Hockey is Canada’s national winter sport, but historical racism was strong as it was in many other aspects of society, and the teams were white as the snow.
It is little known that in the eastern Maritime provinces, black churches, initially around Halifax, took matters into their own hands. Hoping to use hockey to attract young men to the church, the various churches organised teams to compete for the “coloured hockey championship”.
Canada Post has honoured the championship with a stamp featuring an illustration of the Halifax Eurekas, the Champions in 1904. The illustration is based on a historical photograph
The first record of an all-Black hockey game in the Halifax area dates back to March 1895 and involved the Dartmouth Jubilees and the Halifax Stanleys.
An actual league did not really exist, at least at first, nor a defined schedule as teams from various communities would challenge each other to meet via telegraph or adverts in local newspapers. But the idea quickly caught on.
By 1900, six more teams were formed, including one from Prince Edward Island. There were the Halifax Eurekas, Africville Sea-Sides, Truro Victorias, Hammonds Plains Moss Backs, Amherst Royals and Charlottetown West End Rangers and the league was formed
The Colored Hockey Championship lasted from 1895 to the 1930’s, with its height being in the years just after the turn of the century. Abou 400 players were involved in the league.
While little known, two innovations came from the black league, created almost two decades before the National Hockey League.
One was the goalie dropping down on the ice to stop the puck, (traditionally in the ‘white’ game, goalies remained standing), this was initiated by Henry “Braces” Franklyn of the Dartmouth Jubilees, and an early concept of the ‘slapshot’, credited to Eddie Martin of the Halifax Eurekas in 1906.