Canada Post unveiled a commemorative stamp Thursday that pays tribute to an all-black hockey league that once thrived in the Maritimes.
The stamp, unveiled at the Black Cultural Centre in Cherry Brook, N.S., tells the story of the Coloured Hockey League, which saw teams competing for the Coloured Hockey Championship between 1895 and the 1930s.
“It acknowledges a piece of African Nova Scotian and Canadian history that a lot of folks don’t know about,” said Craig Smith, president of the Black Cultural Society of Nova Scotia.
“These black men put this league together and played on ponds and in rinks after the white teams had played – and they weren’t allowed to play on any of the white teams.”
The league, founded 22 years before the National Hockey League, was established in Halifax among black Baptists who were eager to get young men to attend Sunday church services.
There was no game schedule. Matches were arranged through telegraphed challenges or by placing ads in local newspapers.
The games soon became community events that attracted both black and white fans.
The first team established was the Dartmouth Jubilees but others soon formed, including: the Africville Sea-Sides in Halifax; the Charlottetown West End Rangers; the Royals in Amherst, N.S.; and the Victorias in Truro, N.S.
Teams weren’t allowed into local arenas until after the white leagues were finished with their seasons. That meant the CHL’s seasons typically lasted from late January to early March, when natural ice surfaces became poor.
Still, the games were fast-paced and featured several innovations, including the invention of the slap shot – credited to Eddie Martin of the Halifax Eurekas in 1906.
As well, goalies in the league were among the first to use the butterfly style, which was later adapted by players in the “whites-only” leagues.
During the league’s golden era, between 1900 and 1905, the CHL’s games routinely attracted larger crowds than those organized for the white leagues.
The new stamp, available in booklets of 10, features an illustration based on a photograph showing the Halifax Eurekas, the Coloured Hockey Champions in 1904.