Winnipeg Victorias - 1896
Stanley Cup Champions
The Winnipeg Victorias were the city's predominant senior team. They claimed the Anderson cup three years running before January 1895 when they set out on their own eastern tour. The Vics returned home with a record of 4-1 while outscoring their opponents 33-12.
One of their victories included a 5-1 thumping of the Montreal AAA club. After the match, while visiting their opponents' clubhouse, Winnipeg Captain Jack Armytage noticed a small rose bowl trophy in a trophy case. It was the newly minted Stanley Cup, donated by LordStanley of Preston, the sixth Governor General of Canada for the amateur hockey championship of Canada.
The Cup, Armytage noted, was a challenge trophy. Returning home, with confidence high from their eastern tour, the Winnipeg Victoria's challenged Montreal for the Stanley Cup.
The Winnipeg challenge created quite the stir with the Eastern public. The prevailing thought being the Prairie boys were foolish to think they would be taking the cup West. No matter, the Stanley Cup trustees accepted the challenge and a "sudden death" game was scheduled for February 14, 1896 at Montreal.
A skeptical Montreal crowd gathered that day, more out of curiousity than concern. "The blizzards from the land of the setting sun" however, stunned their hosts with a 2-0 victory. Armytage scored the winning goal for the new Stanley Cup champions while George "Whitey" Merritt, outstanding in goal for the winners astonished the Montreal crowd by wearing protective white cricket pads.
Winnipeggers received the first ever play-by-play accounts of the Stanley Cup match via CPR Telegraph. Game updates were announced to anxious crowds gathered at a number of locations throughout the city. They were soon rewarded with news of the victory.
Celebrations lasted until the team's return on February 24th. The locomotive's cow catcher was adorned with hockey sticks and brooms, emblematic of the clean sweep in Montreal. Following a parade on Main Street (considered to be the first Stanley Cup parade), thousands of citizens greeted the team in a mass display of civic pride
Admired by the Eastern press for their style of play and hailed as "World Champions" by their adoring public at home, the Vics would enjoy the Stanley Cup for ten months.
The roster was: Jack Armytage (forward), Donald Bain (forward), C.J. "Tote" Campbell (forward), T.A. "Attie" Howard (forward), Fred Higginbotham (cover-point), Rod Flett (point), and George Merritt (goal). J. A. Shepperd (goal) and Robert Benson were substitutes.