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Founding of an Association: 75 Years of Hockey

This article first appeared in the 75th Anniversary Special Edition of The ODHA Newsletter (June 1995).

Ottawa's history as a hot bed of hockey talent is well documented...one need look no further than the hundreds of players who have gone on to the highest levels of professional hockey. But the history of the association that fostered much of that talent is far more arduous to piece together. Old, achieved newspaper clippings, a few books, and several hockey veterans are all that remain of the branch's formative years.

As its first president, Captain Edward Archibald, the associate sports editor of the Ottawa Journal and a former Canadian track and field champion, inked the final signature on the Ottawa and District Hockey Association constitution on December 11th, 1920. The events leading up to that moment are vague, partly because the evidence no longer exists and partly because the ODHA did not have an auspicious beginning. It may be nothing more than an ironic twist, but it appears that the Ottawa and District Hockey Association was formed after a dispute between hockey enthusiasts in the Ottawa area and the Toronto-based Ontario Hockey Association. The OHA was formed in 1890 and represented the only organized hockey league in Canada at the time. From 1890 to 1893, the coveted Cosby Cup was won by an Ottawa team, the same team which would later provide the nucleus for the 1893 Stanley Cup-winning Ottawa Senators. In 1894, Ottawa bid to host the OHA final. Head office turned down the request and, in a decision that has little supporting evidence, added that any team which disobeyed its ruling would "automatically disqualify itself." Rather than wait for the disqualification notice, Ottawa walked away from the OHA, sowing the seeds for what would later become the ODHA.

The Central Canada Amateur Hockey Association, the forerunner to the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, was founded on December 4, 1914, and gave control of the Ottawa district to its Quebec branch. During the next five years, there were several attempts by Ottawa-based leagues to break out on their own. The Capital Hockey Association and the Ottawa City Hockey League, when not feuding with each other, both asked for independent status within the CCAHA. At its annual meeting on December 14, 1919, in the old Journal Building, the CCAHA attempted to settle the dispute once and for all. But, as one reporter put it, the meeting "failed to clean up the local hockey situation." The CCAHA, under the belief that two leagues could not operate successfully in one region, refused to accept an application from the Capital Hockey Association, instead insisting its member-teams join the Ottawa City League. However, it granted the City League the right to challenge for the Allan Cup, senior hockey's emblem of supremacy. The CCAHA also reasserted Quebec's control over eastern Ontario, but, as a conciliatory geture, gave the Ottawa Amateur Athletic Federation the right to represent Quebec's interests in Ottawa. "(Be it) resolved that the Ottawa Amateur Federation be given control of the amateur hockey in Ottawa and district...and that the Federation be delegated to act as the representative of the Quebec Branch in Ottawa and district," the Ottawa Citizen reported. The arrangement lasted less than a year. On Dec. 11, 1920, Capt. Archibald and W.H. Hutton of Ottawa, accepted the positions of president and secretary-treasurer, respectively, of a new association. The Ottawa Federation had asked for its own branch status within the CAHA, then a part of the Amateur Athletic Union of Canada. The branch was officially recognized as a member of the CAHA in April, 1921, at the annual AAUC meeting in Winnipeg. The Ottawa Journal reported three days after the April 20th meeting that "after over a year of patient effort on the part of Captain Ed Archibald, a new branch of the Amateur Athletic Union of Canada, which will be known as the Ottawa and Valley Branch, was successfully launched at the Chateau Laurier." Under article three of the newly signed constitution, the ODHA was given jurisdiction over "that part of Ontario lying east of and including the counties of Lanark, Renfrew, and all of Leeds, (except the town of Gananoque and the portion of Highway No. 32 and south of Highway No. 15 in the Province of Ontario) and that part of Quebec including the provincial counties of Pontiac, Hull, Gatineau and Papineau."

The first board of directors established five objectives which have changed little in the preceding 75 years:

  • To foster and encourage the sport of amateur hockey within the territory under its control.
  • To conduct competition in the various series established from time to time.
  • To determine by such elimination competition as its Executive Committee may decide for entry into inter-brach competitions that may be provided by the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association.
  • To provide for the affiliation of other hockey organizations within its territory.
  • To make grants out of the funds of the Association for patriotic, educational or charitable purposes.

Member clubs were not permitted to participate in championship competition or hold voting privileges at the annual meeting until their fees were paid in full. The fees, however, were less than a hockey stick today: Junior clubs were charged $8 a year, Intermediate teams paid $12 and Senior clubs paid $15. Due to the size of the ODHA's jurisdiction, referees were allowed to bill the home team for bus fare, a railway ticket or hotel accommodation if it was not possible to use their own automobile. As with any new organization, the ODHA experienced plenty of growing pains in its first years. The peace that followed its inaugural year ended shortly thereafter. The Upper Ottawa Valley Hockey League, a fixture in senior hockey well before the turn of the century, almost split the ODHA apart. During the 1926-27 annual meeting, the rural leagues, citing favouritism towards city-based leagues and teams, unanimously threatened to pull out of the ODHA until differences were ironed out. In the 75 years that have followed, hundreds have come through the ODHA's leagues and associations on their way to careers in the NHL: players such as Ted Lindsay, Larry Robinson, Denis Potvin, Mike Gartner and Steve Yzerman; officials like Cooper Smeaton, Bob Kilger and Wayne Bonney; and coaches like Bryan Murray, Terry Murray, Doug Carpenter and Marc Crawford. From Allan Cups to Memorial Cups, Centennial Cups, and Olympic Gold Medals, ODHA teams have won a wealth of national championships in that time. Today, its teams continue to win against teams from larger markets, but its real stamp is its innovative development programs. Through courses unsurpassed anywhere in Canada, the ODHA is developing the coaches, officials, trainers and players of tomorrow.

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