by Bruce Cherney (part 1)
Winnipeg captain and forward Donald “Dan” Bain, the Victorias’ best player, was already out of the series due to an eye injury, when Antoine “Tony” Gingras was helped from the ice, the alleged victim of a deliberate attempt to maim by Montréal forward Bob McDougall.
Arguably, the “Gingras affair” erupted into the most controversial incident in Stanley Cup history. At the time, Winnipeg newspapers were so incensed by what happened on and off the ice that headlines referred to the incident as a “fiasco.”
The Vics could not afford to lose another key player in their bid to reclaim the Stanley Cup they had lost three years earlier to another Montreal team. Gingras, a Métis who had grown up in St. Boniface, was the player the team relied upon to lead them to victory after the untimely injury to Bain.
Jack Armytage, the spare Winnipeg forward designated the team’s captain after Bain’s injury, called referee J.A. “Bill” Findlay over to examine Gingras’ leg. Findlay had already blown his whistle to signal that a two-minute penalty was assessed to McDougall (other times spelled Macdougall) for taking out Gingras. However, Armytage insisted that the stick-swinging incident was intentional and warranted the Montréal player’s removal from the game.
By the time the Gingras incident occurred, the Montréal team, also named the Victorias, had erased a two-goal deficit and went ahead of Winnipeg on a goal by McDougall, putting the home team ahead 3-2.
When the referee refused to send McDougall off for the duration, the Winnipeg team headed for their dressing room with about 12 minutes left to play in the game (some reports say 13 minutes).
After being examined by a physician, it was found that Gingras had suffered a 1 1/2-inch abrasion to the outer side of his right knee. The physician told the visiting Victorias that Gingras would not be able to continue playing.
Meanwhile, Findlay said he was insulted by the action taken by the Winnipeg players and refused to resume the game. In fact, he soon went home in a huff, although he was later persuaded to return to the arena.
Meanwhile, 8,000 hockey fans at the Montréal Arena (also known as the Westmont Hockey Rink), St. Catherines Street and Wood Avenue — a new artificial ice rink with a 10,000-person capacity — waited fruitlessly for the February 18, 1899, game to resume.
According to a statement later issued by Armytage and Winnipeg Victorias club president A. Code to the trustees of the Stanley Cup, McDougall came to the visitors’ dressing room and told the team he had deliberately fouled Gingras.
“I made a vicious swipe (with my stick),” he told them, “I lost my temper and I am sorry for it.”
Apparently, McDougall also told referee Findlay that the foul he had committed was deliberate.
McDougall’s apology was accepted by the Victorias, both Armytage and Code warned Findlay that they would not resume play until a game misconduct was given to McDougall.
In their statement, the Winnipeg officials said Findlay had told them four days earlier at the Windsor Hotel that any deliberate foul involving a player raising his stick to do bodily harm or knock another player out of the game would result in the offending player being ruled off the ice for the duration of the game.
Twenty minutes later, Findlay entered the visitors’ dressing room and said the Winnipeg team had to agree to another referee or he would place the entire matter into the hands of the Stanley Cup trustees.
“We accepted his ruling to the latter,” Code and Armytage said, “and at once told the players that the game would be placed in the hands of the trustees. The players immediately dressed.”
Thirty minutes after the Winnipeg players had put on their street clothes and some had left the arena, Findlay returned to the dressing room and said the players had 15 minutes to return to the ice.
“We told him he had already given his decision, and we were acting on it.”
“I must have a decision from the ice tonight (that is, the game had to be completed),” insisted Findlay.
“We then asked him why he could change his decision regarding the foul play of McDougall, when he acknowledged to our team he had made a mistake and was sorry for it.
“From the start of the match until the players left the ice not one of our team was ever warned by the referee for any infringement of the rules of the game. On the other hand, several of our opponents were.”
In their statement, Armytage and Code said they regretted the result of the Saturday night game, and felt deeply sorry for Findlay.
“No matter what your decision may be in this matter, we shall be unable to play another game this season for the Stanley Cup, as Captain Bain and Gingras, two of our best men are disabled. Bain will never be able to play again and Gingras not for weeks.”
In a report following the game, the Manitoba Morning Free Press said Bain was briefly knocked unconscious after being struck above his eye.
Bain (1874-1962) had played centre on the Winnipeg Victorias team that claimed Western Canada’s first Stanley Cup in 1896. Born on February 14, 1874, in Belleville, Ontario, Bain was six years old when his family moved to Manitoba. By age 13, he was Manitoba’s Three Mile Roller Skating Champion. At 17, he was the province’s all-around gymnastics champion, a title he held for three consecutive years.
Bain was named Canada’s greatest all-around athlete for the last
half of the 19th century (Canadian Sports Hall of Fame). Besides hockey, Bain also competed in speed-skating, bicycle racing, snowshoeing, lacrosse and golf. His skating prowess is evident by his dozen figure skating titles, including pairs, fours and dance categories. Bain was also the Canadian trapshooting champion in 1903. He was an early inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
Not only was Bain an athlete,
but a successful businessman, who owned the Donald H. Bain Building “the Brokerage,” 115 Bannatyne Ave., built in 1899 and now a municipally-designated heritage site.
Gingras was born on October 20, 1875, in St. Boniface. He started playing hockey in 1888 while
attending St. Boniface College. To play, Gingras made a hockey stick from a small tree and took a slice from a lacrosse ball to make a puck.
Since hockey during his playing days could not provide a full-time
living, Gingras worked as an immigration inspector with the Canadian government. During his later years, he was a minor league coach in St. Boniface and a scout for the Montréal Canadiens. He died in April 1937 and is buried in the St. Boniface Cathedral cemetery.
Gingras played a key role in bringing the Stanley Cup to Winnipeg in 1901. He and Bain provided the “one-two” punch that defeated the Montréal Shamrocks to win the cup and later helped defend the cup when the Vics beat the Toronto Wellingtons. Gingras is refe rred to in the hockey history books as the first “French-Canadian” to win a Stanley Cup.
While Gingras was a newcomer to the Winnipeg Victorias, Bain had played on the 1896 Stanley Cup championship team.
According to newspaper reports, on February 14, 1896, the Vics confounded and surprised the Montréal team and fans, using a strong defence and then rushes to take the play into the Montréal zone during the first half (games in those days consisted of two 30-minute halves). The Vics won 2-0 at the Victoria rink in Montréal to claim the cup.
At the time, the Montréal Herald said, “the Winnipeg team is without doubt the best team in all of Canada.”
In 1899, the Stanley Cup was decided for the first time by a best-of- three series.
There were 200 fans on-hand to cheer the players at the CPR station on February 11, 1899, prior to their departure for Montréal that day.
“All of them were surrounded by well wishing friends, who as they bade farewell extorted them to be of good cheer and bring back ‘that mug,’” reported the Free Press on February 13.
The first game on February 15 “was the hardest and fastest that has ever been witnessed on Montréal ice and the four thousand spectators who turned out to witness the match had every reason to be satisfied,” according to a February 16, 1899, report in the Winnipeg Morning Telegram.
Winnipeg controlled most of the play in the first half. The game’s initial goal was scored after Bain, Gingras and line mate A.T. Howard moved the puck into the Montréal zone. Bain received the puck from Howard and took a shot at Montréal goaltender Lewis. The goalie stopped Bain’s attempt, but Gingras picked up the rebound and “by a quick shot scored for Winnipeg.”
The first half of the game ended 1-0 in favour of Winnipeg.
When Winnipeg star and captain Bain was struck over the eye, he was replaced by spare Armytage, who played on the victorious 1896 Stanley Cup team but by this time had effectively hung up his skates. The fact that he had to come into the game was a surprise to Armytage as well as the team.
Chippy play continued in the second half “and Gingras, (Montréal players) McDougall and Bowie were ruled off in quick succession for tripping, Grant, who knocked Bain out, then had to be reprimanded for rough checking and a little later (Charles W.) Johnstone (of Winnipeg, who had earlier received a puck in the eye) got into a scrimmage from which he emerged badly cut up,” reported the Telegram.
Winnipeg held onto its slim one goal lead into the final two minutes of the game. But McDougall and then Graham Drinkwater scored for Montréal, giving the Eastern Victorias a 2-1 win.
Winnipeg’s late-game collapse was attributed to being unnerved by Bain’s injury and over-confidence. Apparently, until the last two minutes of the game, the Vics wrongly believed they could coast to victory.
After the defeat, Winnipeg players and supporters took up the call “Wait until Saturday.” They felt Winnipeg had the best of the first game’s play and were poised for a resurgence and victory in game two of the Stanley Cup series.
“It may be egotistical for the citizens of Winnipeg to say that the game played last night gave evidence of the great probability that the Winnipeg Victorias would bring back the cup, but it is nevertheless the prevailing impression that, had it not been for the sad accident whereby Bain was knocked out, the score would have been reversed,” according to a special report written by Winnipeg Victoria’s president Code for the Telegram.
“The game was, apparently, the swiftest and the most skilful representation of superior hockey, that has ever been seen in Canada, and that fortune of the game was against the Winnipeggers is by no means a criticism of their efforts, but is nevertheless a great compliment to the Montreal boys, in whom the champions of the West have met their match.”
Still, Code claimed that the Winnipeg team was “better than theirs ... and ought to win Saturday’s game.”
Code assured Winnipeg fans the outcome of the second game would be different since Bain was not seriously injured and would be able to play in game two.
The fans’ euphoria ended when Bain didn’t dress for the second game and was observed to have a bandage over his eye — it was a serious injury. In fact, the team doctor believed Bain’s playing days had ended.
Conditions for the second game —mild weather made the ice soft and covered it in pools of water — reputedly hampered the superior skating skills of the Winnipeg Victorias, although Winnipeg took an early 2-0 lead with goals by Armytage and Howard. However, Montréal roared back in the second half and scored two goals. It was a repetition of the previous game with Winnipeg squandering its lead and Montréal emerging with another win.
In a description of the last 30
seconds, which led to the winning Montréal goal, the Telegram reported, the home team’s point (defenceman) Drinkwater “went down the rink at a pace which bade fair to send him through the front door and land him in the street. There was no passing. To Drinkwater belongs the story.
“No one could stop him nor get within a stick’s length of the puck. In far less time than it takes to tell of it, the puck had gone by (George “Whitey”) Merritt again. It passed between the posts. And Montréal had won (3-2).”
Merritt had been in goal when Winnipeg won its first Stanley Cup in 1896. Despite his failure to stop the Montréal onslaught, Merritt has been called the first great goaltender in Canadian hockey history, who introduced the goal stick and initiated the useof cricket pads for protection.
At the time, Montréal Rules were in effect, which prohibited goaltenders “during play, (to) lie, kneel, or sit upon the ice, but must maintain a standing position.” The butterfly style used today, flopping on the ice or stacking pads to stop the puck were not allowed. The restriction, keeping goalies standing
during play, was not changed
until 1924 when the professional National Hockey League, Pacific Coast League and Western Hockey League implemented new rules
(Encyclopedia of World Sport, Manitoba historian Morris Mott
Other innovations introduced
by Manitoba players and readily adopted across Canada were the wrist shot — then called a ‘scoop” shot — tube skates and a lacrosse-style face-off still used today.
Another significant difference from today’s game saw seven players on the ice instead of six (during the first years of organized hockey, there had been nine players). The additional player was called the rover, whom, as the name applies, roamed the ice surface during play. The seven players remained on the ice for the entire game. One substitution was allowed in the event a player could not continue. For example, Armytage replaced Bain who left in the first game due to his eye injury.
According to the 1899 Montréal Rules listed in Hockey Canada’s Royal Game, by Arthur Farrell of the Montréal Shamrock’s Hockey Club, one substitution for an injured player was allowed only in the first half of a game. If a player was injured in the second half, the opposing team captain had the option of dropping a player from his side. In the event of any dispute between the captains about the extent of an injury, “the matter should be decided by the referee” — exactly what happened in the 1899 game.
There is no indication — and highly unlikely give the extent of gambling on Stanley Cup games — that the Montréal captain was willing to drop a player from his side. If the game had proceeded and McDougall returned to the ice after serving his penalty, Montréal would have had an extremely unfair 10-minute power play advantage.
Given the extent of Bain’s and Gingras’ injuries, it’s not surprising they asked the Stanley Cup trustees for a ruling on game two that would have removed McDougall from the game and even up the two sides. With the absence of both Bain and Gingras from the line-up, Winnipeg only had six players available: goaltender Merritt, defencemen (point Robert) Benson and (cover point) “Charlie” Johnstone, as well as forwards Armytage, T.A. “Attie” Howard and C.J. “Tote” Campbell.
Following the second game, the Montréal team met “and decided
to have nothing to do with the
Winnipeg team, and would not extend them any further hospitalities,” reported the Telegram.
“It was quite unnecessary for them to do so, as the Winnipegs had long before decided not to accept any if proferred. The Montréalers said they would not play the match over again, even if told to do so.”
Team president Code vowed that the Winnipeg players would be back a year later to challenge the Montréal Victorias if the Eastern team still held the cup.
In the meantime, referee Findlay went to Ottawa to give his version
of game two to the Stanley Cup trustees.
(Next week; part 2)