HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE GAME OF HOCKEY
By Farley Wuth, Curator,
Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village
Copyright, Pincher Creek & District Historical Society
Local pioneers from the Pincher Creek area were known as adaptable stock, prepared to make the best of a changeable environment and weather conditions. With our often cold winters and high snow accumulations, it was only natural that locals would take advantage of the many frozen creeks and lakes with the sport of hockey. By the late 1880s, the sport had quickly taken off for recreational purposes. Teams were established, and competitive games often were played with neighboring communities. Let’s have a look at a pair of games played between Pincher Creek and Bellevue during January 1929.
EACH TEAM HAD STRONG COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS
The two opposing teams were the Pincher Creek Junior Hockey Team and the Bellevue Juniors. Our team had been a particularly active one, drawing upon the many local hockey enthusiasts. Pincher Creek hockey players included members of the Robinson, McKerricher, Hunter, Gladstone, Lavasseur, Robertson, Shea, and Bridgeland Families. Each of these names represented pioneer ranching or business families from the area, each having an interest in community affairs and sporting endeavors. Hank Lavasseur, for instance, was the youngest son of George and Sophie Lavasseur. The extended Lavasseur family operated a freighting and livery business which had both Fort Macleod and Pincher Creek connections. Later they farmed east of our ranching settlement.
Players on the Bellevue team also were locals from that community. George Jordan moved to Bellevue from Lethbridge in 1914. He was employed by West Canadian Collieries as a weigh master at the local tipple. Several members of the Kubasek Family, who worked at the Maple Leaf Mine on the eastern outskirts of Bellevue, were active on the team over the years. Other players included representatives from the Wood, Morris, Kenizkie, Hlasney, Ware and Urbash Families, most of whom had connections with the coal mining industry at Bellevue and Hillcrest.
COMPETITIVE FIRST GAME WITH FRIGID WEATHER CONDITIONS
The two eager teams met for the first game of the season on Friday, 18th January. According to the press reports supplemented by local folklore, it was a bitterly cold evening which made both participating in and watching the game uncomfortable. Nevertheless, it’s fast pace and many narrow saves by both goalies kept the players enthused and spectators interested. During the first period, several times the play went back and forth the full length of the ice as both teams attempted to get control of the puck. During the second period, Bellevue scored the first goal of the game with Kenizkie shooting in a long shot which came in past the Pincher Creek defense.
It was during the third period that Bellevue gained the upper hand. Their quick skating and ability to handle the puck ensured them an additional six goals. The Pincher Creek boys put up a brave attempt and through the efforts of Bridgeland and McKerricher (the latter actually scored two goals against the Pass team), our local team was able to return home with three goals. Truly it was a competitive game right down to the final seconds.
A SECOND HARD HITTING GAME
Four days later, on Tuesday the 22nd, the two teams met for a second match played on Bellevue’s home ice. This time too the Bellevue players came out on top with a final score of eight to four. The first period saw some real competitive hockey with it ending in a 2 to 2 tie. Thanks to some fast puck handling, Levasseur had the honour of scoring both of these two goals. During the second period, our own Robertson was able to score own goal but we were out shot at our end of the ice and Bellevue skated away with another three goals.
The third period saw the Pass team continue their fast pace, scoring another three goals. Only “Spots” Gladstone was able to win a hard fought point for the Pincher Creek crew, and the final score ended 8 to four in favour of the team to the west. Pincher Creek fans who witnessed the game were disappointed with the results but were very pleased with the competitive nature of the home team. Folklore indicates that the players skated hard and attempted to keep the play down at the Bellevue end of the ice whenever possible. It was apparent that the crew from the Pass were just able to our maneuver our own team.
These hard hitting games from the pages of our past are just two illustrations of the rich hockey traditions which exist in pioneer communities such as Pincher Creek.