An Unofficial History of the Alberta Amateur Hockey Association
In 1977, C. Jarvis Miller compiled an unofficial history of the Alberta Amateur Hockey Association (AAHA), from its inception in 1907 until 1977. The information included personal recollections, as well as notes and official records included in meeting minutes and other documents of the organization.
Miller was named as the first-ever Chair of the new Minor Committee, which was formed in 1960. Miller also was the first Secretary/Manager of the AAHA, being named to the position in 1970, to replace the former position Registrar/Treasurer. Miller is a Life Member of Hockey Alberta, a recipient of the President’s Award in 1974, and the Centennial Award in 2007.
The history Miller compiled was included as part of Hockey Alberta’s Employee Manual for a number of years. The version included here has been edited for style and content format.
The earliest written record of the Alberta Amateur Hockey Association dates from 1923. The lack of records for this period would indicate that the fledgling Association had barely got off the ground when a series of events dealt a serious blow. Those events included: the real estate bust of 1913, World War I 1914-18, and the flu epidemic of 1918.
As well, it was still the "horse and buggy" era, and very few of the smaller centres had electricity, let alone a water system. Most competition was on a local level using open-air rinks or ponds. Any inter-city competition was largely limited to the bigger centres or those with good rail connections.
In the early years, the game was two 30-minute periods with no substitutions, although records indicate this changed in 1910-11 to the present "periods" with substitutes allowed.
In 1912, the Taber Chefs, a team of eight players (five of the "cooks" raised $800), travelled by special rail car to Winnipeg to enter the Allan Cup. The first game was an 8-8 tie but owing to colds and illness of several players the second game was forfeited.
In 1912-13, Lloyd Turner renovated an old roller skating rink into an ice arena in Calgary. It became known as the Sherman Arena and was home to famous teams such as the Tigers.
Conditions improved after World War I, with many outdoor rinks being built. The rinks often had high boards on one side and both ends, with lower boards on the rink shack side, which was also the spectator area. There was no uniform size for rinks, with water supply having a bearing on this, and rinks were often smaller than today’s standard rinks. In fact, as late as 1957, the AAHA Handbook recommended rinks be built "as nearly as possible, 200 ft. long and 85 ft. wide." Lighting usually consisted of four to six strings across the rink with extra light at each end in the goal area.
Equipment was different compared to today’s standards. Felt padding was the usual type of shin pad. A knee pad was introduced similar to what was used by football players. Shoulder pads and helmets were still for the future. If it was cold, you wore a toque or cap with ear flaps. Skates had improved and Automobile C and D became the favorite type. Gloves for both skaters and goalkeepers were seldom seen. Hockey sticks were about $1. They were not laminated and were quite sturdy, usually lasting the entire season. Pucks were inexpensive, although if some went over the boards the game was usually held up until the puck was retrieved from the snowbanks.
The rules were interesting. Seven men were allowed on the ice at the same time with the seventh man designated as a "rover". There were no markings on the ice. As late as 1933, the AAHA was agitating for adoption of the forward pass. If you accepted a pass from a player behind you it was an automatic off-side as was also the case if you touched the puck with your skates. Boarding was a "no-no", as was heavy body checking. Such rules encouraged stick handling skating and the "sweep" and "poke" checks. Referees used bells instead of whistles.
Games with neighboring towns were highlights. Highways were non-existent and most cars were placed on "blocks" during the winter. As a result nearly all travel was done by train and this usually meant an overnight stay with the result that such games were a rarity.
Ladies hockey was very popular in this period and the two major cities together with smaller centres had teams.
Most players of minor age played on school teams and age was not a determining factor as to the division of hockey in which you played. I do not think that this applied to the larger centres such as Calgary and Edmonton because of the fact that they had so much innercity competition.
In the 1920s, the Edmonton South Side Rink was a hive of activity. Well known teams included Calgary Jimmies, Edmonton Hustlers, Edmonton Canadians and Calgary Tigers in the minor ranks, and Intermediate and Senior teams such as Calgary Hustlers, E.A.C., Calgary Canadians, Okotoks, Gleichen Gunners, High River Flyers, Calgary Fouex, Canmore (who won Senior title in three consecutive years), and Pass teams such as Blairmore, Coleman and Bellevue.
The late 1920s and early 1930s saw the building of numerous enclosed arenas. By the mid-30s, most towns, villages and hamlets had some form of skating and hockey facilities although the vast majority were still open air.
The "dirty thirties" were not as hard on hockey as one might think. Money was scarce but what cheaper way to have some recreation than skating and playing hockey? There was an upsurge in Intermediate hockey with clubs such as E.A.C., Edmonton Superiors, Calgary Rangers, Lethbridge Maple Leafs, Luscar Indians, Drumheller Miners, Edmonton Victorias, and Edmonton Dominions.
During World War II, most senior hockey players found themselves in the Armed Services. Rivalry between various "stations" was very keen and much interesting hockey resulted as quite a number of the teams were "stocked" with players from the National Hockey League. These teams dominated the playoff picture until 1944 when an edict from the Department of National Defence removed them from competition.
After that, Senior hockey gradually declined. Instead Intermediate hockey came to the fore with such Leagues as Calgary "Big Six" and the Central Alberta League. These two Leagues were certainly among the better Intermediate leagues in Western Canada throughout the 1950s. The Big Six stopped operation following the 1973-74 season.
In the 1950s, the era of artificial rinks began, which made a profound difference in the approach to hockey. Rather than being a four-month season, hockey became almost a year-round operation. In the early years of this period most rinks were made possible by hard work on the part of the communities. In later years matching grants from governments gave a great impetus to construction with the result that many smaller centres boasted covered rinks.
The frequent reference to teams of Senior, Junior and Intermediate calibre has only been made possible through the development of healthy minor hockey organizations in Alberta throughout the years.
Anyone who attended Annual Meetings of the AAHA throughout the early 1950s would have been struck by the paucity of minor representatives. The meetings were not large gatherings and most of the representatives came from senior, junior and intermediate divisions carrying proxies from minor teams.
The Minor Committee was formed in 1960 allowing minor hockey to become a provincial operation. Annual Meetings became large gatherings with the vast bulk of the attendance coming from minor organizations.
Outside of the first meeting of the AAHA in Red Deer, records show that all Annual Meetings from 1923-1929 were held in Calgary. The 1930 meeting was held in Edmonton and then reverted to Calgary in the following year and did not return to Edmonton until 1934. From this time on meetings more or less rotated until 1957 when the Annual Meeting was held in Lethbridge.
In 1963 because of its central location, Red Deer was selected as venue for future Annual Meetings. This procedure was followed until 1972 when the Annual Meeting was held in Edmonton. Subsequent Annual Meetings were held in Lethbridge, Calgary, and Grande Prairie with the 70th Anniversary held in Red Deer in 1977.
1923: The Secretary reported a bank balance of $39.02 with liabilities of $5.10. Office equipment outside of desk and chair consisted of a typewriter and filing cabinet. Thirty teams were represented at this meeting with an attendance of 19 delegates. Dr. Sandercock was president at this time and later served as president of the CAHA in 1926-28.
1925: A substantial increase in membership, especially in the Ladies’ section, was reported, resulting in the following Motion being adopted: "The Ladies’ Section shall be represented on the Executive Committee of the Association by one lady to be elected annually at the Annual Meeting and to be known as Vice President of Ladies’ Section". Dr. Geneva Misner was elected to this position. This is the first record we can find of a lady being an Executive of the AAHA. This lasted until 1931 when the ladies withdrew through lack of interest.
Vim Stanley of High River made his first appearance in this year. He attended meetings until 1944 and served as Vice-President from 1931-1933 and President from 1934-1936.
1926: A key topic was players participating in games with more than one team. It resulted in the following: "That in the future players registered with a Club in the Association cannot play for any other Club in the same season."
Calgary Canadians won the Memorial Trophy with a roster of nine players.
Dr. Hardy became a member of the Executive, commencing a long career in hockey, including: AAHA President 1931-33, CAHA President 1938-40, and IIHF President 1948-51. He was the CAHA Meritorious Award recipient in 1969.
1930: Clarence Campbell appears in the Minutes as a delegate from Edmonton juvenile and junior teams. He became an Executive Member in 1931 and Vice-President in 1933-34.
Dr. Long of Red Deer served as President in 1930 and was on the Executive for several years. He was the first recipient of the Red Deer "Sportsman of the Year" in the 1950s.
1933: J.T. North became Registrar/Treasurer, a position he held for 17 years.
1934 and 1935: Transfers and moving of players from one Club to another were predominant items on the agenda.
1936: The CAHA ended its membership in the Amateur Athletic Union of Canada, deciding to operate as an entity of its own with the backing of the various Provincial Branches.
1937: Reference concerning reinstatement of professionals.
1940s: Numerous references to Armed Forces and the impact on hockey in Alberta. The Secretary reported a considerable drop in membership during this period.
Ed Bruchet of Lethbridge was a delegate in 1943 and 1952 and was President in 1945-46. He also served on the Executive in 1944, 1945 and 1956-57. He was quite active in minor ranks and came to be synonymous with hockey in Lethbridge.
1946: Harold Brandreth of Calgary became President and held that position for seven years - the longest of any President. He became a Life Member of the Association. Bill Ruff of Edmonton served as Vice-President under Brandreth in 1946, became President in 1947 with Brandreth as Vice-President with Brandreth being returned to President in 1948.
Calgary Stampeders won the Allan Cup while Edmonton Independents won the Western Canada Intermediate Championship.
Junior B category was formed for teams outside of Calgary and Edmonton.
1948: Edmonton Flyers won the Allan Cup.
1950-52: Alberta teams did very well at the IIHF World Championships. Edmonton Waterloo Mercurys won the crown in 1950, Lethbridge Maple Leafs in 1951 and Edmonton Superiors in 1952.
1955: Art Porter of Edmonton became President and served three terms. His credentials included: CAHA President 1962-64; IIHF committee member in 1964; recipient of CAHA Meritorious Award in 1966; Honorary President of first Canadian National team; Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 1968; and Life Member of AAHA.
An interesting item from the Minutes: "All referees, Ass’t. Referees and Linesmen shall be garbed in blue or black trousers, black tie and white shirt; a sweater of orange color, with Branch or League Crest."
1955-61: Alberta had a monopoly on the Western Canadian Championship (Journal Cup). Ponoka Stampeders won in 1955-56, Olds Elks in 1957-58, Red Deer Rustlers in 1958-59 and Lacombe Rockets in 1960-61.
1958: J.H. Watson of Calgary became President and served two years. Peace River area teams entered AAHA playoffs in the Minor ranks with special reference to Mr. M. Collins of Edmonton, who, for several years, provided free bus transportation for competing teams. Collins was named an Honorary Member of the Association.
1959: Minor Hockey Week in Canada began with plaques provided by the CAHA. The first recipients in Alberta were Reg Houghton of Calgary, Clarke Burlingham of Stettler and Jarvis Miller of Red Deer. These plaques were presented by King Clancy at a Minor Hockey Night in Red Deer.
1960: Jim Brown of Camrose became President and served four terms. He became a Life Member in 1969 and is remembered for his work in Intermediate hockey as Governor of the Central Alberta League.
The Minor Hockey Committee was formed due to the growth of minor membership. Jarvis Miller was elected as the first Chair of the new Committee with Steve Wyker as North Vice-Chair and Syd Hall South Vice-Chair.
1961: Rose Kohn was elected to the AAHA Executive becoming the first female on the executive since 1931. She was well known for her work as Calgary’s Registrar.
1962: Earl Samis of Edmonton received the CAHA Meritorious Award, and was known for his work as Registrar in Edmonton. He was also Assistant Registrar to Mr. Houghton, handling all of the registrations from Lacombe north.
1963: The Edmonton Oil Kings won their first Memorial Cup.
1964: Stu Peppard began the first of two terms as President after being an Executive Member since 1951, and holding every office except Registrar. Over the years he tackled the unenviable task of checking all constitutions of the various hockey bodies in the Province. He was a mainstay of the Calgary Junior B Hockey League, and was named Calgary Sportsman of the year in 1965, a Member of Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, and resented with CAHA Meritorious Award in 1975.
Helmets became mandatory for minor players.
A change in Minor Playoffs was made with Edmonton and Calgary teams classified as AA and BB in Juvenile, Midget and Bantam divisions and categories designated.
A Brief was presented by Jim Scoular urging the establishment of a D category for Intermediate hockey. This recommendation was accepted by the Executive and was a boon for smaller centres.
The 1964-65 season saw the first comprehensive check on registrations throughout Canada. Alberta registered 630 teams with a total player registration of 8,583.
1965: Gill Bellavance took over as Chairman of the Minor Committee with Don Dillion as North Vice-Chair and Wally Smith in the South.
1966: Edmonton Oil Kings and Drumheller Miners won Memorial and Allan Cups respectively.
1967: Joe Kryczka of Calgary became President and held the office for two terms. Kryczka also was President of the CAHA in 1973, and is a Life Member of the AAHA.
Lloydminster won the Western Intermediate Championship.
1968: On invitation of Peace River Area, the entire Executive travelled to Fairview for a meeting to reconcile problems such as Peace teams playing in a league with BC clubs. President Winslade of the BC Branch was also in attendance.
1969: Alberta hosted the CAHA Annual Meeting.
1970: George Harvie became President, and introduced the Council system with Ray March as Senior Council Member, Gordon Orser as Intermediate Member, Jim Scoular for Juniors and Don Dillion as Minor. Due to Harvie’s efforts, as CAHA Special Committee Chairman, the council System was installed in the CAHA in 1973.
A full time Registrar/Treasurer position was created, with Jarvis Miller being appointed and the title changed to Secretary-Manager.
The Semi-Annual meeting was "taken to the country" with the meeting held in Peace River. The idea was tried again in 1973 in Wainwright.
1971: NorthWest Territories became an affiliate of the Alberta Branch.
Red Deer Rustlers were first winners of Centennial Trophy.
1972: The AAHA News Bulletin was established with Gordon Mills in charge of the operation.
1973: The "President’s Award" (eventually renamed Chairman’s Award) was established with Jim McAdie of Edmonton the first recipient. McAdie’s name first appears as a delegate in 1949 and he was inducted into the Edmonton Sports Hall of Fame in 1968.
Registration numbers reached 2,101 teams and 35,446 players.
1974: Early in 1974 Jim Scoular became acting President due to the death of George Harvie. Scoular became President for 1974-75. He was active in Intermediate and Junior Hockey, and helped organize the first commercial league in Red Deer and a similar type of league in Edmonton. He was Governor of the Central Alberta league and the Alberta Junior A league.
In 1973-74 the AAHA became involved in the National Coaches Certification Program (NCCP). At the outset of the program materials were channeled through the office of the Secretary-Manager. By the start of the next season it became obvious that this was too big a task to be handled on the volunteer basis, and Dave Simpson was hired in May 1975 as the first Technical Director of the AAHA and given the responsibility of solidifying the program and initiating and establishing a record-keeping system of all certified coaches, At the completion of the 1976-77 season, more than 8,000 coaches had attended Levels 1, 2, 3 and 4 in the program of over 400 clinics.
1975: Doug McKenzie was elected President. He was well known in Edmonton Hockey circles, and served as Vice-Chairman of Minor Hockey for the North and coordinator of Intermediate playoffs.
Spruce Grove Mets won the Centennial Cup.
1976: Calgary hosted the Wrigley Midget Tournament.
1977: A.B. King died in 1977. He was an Executive Member of the Association in 1923, President from 1925-1928, and became a Life Member in 1936.