Sudbury's World-Class Amateurs

In 1916, Sudbury's golden hockey team opted not to partake in league affiliations.  They played exhibition games against other northern teams, continuing their unbeatable winning streak.  During this time, professional hockey clubs from Cleveland and Pittsburgh were arranging for matches with Canadian teams and, having heard about Sudbury's team, invited them to play a four-game tournament in the U.S., all travel expenses paid.

Sudbury's hockey team accepted the offer and went to Cleveland to play two games.  However, the team was not prepared for what met them.  The rink was larger than they were used to and to make matters worse, it was an artificial ice surface, which hampered Sudbury's skill.  Although they lost both games, the players were praised for being the best opponents Cleveland had faced out of Montreal, Ottawa, New York, Cornwall, or Detroit.  For the second game, over 8,000 fans had come to watch the game, double the entire population of Sudbury at that time.

The Sudbury boys went on to play another two games in Pittsburgh.  They still had difficulties adjusting to the artificial ice but now they also had to cope with playing on the world's largest ice surface; a surface measuring 100 feet wide by 300 feet long (even larger than today's average N.H.L. surface of 85 feet by 200 feet). 

Making things more difficult was the warm weather Pittsburgh was enjoying.  Pittsburgh's temperatures were the highest they had been in years and Sudbury's team was playing in wool uniforms.  Sudbury lost the first game largely due to heat exhaustion.  By the second game, the team had not only found lighter apparel but also their rhythm, allowing them to win the match.

Sudbury's team was viewed by American journalists as a "world-beating" team and was a source of great pride for hometown residents.  However, Sudbury's elation was quickly destroyed when they received word that because they had played the professional hockey clubs in the States, they were disqualified from competing in any future amateur competitions.  Professional teams were frowned upon during this era and to play against one was seen as almost traitorous.  Other amateur teams were not permitted to play against Sudbury or they would also face disqualification.  Sudbury had been effectively black-listed.

Sudburians were outraged with the leagues for their ruling, especially since Sudbury was not informed that the teams were professional hockey clubs or that playing them would result in disqualification.  As other amateur clubs in Canada had also played against the Americans, Sudbury questioned why their eligibility was not revoked as well.  Unfortunately, Sudbury was used as a scapegoat in this matter.

Eventually the situation was resolved, though not to the satisfaction of Sudburians, and the hockey team was permitted to play the Creighton Mine team for the district championship.  Sudbury won.


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