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Canada Post stamp commemorates historic all-black hockey league

A new stamp featuring the Maritimes’ Colored Hockey League has launched

3 min read
Community members pose with a blown-up photo of Canada Post's new stamp.
caption Canada Post unveiled a new stamp on Jan. 23 commemorating the Colored Hockey League.
Chris Stoodley

Canada Post unveiled a new stamp on Thursday commemorating a once thriving all-black hockey league in the Maritimes.

The unveiling was held at the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia in Cherry Brook. The stamp honours the Colored Hockey League, an all-black men’s hockey league that ran from 1895 to the early 1930s.

“It’s great to see that our influence as African Canadians are connected to the sport so long ago,” said Black Cultural Society president Craig Smith, “and that we would have that kind of impact on the sport that would go down and become known as Canada’s national pastime.”

The Colored Hockey League — founded 22 years before the National Hockey League — was created by men from the African United Baptist Association who were eager to draw more young men to Sunday worship. Organizers promised to hold recreational hockey matches between rival churches after Sunday service.

The first team to join the league was the Dartmouth Jubilees. Shortly after, many more teams were created across the Maritimes. The stamp features the names of eight teams: the Dartmouth Jubilees, Halifax Stanleys, Halifax Eurekas, Africville Sea-Sides, Truro Victorias, Charlottetown West End Rangers, Amherst Royals and the Hammonds Plains Mossbacks.

The new stamp unveiled by Canada Post.
caption Eight team names are featured on the stamp. The Halifax Eurekas, the 1904 Colored Hockey Champions, are illustrated.
Chris Stoodley

“I’m proud, I’m excited, I’m happy because I even learned a lot more than I thought I knew,” Mayann Francis, Nova Scotia’s former lieutenant governor, said in an interview.

“These are stories that need to be in schools,” she said.

Teams were only allowed to play in arenas after the white leagues finished their seasons. By then, games took place from late January to early March when the arena’s natural ice quality became poor.

Still, matches drew large crowds. An inter-provincial Maritime championship between the Africville Sea-Sides and the Charlottetown West End Rangers saw as many as 1,200 people attend in Halifax.

The league also played games with no official rules. As a result, players created hockey innovations that were then prohibited in professional games. Goaltenders could drop down to their knees to stop a puck and Eddie Martin of the Halifax Eurekas created an early version of the slap shot — two important moves in hockey games today.

Bernadette Hamilton-Reid, an administrative assistant for the African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent Coalition, said she doesn’t have ancestors in the league, but is going to do more research about the league’s history.

“It gives you recognition and affirmation that people do know the history and that it was known today by many more,” she said.

“I think it’s just important for everybody to know the history and to encourage and support all history of all people, because as I say, ‘Our history is your history.’”

The new stamp — available in booklets of 10 — shows the Halifax Eurekas, the 1904 Colored Hockey Champions.

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Chris Stoodley

Chris is a fourth-year student at the University of King's College. He's a big fan of all things visual and loves to keep up with the world of...

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