Dawson Nuggets’ epic Stanley Cup quest

Dawson Nuggets at Ottawa January 1905. The team travelled 13,000 miles return trip, by trail, train, and ship, to play for the Stanley Cup in Ottawa and 10 exhibition games in Canada and the United States. Wikimedia Commons.

 

From Dawson City, capital of the Yukon gold fields, 10 men of the Dawson Nuggets hockey team set off on December 19, 1904 on a 4,000-mile, 24-day journey by bicycle, dog sled, train, and ship for Ottawa, in quest of the world hockey championship, the Stanley Cup. They are to pick up one more team member in Winnipeg. Including 10 exhibition games, they will travel 13,000 by the time they return.

The epic has been promoted and financed by Jim Boyle, “King of the Klondike,” who climbed from barroom bouncer to become the Yukon’s leading gold miner.

“The run of 265 miles over the ice and snow to Whitehorse will put the boys in splendid condition for the trying work of the big matches,” hailed the Dawson News as they departed.

Half the team started out on bicycles; half on dog sleds. After the first snowstorm, the bicyclists abandoned their machines and walked. It took the team 23 days to reach Whitehorse.

On the next leg to Skagway, the White Pass and Yukon Railway was delayed by an avalanche. The steamship that was to take them to Seattle had waited for two days, but left just hours before the team arrived. They waited five days in Skagway where the bars in the roaring town failed to improve the condition of the athletes. A freighter took them on a rough voyage to Seattle, followed by train to Vancouver and then to Ottawa. Crowds gathered at railway stations across Canada to greet them.

“There was a large attendance of friends and Ottawans” to greet the Klondikers when they finally arrived at the capital city at 4:45 in the afternoon on Tuesday, January 11, the Ottawa Citizen reported. It was “The most trying trip ever attempted by a Canadian athletic organizations,” said the Citizen.

The Dawson Nuggets had two days to condition and prepare for the first game, on Friday the 13th. The Ottawa Silver Seven, their opponent, refused to defer the start of the two-game series.

The games are to be played at Dey’s Rink, where the Ottawa Citizen says that “so much weed is consumed during the progress of a match that along about half time the air space is full of dense smoke and even the lights are dimmed by the clouds.”

Dey’s rink is filled by a capacity crowd—2,500. Governor General Earl Grey drops the puck, and “sportsmanship deteriorated from that point on,” reported the Whitehorse Star.

It was a rough game, said the Dawson Yukon World. “Watt tripped Moore, who gave the Dawson man a stick across the mouth, putting him down. Watt then skated across the rink and struck Moore over the head, putting him out for 10 minutes.”

The score was 9-2 for the Ottawa Silver Seven.

The final game was played three days later. Jim Boyle wired the Dawson News with an account of what happened:

“Our team played gamely but was dead on its feet.” With a substitute filling in for an injured star player, “Our team was broken up and in no condition to play in such a game as was put up against them. While our men have been travelling, the Ottawans have been put through a course of training, and the players are, of course, in the condition of race horses. Our boys showed what was in them, for until lack of condition began to count the exhibition of the play was magnificent.”

The score was 22-2 for Ottawa.

The Dawson Nuggets continued on an exhibition tour through eastern Canada and the United States. They won 12 games, lost 10 and one was a draw. By the time they were back in Dawson, they had travelled 13,000 miles—by trail, train and ship.

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