The 1905 Stanley Cup Challenge There's goals in them thar hockey hills !
By Mark Weisenmiller

The title of the first chapter of " The Call of The Wild" by adventure story author Jack London is " Into the Primitive." That title is also an apt description of the 1905 Stanley Cup Challenge between the Dawson City Klondikers and the Ottawa Senators. Due to a number of factors, to be discussed below, the former team traveled nearly 4,000 miles to get to the championship series. The story of the Dawson City Klondikers odyssey sounds like it could have been a short story by London.

Dawson City, in Yukon, Canada, is close to the Yukon-Alaska borderline. In terms of square kilometers, Canada is the second largest country on Earth; only Russia is larger. In the early days of the 20th century, Dawson City was still living in the throes of the Gold Rush. Many of its inhabitants were gold

miners, or somehow

affiliated with the gold mining industry. Their lifestyle was, to use London's word, primitive. They got up early, wrapped themselves in layers of clothing to protect themselves against the cold, worked most of the day, then came home. Only occasionally did these people indulge in sports and one of these sports was hockey.

Don Reddick, in an article entitled " Dawson's Stanley Cup Challenge" in the reference book " Total Hockey: Second Edition" writes that " because of cold, wind, and snow, the Dawson Amateur Athletic Association built the first enclosed hockey rink west of Winnipeg during the fall of 1902. That winter a four-team hockey league was formed."

It was then common for athletes to earn additional money by playing in games in their respective sports off-seasons. The concept is called barnstorming and baseball's Babe Ruth was one of its chief participants. Some of the notable players in the DAAA were slected to form a barnstorming team, which were called the Dawson City Klondikers, to challenge the Ottawa Senators (nicknamed the Silver Seven) for the Stanley Cup. It was also common in those days for the championship team to be challenged for the Stanley Cup by all sorts of teams of varying talents.

The 1905 Stanley Cup Challenge was to start in mid-January of 1905 and so began the most notable trek for a hockey team in the sport's history. The travel schedule for the Klondikers was a travel agent's worse nightmare. First the team was to bicycle and also dog sled---in below-zero Farenheit weather---to Whitehorse, Canada. Reddick reports: " There they would board the Whitehorse-White Pass Railway for the short trip to Skagway, where they would board the ' Amur.' Down the Alaskan panhandle they would steam to Vancouver, where a Pullman coach awaited to carry them across half a continent. This would place the team in Ottawa with a week to spare, giving them time to recuperate from their ardous journey."

The trip began on December 14, 1904 and soon had problems. The Klondikers started well, going 76 miles the first day and 41 miles on the second day, but this odyssey soon developed into a calamity. Klondikers goalie Albert Forrest's bicycle fell apart due to the cold and he was forced to walk. There was little snow for much of the way for the dog sleds, so the dogs had to slog through mud for miles. The temperature dropped to almost 30 degrees below zero Farenheit. Incredibly, none of the Klondikers developed frostbite on this first part of their journey. All of this made the team 10 days late to Whitehorse.

When the team arrived in Whitehorse, they discovered that a series of avalanches had closed parts of the railway, meaning that they couldn't travel until the railroad tracks were cleared. That was another delay. By the time the team finally reached Skagway, they found out that the ' Amur' boat left port without them. They had missed boarding the vessel by only two hours and they were still thousands of miles away from their destination.

The team decided to wait five days on the Skagway docks to board a boat to Seattle, then take a train to Vancouver. To pass the time, the Klondikers held a hockey practice in which a number of players noticed that their skills had seemed to dull. It was a harbinger of things to come.

The Klondikers left Skagway on Christmas Eve, then traveled about 200 miles north to Vancouver. Then the team boarded a Canadian Pacific train to take them to Otttawa . They finally got to Canada's capital city on January 12, 1905. As they were exhausted from their trip, the Klondikers asked the Senators for a one-week delay to recuperate. Not only did the Senators refuse but they also officially protested the Stanley Cup Challenge as the Senators objected to the late addition of a player to the Dawson City squad.

The Senators need not have objected for they easily won the 1905 Stanley Cup Challenge. In Game One, played on January 13, 1905, Ottawa beat the Klondikers by a score of 9 to 2. One of the Klondikers made the mistake of publicly saying that Frank McGee, the one-eyed Senators star player, " didn't look like much." McGee got only one goal in Game One, but that flippant remark by a Klondiker made him mad and determined to show the Dawson City team that he was a good hockey player.

For some reason, the Klondikers changed their name to the Yukon Nuggets for Game two. That didn't help as the Senators defeated the Nuggets, 23 to 2. The score did not indicate the complete domination of the gamer by the Silver Seven; it was much worse than can be comprehended by the human mind. Poor Forrest was scored on by McGee for a Stanley Cup record 14 goals in one game. At one point in the match, McGee had eight consecutive goals. For Forrest it could have been worse; McGee actually had two additional goals but they were negatated by the referee as the Senators both times received off-sides penalties.

The Stanley Cup stayed in Ottawa and one wonders: why did the Klondikers ever agree to play the tough and talented Senators ? Perhaps the Klondikers took too close to heart these famous lines from Jack London: " It is so much easier to live placidly and complacently. Of course, to live placidly and complacently is not to live at all."


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