A stamp honouring the “Colored Hockey Championship” and the all-Black hockey teams that competed for it between 1895 and the early 1930s was unveiled today by Canada Post.
In this little-known chapter of Canadian hockey history, determined organizers and players arranged their own challenge matches, dispelling hurtful misconceptions and changing the game in small but important ways.
“I grew up watching hockey without knowing the legacy of these teams,” said Craig Smith, president of the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia. “Telling this important story will broaden the public’s understanding of the contributions of the African-Canadian community in the Maritimes to our national winter sport.”
In the late 19th century, Baptist Church leaders believed all-Black hockey would be a great way to attract young Black men to the church to strengthen their religious path. Games became community events and brought mixed audiences together in the stands while post-game meals united Black players from different communities.
There was no predetermined game schedule; instead, teams challenged one other to matches by telegraph or by placing ads in local newspapers. Organizers, players and newspapers of the day called the ultimate prize the Colored Hockey Championship—a term no longer in use but something the stamp retains for historical accuracy.
BOOKLETS OF 10
The new issue is available in booklets of 10 stamps, which were illustrated by Toronto artist Ron Dollekam, designed by Lara Minja, of British Columbia’s Lime Design, and printed by Ottawa’s Lowe-Martin using four-colour lithography.
The stamp features an illustration of the Halifax Eurekas – the Colored Hockey Champions in 1904 – and is based on a historical photograph. Each stamp measures 32 millimetres by 40 millimetres (vertical), and a total of 140,000 10-stamp booklets were printed.
An official first-day cover – 9,000 in total – is serviced with a Halifax cancel. The front of the cover features an illustration of players from the Halifax Eurekas skating on Egg Pond, where they might have practiced, near the Halifax Citadel. The back includes a 1904 advertisement for the championship game between the Eurekas and the Africville Sea-Sides.
The Colored Hockey Championship stamp acknowledges the game’s early developments, including some of the earliest recorded uses of down-to-the-ice goaltending that was later adopted by players in “white-only” leagues, including professional leagues.
At that time, hockey goalies in other leagues stood upright.
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.
Six more teams, including one from Prince Edward Island, soon formed. There were the Halifax Eurekas, Africville Sea-Sides, Truro Victorias, Hammonds Plains Moss Backs, Amherst Royals and Charlottetown West End Rangers.
The golden era of all-Black hockey was between 1900 and 1905, when games often outdrew those of “white-only” leagues; however, teams continued to play for the Colored Hockey Championship until the 1930s.