baseball League. While none of the local young athletes competed in the League for money, other players had been paid in the past. Under the very strict rules of the Alberta Amateur Hockey Association, even playing against former professionals was enough to have an athlete’s amateur status revoked.
Because the Red Deer Hockey Club was preoccupied with appealing the A.A.H.L.’s decision, hockey got off to a very late start in the City. A team was not organized for the season until the second week of December.
Even then, some of the best prospective players were still waiting to regain their amateur status.
A decision was made to create a Central Alberta Hockey League that included Olds, Lacombe and any other community in Central Alberta that had not been penalized by the rulings of the A.A.H.A.
Because of the high hopes of the organizers, the League was still classed as being intermediate level.
Although there had been a long-standing tradition in Red Deer of organizing a hockey game on the afternoon on Christmas Day, the season opener was to be held on the evening of New Year’s Day.
The game was an excellent one.
By the time it was over, Lacombe and Red Deer were tied at seven goals apiece. Red Deer was reportedly well satisfied with the result, since this was the first official game of the season. Lacombe, however, was somewhat peeved, because that team had been the runner-up in the 1913-1914 seasons’ intermediate championship.
The second game went much better for Lacombe. The team won by a score of 5 to 2 over Red Deer.
Lacombe’s success continued. By the end of the local hockey season, Lacombe was the Central Alberta intermediate champion. Lacombe then triumphed over the Calgary Varsity team, which held the Calgary and Southern Alberta intermediate championship.
Unfortunately, Lacombe’s luck ran out in the Alberta finals. The first game against the Edmonton Hustlers ended up in a 3-3 tie.
However, Lacombe lost the next two games. The soft spring outdoor ice was given as part of the reason for the defeats. Nevertheless, Lacombe once again had to be satisfied with holding the Central and Southern Alberta intermediate championship.