Creemore history: Hockey in the early 1900s

 In Opinion

Hockey was a popular sport in Creemore  in the early 1900s although different from today’s game. Teams were made up of men, mainly in their twenties. No minor hockey leagues existed. The players wore very little protective gear, only shin pads. A team was made up of six players, sometimes a seventh called a spare. Compared to today’s leagues there was very little organization but there was some. In December 1907 “an enthusiastic meeting of the Creemore hockey team took place. An executive was elected. Membership was 25 cents,” It was the object of the club to have good matches with outside teams in the winter. That winter they played Stayner and  Shelburne, centres that could be reached by a cold ride in  a sleigh. Alliston could be reached by train. Creemore’s team was called the Brownies, not a name that would be chosen today.
In the years that followed hockey reports in the local paper were almost nonexistent. This may have depended on the interests of the editor. In 1913 a report told of Ernest Cleary suffering a broken jaw when hit full force by Jack McDonald’s shot.
Creemore’s greatest glory in hockey, at least of the  time I write, happened from January to April 1922. A photo of the team has recently been published in a 2006 calendar of old Creemore pictures. The team colours were blue and white. This team played twelve games always winning by large margins: 12-6, 12-8, 12-7. It is important to  note that each player played the whole 60 minutes of the game.
Team members were: Somerville, goal; Madill, left defence; McLaren, right defence; Creighton, centre; Emmett, right wing; Carlton, left wing; subs., May and Hinds. The Creemore team played Alliston, Beeton, Caledon East, Thornbury, Meaford and Tottenham, teams that were accessible by train at the time.
Going over reports in the Creemore Stars is entertaining reading. One of the members, Ken Carlton, ran the paper with his mother. Every bit of excitement was noted colourfully. One comment cried, “Try as they did, the visitors [Collingwood] threw every man up to the attack.” And another game played “before a large crowd of wildly excited fans, and again, “the game was a hair raiser.”
As the season went on and the sextet won yet another game, the Creemore headlines grew even more thrilling with examples such as “Creemore Applies Whitewash Brush” and “Creemore Smothers Tottenham.”
Perhaps the most colourful paragraph I came across describes how desperate the Collingwood team played to win.”The visitors tried every means of stopping the locals by cross-checking, hooking, tripping, slashing and finally knocking Creighton [the best player] out in the final moments of the game. Yet the game ended 8-1 for Creemore.
Sadly those glory days did not last. Creighton moved to Owen Sound. Another problem was the closing of the rink, previously mentioned last month. For two years the only sheet of ice available was on the river, not suitable for the game.
Reports from 1928 reveal that the Creemore team had lost some of its power. They lost to Stayner 7-3 but defeated Meaford 5-4. By this time Bert Smith was the editor of the Creemore Star. His language was every bit as colourful as Ken Carlton’s. The games were described this way, “wicked wing shot. The player opened a can of worms and scored,” and “Lawson, securing the rubber, gave  a splendid version of a one man hockey team by snaking his way to the opponent’s headquarters and registering.”
Much has changed since those heady days of Hockey in Creemore. All sorts of padding and protective gear have been added to the hockey outfit. Many of the rules have changed and no longer only six players stay on for the whole sixty minutes. Now we have children on the teams instead of men but the enthusiasm and excitement is just as great.

Helen Blackburn is a retired teacher, avid gardener and a long-time contributor to the Creemore Echo. She writes about local history.

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