Winnipeg Falcons

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Picture of the Gold Medal-winning Winnipeg Falcons taken en route to the 1920 Olympics (photo includes an unidentified ships' officer and a woman)
Winnipeg Free Press, April 27th, 1920 on the Olympic win.
Unveiling of prominent display at MTS Centre, Winnipeg.)
Winnipeg Falcons original sweater and jersey.
Olympic Medal Replicas

The Winnipeg Falcons were a senior men's amateur ice hockey team based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Winnipeg Falcons won the 1920 Allan Cup. That team went on to represent Canada in the 1920 Olympic games held in Antwerp, Belgium. There the Falcons, soundly beating all their opponents, won for Canada the first ever Olympic Gold Medal in ice hockey.[1][2]

The Winnipeg Falcons hockey team was founded in 1911 with a roster of entirely Icelandic players who had not been able to join other Winnipeg teams due to ethnic prejudice. In their first season, 1911–1912, they finished at the bottom of their league. The next year, Konnie Johannesson and Frank Fredrickson joined the team. That team turned out to be a winner in the league.[1]

Early history[edit]

The early roots of the Winnipeg Falcons can be traced back to the Icelandic Athletic Club which was formed in 1898.[3] The club consisted of a two team league called the Icelandic Athletic Club (IAC) and the Vikings. In 1908, the two teams agreed to become one team.[4] The Winnipeg Falcons had been excluded from the city league because of their racial origin. Almost all of the Falcons’ players were of Icelandic descent and the falcon is Iceland’s national bird.[5]

During the 1910-11 season, the Falcons became part of a new senior league. Other clubs in the league would include the Kenora Thistles, Brandon Wheat City and Winnipeg AAA.[6] In 1913-14, the Falcons became part of the Independent Hockey League, joining the Strathconas from Winnipeg and teams from Selkirk and Portage la Prairie.[3] The Falcons finished the season with 4 wins and 8 losses. During the following season, the Falcons beat Portage by a score of 4–3 to become league champions.[7]

During the First World War, seven of the eight Falcons players enlisted to serve and went overseas. Two players—Frank Thorsteinson and George Cumbers—died in the war. The other five returned to Winnipeg after the war in 1919 and reassembled the team.[8][9]

Road to the Allan Cup[edit]

In the 1919-1920 season, the Winnipeg Falcons won the Allan Cup. The Falcons were part of the Manitoba Hockey League with Brandon Wheat City and the Selkirk Fishermen. The first place team of the Manitoba Hockey League would play the champion of the Winnipeg Hockey League for the opportunity to represent Western Canada in the Allan Cup playoffs. The Falcons beat the Fishermen 5–3 to claim the Manitoba Hockey League championship.[10] Frank Fredrickson won the Manitoba Hockey League scoring title with 23 goals in 10 games.[11] Wally Byron led the league with two shutouts and had a 2.57 goals against average. Bobby Benson led the league with 26 penalties in minutes. Winning the Allan Cup gave the Winnipeg Falcons their Olympic opportunity.

The team went on to play in the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium. It was there that the team won the first Olympic Gold Medal in ice hockey. Although an official part of the Summer Olympic Games, hockey and figure skating events were held in late April and early May, while the weather was still cool enough for suitable ice conditions in the arena.

Falcons Olympic Roster[edit]

  • Hebbie Axford D.F.C.(Club President)
  • Bill Fridfinnson (Secretary)
  • Billy Hewitt (Canadian Olympic representative)
  • Gordon Sigurjonson (Coach, Trainer)

Players[12]

Five other players also contributed to the Falcons 1919-20 season, but were not part of the Olympic roster. Their names were Harvey Benson, Ed Stephenson, Connie Neil, Babs Dunlop and Sam Laxdal.

The 1920 Winnipeg Falcons were inducted into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame in the team category.

NHL alumni[edit]

Winnipeg Junior Falcons

Post-Olympics[edit]

Upon their return from the games, the Winnipeg Falcons were hailed as conquering heroes but this was a far cry from the attitude that had previously been expressed by Winnipeg hockey officials. [5]

The first member of the squad to pass away was Chris Fridfinnson who died at the age of 40 in 1938. The last surviving member was Mike Goodman. He was 93 years old when he died in 1991.[13]

The Icelandic national hockey team honours the Falcons on their jerseys by using the Icelandic Falcon and the Canadian maple leaf as their emblem.[14]

Legacy[edit]

The Falcons were honoured in a new Heritage Minute segment in 2014. The segment, narrated by George Stroumboulopoulos and featuring actor Jared Keeso, shares how the Falcons overcame discrimination and stayed together through the First World War on their way to the top of the hockey world. The Falcons segment premiered at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg on November 6, 2014, during the intermission of a game between the Winnipeg Jets and Pittsburgh Penguins.[8]

The Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame and Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and Museum have permanent displays honouring the Falcons and their Olympic victory.

Hockey Canada, in recognition of the Falcons' achievement, had the national junior team wear replicas of the famous old gold and black Falcons uniforms[15] for a World Junior Championship pre-tournament game in Winnipeg on December 20, 2004.[16]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Johannesson, Brian. "The Winnipeg Falcons Hockey Club: the world's first Olympic Hockey Champions.." winnipegfalcons.com , 2010. Retrieved: January 10, 2017.
  2. ^ Holland 2008, pp. 22–23.
  3. ^ a b Zweig 2007, p. 21.
  4. ^ Zweig 2007, p. 18.
  5. ^ a b "Backcheck: a Hockey Retrospective." National Archives of Canada/Konrad Johannesson collection/PA-111330 (Library and Archives Canada). Retrieved: January 13, 2017.
  6. ^ Zweig 2007, p. 20.
  7. ^ Zweig 2007, p. 28.
  8. ^ a b "Winnipeg Falcons subject of first-ever extended Heritage Minute." Winnipeg Free Press, November 7, 2014. Retrieved: January 10, 2017.
  9. ^ "Olympic hockey heroes honoured in war-themed Heritage Minute.' globalnews.ca, November 7, 2014. Retrieved: January 10, 2017.
  10. ^ Zweig 2007, p. 64.
  11. ^ Zweig 2007, p. 65.
  12. ^ The Official Olympic Games Companion: The Complete Guide to the Olympic Winter Games 1998 Edition 1998, p. 128.
  13. ^ Zweig 2007, p. 105.
  14. ^ "Our logo's saga." Ice Hockey Iceland. Retrieved: January 10, 2017.
  15. ^ Johannesson, Brian. "Three Jerseys." winnipegfalcons.com, 2010. Retrieved: January 10, 2017.
  16. ^ "Hockey Canada and Nike Hockey Celebrate History." Hockey Canada. Retrieved: January 10, 2017.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Holland, Dave. Canada on Ice; The World Hockey Championships, 1920–2008. Toronto, Ontario: Canada On Ice Productions, 2008. ISBN 978-0-9808936-0-1.
  • The Official Olympic Games Companion: The Complete Guide to the Olympic Winter Games, 1998 Edition. London: Brassey’s Sports, 1998. ISBN 1-85753-244-9.
  • Square, David. When Falcons Fly: The Story of the World's First Olympic Gold Hockey Team. Vancouver, British Columbia: Poppy Productions, 2007. ISBN 978-0-9782818-0-9.
  • Zweig, Eric. Long Shot, How the Winnipeg Falcons won the first Olympic Hockey Gold. Toronto, Ontario: James Lorimer and Company, 2007. ISBN 1-55028-974-8.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
None
Canada men's Olympic ice hockey team
1920
Succeeded by
Toronto Granites