On January 23 Canada Post unveiled a stamp honoring the Colored Hockey Championship and the all-Black hockey teams in the Maritimes that competed for it between 1895 and the early 1930s.
In this little-known chapter in Canadian hockey history, determined organizers and players arranged their own challenge matches, dispelling hurtful misconceptions and changing the game in small but important ways.
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 that brought mixed audiences together in the stands; and post-game meals united Black players from different communities.
There was no predetermined game schedule. Rather, teams challenged each 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 not in use today, but which the stamp issue retains because it is historically accurate.
The stamp acknowledges some of the game’s early developments, including some of the earliest recorded uses of down-to-the-ice goaltending, which 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 would soon form, including one from Prince Edward Island. 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, but teams continued to play for the Colored Hockey Championship until the 1930s.