They played in a different era, a time when local sport got people excited, travelling to out-of-town competitions meant you were really special and champions came home to a hero’s welcome.
While the media of the day gave individual athletes, teams and high-level competitions full coverage, there was something missing in the end.
Many of the star athletes and teams from the 1890s to 1960s haven’t been truly recognized for their exceptional talents and achievements, which not only shined the spotlight on them, but also the city of Ottawa.
Well, better late than never, that moment has arrived for three athletes, one athlete/builder and three teams, who will be inducted into the Ottawa Sport Hall of Fame on May 31 as the inaugural group in the Legacy Category.
The induction ceremony inside the Horticultural Building at Lansdowne Park will pay tribute to athletes Jean Beardsley (curling), Eddie Carroll (boxing) and Wilfrid Mathieu (speed skating); athlete/builder Donald Gilchrist (figure skating); and three teams, the Ottawa Silver Seven (hockey), the Ottawa Senators Stanley Cup winners from 1915-27 (hockey), and the 1892 Ottawa tug-of-war Canadian champions.
Since the hall’s opening in 1968, the board of directors has received hundreds of nominations, including athletes from Ottawa’s early sporting history. There have been concerns these nominees may have been overlooked without considering the challenges and opportunities that existed during their time.
In determining the Legacy Category inductees, the board not only studied the nominees accomplishments and records, but also the popularity of the sport at that time and era comparisons: amateur versus professional competition, opportunities for women’s participation, all levels (local, provincial, national and international) of competition, travel, availability of financial support and other extenuating circumstances of the day.
This is the first group of Ottawa athletes from the past to be honoured and the hall will continue to recognize more in the future.
Let’s meet the initial members entering the hall under the Legacy Category:
JEAN BEARDSLEY, athlete, curling
In 1947, Jean Beardsley tossed her first curling stone, when the Horticultural Building was a sheet of pebbled ice seven decades ago. Her sporting life has come full circle as she will be welcomed into the Ottawa Sport Hall of Fame in the same building, but without the ice and the fear of falling at age 92.
One of the top female curlers in Ottawa, Beardsley captured three Beddoe trophies as the city and district champion, three Tweedsmuir double-rink trophies and numerous first-place honours in the Woods, Victory, Snelling and Hope competitions.
During a move to Kitchener-Waterloo, she played third for the Edna Teskey rink, which won the Ontario women’s curling championship in 1957 and competed at the Canadian championship.
When she returned to Ottawa’s Granite Curling Club, Beardsley continued to be at the forefront of the women’s game, skipping her rinks to the 1979 and 1991 Ontario seniors (50-plus) championships and berths in the national championships. She was a finalist in the 1999 Ontario diamond seniors (60-plus) competition.
Beardsley also earned 24 Murchison medals, won the 1966 Ottawa Ladies Metro League title, and captured various events at the annual Ladies Crystal Pebble bonspiel.
Away from the ice, she held various executive roles at the club level, is an honourary life member at the Granite Curling Club and was featured by Canada Post on a stamp in 1969.
EDDIE CARROLL, athlete, boxing
A rugged fighter, Eddie Carroll hit hard and absorbed body punches for more than 20 years as an amateur and professional athlete.
During his amateur career, the Ottawa-born boxer won 83 of his 85 matches from 1929 to 1932. As a professional, he made regular trips to the ring from 1933-49, where he scored 43 wins (16 by knockout), lost 39 (23 by knockout) and had two draws.
He won his first nine pro bouts, which set him up for a shot at the vacant Canadian lightweight title in May, 1934. Toronto’s Tommy Bland took the title on a split decision over Carroll. Five months later, Carroll challenged Bland again for the national title, but fell short on points.
Carroll’s only other national title fight came in September, 1935, when he was defeated by Gordon Wallace of Vancouver for the welterweight championship on points inside Ottawa’s Auditorium. Two years later in Toronto, Carroll scored a unanimous decision over Wallace, who was ranked eighth in the world.
His career took him to some of North America’s top fighting centre’s like Toronto, Montreal, New York City and Chicago. When he went on a one-year tour of Texas in 1938-39, he won 11 of his 16 bouts under the name Irish/Danny Doran.
Carroll was inducted into the Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame in 1974.
WILFRID MATHIEU, athlete, speed skating
A multi-talented athlete in the 1920s and 1930s, Wilfrid Mathieu was a Canadian champion in speed skating, snowshoeing and cycling.
Speed skating was his primary sport as an athlete before he extended his dedication into coaching and serving as an official and event organizer. Skating for the East Ottawa AC Speed Skating Club, he won the senior men’s 880-yard and three-quarter-mile races at the 1927 Canadian championships as a 17-year-old.
At age 72, he showed he hadn’t lost his magical touch on the ice, when he earned the bronze medal at the 1982 world senior citizen speed skating championships during Ottawa’s Winterlude.
His speed skating resume also shows many race victories in the United States as well as during the Spalding Cup, Brewer Cup and Rubenstein Cup competitions. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, his name entered the speed skating record books several times for new club, regional, provincial and national standards.
When he strapped on the snowshoes, Mathieu became a regional, provincial, national and world champion. He even won a 120-mile race between Ottawa and Montreal in 1930.
Racing for the Capital City Cycling Club, Mathieu excelled on the dirt track at Lansdowne Park and captured a Canadian championship race.
Mathieu, who also was recognized with awards in sailing, water polo and track and field, was a pillar in the Francophone sports community, serving as a director and instructor in swimming, cycling and skiing with l’Oeuvre de la Jeunesse d’Ottawa.
DONALD GILCHRIST, athlete/builder, figure skating
For more than half a century, Donald Gilchrist was a central figure in the sport of figure skating, whether as an athlete or a domestic and international administrator.
Gilchrist, who split his time between Ottawa (40 years) and Toronto, was an accomplished skater. He was a three-time Canadian senior men’s singles silver medallist (1940-42), a two-time national senior pairs champion with Marlene Smith (1949-50), and a three-time Canadian fours champion (1939, 1941-42). At the 1950 world championships in Wembley, England, he placed ninth in pairs.
A year after retiring as a skater at age 28, he started his illustrious career as a national and world administrator. He played a dominant role, had an influential voice and was a positive Canadian player in the European-dominated International Skating Union.
In 1951, he became an international judge and the first Canadian delegate to participate at the ISU Congress. For the next 40 years, he was involved in every major figure skating competition at the technical level.
The former president of the then Canadian Figure Skating Association (now Skate Canada) represented Canada as a judge, referee and technical delegate at the Winter Olympics, world championships and international competitions.
During his extensive volunteer career, Gilchrist was a member of the Skate Canada board of directors, and sat on eight committees as either a member or a chair. Internationally, he was Canada’s ISU representative, the figure skating chair for the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics and technical director at the 1990 European championships.
Gilchrist also shared his knowledge and provided feedback to international skaters from Ottawa like Barbara Ann Scott, Lynn Nightingale and Elizabeth Manley as well as up-and-coming club skaters.
OTTAWA SILVER SEVEN, team, hockey
For four years, hockey in the early 20th century for Ottawa fans was a time for celebration. Despite playing in three different amateur leagues and even once being an independent team, the Ottawa Hockey Club managed to lay claim to the Stanley Cup in four straight seasons.
The dynasty began in March, 1903, when co-regular-season champions, Ottawa and the Montreal Victorias met in a home-and-away, two-game, total-goal Stanley Cup challenge. Both teams played on questionable ice surfaces as the opener ended 1-1. Ottawa won the second game 8-0 before 3,000 home fans to earn its first Stanley Cup. Less than a week later, Ottawa defeated Rat Portage Thistles in a two-game, total-goal challenge series 6-2 and 4-2 to defend their Cup.
Team executive Bob Shillington, a mining investor and Ottawa druggist, rewarded each Ottawa player with a silver nugget, rather than money, to allow the players to keep their amateur status. One of the players said the team should be called the Silver Seven. Back then, a team could ice seven players for each shift _ three forwards, two defence, one goalie and one rover. And so, the Silver Seven were born.
The Silver Seven, who had future hall-of-fame players Frank McGee, Billy Gilmour, Percy LeSueur, Harvey Pulford, Alf Smith, Bouse Hutton and Harry Westwick, were a dominant team with their offence and rough and tough style of play.
The Silver Seven was successful in four Stanley Cup challenges in 1904, turning back Winnipeg Rowing Club, Toronto Marlboroughs, Montreal Wanderers and Brandon. In 1905, the Dawson City Nuggets travelled 24 days to reach Ottawa and were blitzed by the Silver Seven 9-2 and 23-2 as McGee, the youngest player on the team and blind in one eye, scored 14 goals in the second game. The Silver Seven almost lost the Stanley Cup to Rat Portage Thistles, but rallied to win the best-of-three challenge series 4-2 and 5-4, after losing the opener 9-3.
After a pair of two-game, total-goal decisions over Queen’s University and Smiths Falls in 1906, the Silver Seven’s Stanley Cup streak came to an end with a 12-10 two-game, total-goal loss to the Montreal Wanderers.
OTTAWA SENATORS STANLEY CUP WINNERS, 1915-27, team, hockey
The 100th anniversary of the Ottawa Senators’ first Stanley Cup victory is on the horizon. It will happen in 2020. It was the start of a dynasty run for another Ottawa hockey club. The Senators won four Stanley Cups in the 1920s and placed first in the regular season seven times before the franchise collapsed because of financial trouble in 1927, after winning its final Stanley Cup in its final season.
Led by goalkeeper Clint Benedict and then Alex Connell and forwards Frank Nighbor, Cy Denneny and Jack Darragh, the Senators were the class of the relatively new National Hockey League.
By winning both halves of the 1919-20 regular season, the Senators were declared the NHL champions. They played the Seattle Metropolitans, the Pacific Coast Hockey League champions, and won two of the first three games at home on watery ice. The best-of-five final was moved to an artificial ice surface in Toronto, where Seattle evened the series with a 5-2 win. But Ottawa rebounded, receiving a three-goal game from Darragh and seized the cup with a 6-1 win.
After winning the NHL title in 1921 with a 7-0 two-game, total-goal victory over Toronto, the Senators headed to Vancouver. An average crowd of more than 10,000 a game saw the Senators edge the Millionaires in five one-goal games _ 1-2, 4-3, 3-2, 2-3 and 2-1. (Vancouver defeated Ottawa in three straight games to win the 1915 Stanley Cup.)
By overcoming the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 for the NHL title in 1923, the Senators returned to Vancouver to experience a new playoff format —semifinals and a final. The Senators moved past the Vancouver Maroons 1-0, 1-4, 3-2 and 4-1 in the semis and advanced to meet the Edmonton Eskimos. In the best-of-three final, the Senators survived two one-goal games to down Edmonton 2-1 and 1-0.
In 1926-27, the Senators won the Canadian Division title of the newly aligned NHL and defeated Montreal in the semifinals. For the first time, two NHL teams—Ottawa and Boston—played against each other to determine the Stanley Cup winner. Ottawa didn’t lose a game as it recorded two wins and two ties—0-0, 3-1, 1-1 and 3-1—to win the Senators’ franchise final Stanley Cup.
1892 OTTAWA TUG OF WAR SQUAD, team
Eight years before the unique sport of tug of war entered the Summer Olympics and was part of the Games’ program from 1900 to 1920, the strongman sport was a key part of Ottawa’s sporting history.
Tug of war, a popular contest at local exhibitions and fairs as well as church, community and family socials, may have reached its apex in Ottawa in January, 1892, when a national competition was held in the Drill Hall at Cartier Square, which opened only three years earlier.
The four-day, six-team tussle received great publicity before and during the event. The Eastern Canadian team was comprised of seven of Ottawa’s strongest men—captain A.H.H. Powell, R. Kenny, R. Miller, A. Holtby, H. Woodburn, W. Mills and J. Crawford.
Their opponents were the French Canadian team and English, German, Irish and Scottish immigrant sides. A national society sponsored each of the six teams. For example, the English sponsor was the Sons of England.
Each team pulled every night and every match had a 15-minute time limit. On the night of the final, The Ottawa Evening Journal reported 700 spectators crammed into the Drill Hall to hear the 43rd Battalion band perform and watch the Eastern Canadian team go head-to-head with the group of German immigrants.
The Ottawa team claimed victory in the Big Tug, when it scored a gallant victory over the lighter German squad.
An oak-framed photo of the Ottawa team with its pit bull mascot is in the Gloucester Museum.
Celebrate these legacy athletes’ induction into the Ottawa Sport Hall of Fame on Friday, May 31 at the Horticulture Building—it’s going to be a remarkable night of entertainment and networking. Buy your tickets online before they sell out.