|HALIN MURAL...Halin de Repentigny works on his 20 by 9 foot mural, "Cheta'hukai - the Traveller". The completed work will be one of two major pieces displayed at the new Beringia in Whitehorse. Halin won the commission for the $20 thousand work in a recent competition. Photo by Michael Gates|
by Dan Davidson
Four years of planning came to head on March 1 as the members of the Dawson Nuggets Old Timers Hockey team gathered beside the Old Post Office to begin the first leg of their fabled trip to Ottawa.
There wasn't an enormous send-off crowd, but respectable several dozen people braved -20 C and a brisk wind chill factor to see the team and their guides off on the first short leg of the journey. The wind insured that Dalton the anniversary mascot sheep was the only warm being on the block. People struggled to keep cameras warm enough for their motors to advance the film. The wireless microphone used by MC Peter Menzies began to fail just about the time he actually needed it.
In spite of all that, the gathering was celebratory and enthusiastic. Photographers and media types got all the footage they needed and the team felt well and truly sent off to conquer.
Transportation was a motley assemblage of snowshoes, bicycles and snowmobiles with hockey skates dangling from their packs. Four mushers and their teams were waiting down on the Yukon River, but felt the crowd was too much to put their dogs through.
Postmaster Lambert Curzon introduced a new element into the trip at almost the last moment, producing a bank of envelopes and stamps for cancellation in Ottawa. These souvenirs will be sold to raise money for the Dawson City Museum once the trip is over.
"C'mon you hockey players," yelled Pat Hogan, and the teams began to roll, stride and churn forward, down to Front Street, over the dyke and down onto the river, where they gathered once again to take stock and wait for the mushers to join them. A fair number of people followed them to that spot, waiting to see them depart up the Klondike River.
While many of the travelers have some experience with either snowmachines or winter camping, several of them haven't that combination of experience. Two, author Don Reddick (Dawson City Seven) and journalist Earl McRae (The Ottawa Citizen), had never ridden snowmachines before setting off on this trip. Two days of practice under fairly tame conditions will hardly have prepared them for this journey.
For most of the watchers, just braving the cold to see them leave was enough of an adventure for one day.
by Dan Davidson
Well, that's it. Vacation's over. All those sleepy Dawsonites who have been at their ease since late September must now snap to alert and haul out their welcoming smiles. The Second Season is upon us.
This may come as a shock to a lot of people, especially those who cling to the notion that the Klondike simply hibernates from September through to June after bustling from (early) dawn to (late) dusk all summer long.
January was quiet, I'll admit, but February jumped right down our throats with a host of activities which, while they may not match the steady pace of the summer traffic, nevertheless make it necessary to step up the pace of life here. And March promises to be worse.
Early last month, for instance, we had a Seniors' Hockey Tournament. I admit that I gave this a miss, having lost interest in actually playing hockey at about the age of 14, when I discovered that my ankles could bend at a 90 degree angle, but lots of people were involved, and the recreation centre looked pretty busy.
Even as the pucks zoomed in Dawson, the mushers hit the trail in Whitehorse, and the Yukon Questers were here by the weekend, ready for some R&R and a turn at the tables and slots in Gerties, which were open during the Fifth Annual Centennial Ball and Casino Night on February 14 and 15.
This year they brought with them a record number of media types, especially those Europeans who seem to dote on the work of Jack London and the great outdoors. It's Gold Rush fever with a literary twist.
Ball? Well, of course. The Klondyke Centennials Society leaves no nugget unturned in its quest to celebrate the Gold Rush Centennials, and this is becoming a local favorite. Even I have been to one or two of these and they are nice events. I had to miss this one as duty calls me to the big city, but I'll read all about it in this issue.
Then we began three weekends of Trek Over the Top related events. One small group of 50 snowmobilers headed off to Tok on Feb. 20 and two enormous groups totalling 450 roar back over here during the next two weeks, staying three nights in town before heading home.
This event started by accident a few years back. We didn't plan it, it just grew. It started with a couple of dozen for one weekend and is now 20 times that for three.
Before the roar of the machines has died away the Hockey Old Timers are at center stage, tearing off to Ottawa to reenact the hapless challenge of the Dawson Nuggets. We do hope our boys will garner a little more glory than did those of yesteryear. Certainly they've already pulled in a fair bit of publicity and general national notice.
Small wonder then, that one of Mayor Glen Everitt's priorities during the by-election was to strike a committee to investigate the possibilities of winter tourism. It's here. It's real. And we have to decide what to do about it.
by Leanne MacKenzie
Against the splendid facade of an old-fashioned street scene, the 5th annual Klondyke Centennial Ball took place. This year's ball commemorated the theme "The Journey Begins."
The lavish buffet (for which Dave Keenan jokingly said, "was the first formal dinner he has attended where they served pork and beans." catered by the Downtown Hotel, started off the evening.
The emcee of the night, Mark Smith, began the speeches by thanking the Fulda Tire Company for their generous donation to the Yukon Quest, the worldwide press coverage, and economic boost they have given to the Yukon. He followed with a toast to the late Ronnie McPhee for bringing the Dawson Nugget versus Ottawa Silver Seven Stanley Cup hockey game to life.
Kevin Anderson and John Flynn gave a short description of their upcoming journey and invited all to join them in this historic event. Speeches by MLA for the Klondyke, Peter Jenkins (Yukon Party) and Minister of Tourism Dave Keenan (NDP) followed with hints of "a new bridge and increased speed limit."
The Honourable Judy Gingell, Yukon's Commissioner and Peggy Amendola of the Klondyke Centennial Society, and Skagway's Jeff Brady also gave speeches on the upcoming centennials and celebrations.
With the Brewery Creek Mine one ounce gold button being the hot item, a successful silent auction was held. A round of furious bidding started for many donated items, including one person buying his wife's cheesecake for someone else (brownie points!?!). Just before the "Pointer Brothers" with Willie Gordon accompanying had everyone hopping and kicking up their heels, over 14 door prizes were given away, including a red Fulda jacket and a return flight from Dawson to Whitehorse courtesy of Gold City Travel.
Although the evening ended shortly after midnight, fun was had by all.
by Rosalind Vijendren
Over 80 students in the high school took the heritage challenge this year and created their own coat of arms. Each student used symbols to represent the heritage of both their mother and their father.
These symbols were to be intertwined to create the student's own heritage. In doing this exercise, the students became aware of the multicultural heritage that we share. They found that they represented 21 distinct cultures.
Students found that our First Nations are represented by 12 geographic and linguistic groups.
The rest of each coat of arms was devoted to the students' beliefs, pursuits and values. The exercise resulted in some beautifully constructed, artistically created, celebrations of each student's uniqueness. These coats of arms can be seen in the hallways of the upper floor at Robert Service School.
A big thank you goes to Alice Semple for helping with this successful Heritage Day event.
How different it is with the onset of instant information from the net! When the computer 11/12 class started to design their coats of arms, they found information on the net for Scottish clan sights, photos of castles and even words of welcome from the clan chief.
Although we did not go further, the resource is adding a new dimension to research. Books will never go out of fashion but the added dimension of the net, with its instantaneous research information, excites the students to go even further than the original idea of flags and of tartans and of historic crests. With a new avenue for information, we hope to dig deeper into all our cultures and personal heritage!
Heritage Day is over and the creations continue to filter in. With so much information, next year's Heritage Day celebration will certainly be able to build on the students' research.
by Dan Davidson
There comes a time in the middle of winter when the sun has begun to shine again and everybody needs a break. That, as much as anything, seems to be the reason for the Northern Polar Games, an annual gathering that moves around the schools of Area III. This year they settled at Robert Service School in Dawson.
Visiting students arrived Wednesday night from Ross River, Carmacks, Old Crow, Faro, Pelly Crossing and Mayo. Three nights sleeping in the gymnasium and ancillary room were the price they had to pay for two busy days of activities.
These took place in the school, the town's Youth Centre, at the Bonanza Centre arena, on the ice at the curling club, up on the ski slopes of Moose Mountain, and on the snow covered playing field next to the school.
Each day got off to a sleepy but nutritious start with breakfast in the airy Bonanza Way at the school. By nine o'clock the nine mixed teams were off to volleyball, curling, floor hockey, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, broomball, soccer, indoor baseball, team handball, Arctic sports or the selection of games available at the Youth Centre.
Friday afternoon featured a change of pace with outdoor activities in the afternoon, novelty spring carnival type events like smooshing and tug-o-war in the snow.
These were friendly games, where participation and the chance to meet with students from other schools took precedence over the actual scores.
Included in the weekend were a banquet and dance on Friday night, and then the teams headed home on Saturday.
by Dan Davidson
Don Reddick is bubbling over with enthusiasm as he talks to me from the eastern United States. The author of Dawson City Seven is getting ready to come back to the Yukon. He's about to link up with a dream and live out a bit of his obsession.
Reddick's fictionalized history of the 1904 Stanley Cup Challenge was the result of years of digging away at the edge of a story that seemed to have been forgotten when he began. He did become somewhat obsessed with the real event and its characters. Publishing the book didn't end that.
When he visited Dawson a few years ago he was excited almost beyond words to be in the town about which he had read so much. In the short time he had he haunted the graveyards, picked people's memories and added still more to his cache of Nuggets' lore.
Oh, and he met the members of the Dawson City Old Timers Hockey Club, who, even then were beginning to dream of the trip that they will finally begin this weekend.
Reddick recalls sitting in John Flynn's living room when the idea was first mentioned to him. I don't have his exact words, but the gist of them was clear: "If you do this, pleeaassee take me with you."
Well, they're doing it, and Reddick is going along as official scribe to the team, reliving the journey he knows so well, albeit at a slightly faster and more comfortable pace.
The trek will be by snowmobile, boat and train, the latter portions giving Reddick plenty of time to sit back and compose dispatches for the hometown crowd. The Old Timers told him he could come along but he'd have to file stories for the Klondike Sun so there would be a record of the trip in Dawson's own paper.
That is how I happen to be talking to him this evening, organizing his first filing, which will be a brief version of the original contest and a second story on how he got involved.
Interest in the story is high, and Reddick has also arranged to file similar material with a number of papers across the country to keep his costs down. The Yukon News will be running a regular column, similar to the one we have here in the Sun.
The Whitehorse Star isn't running a column but has a connection in the form of Rick Van Sickle, a former Star staff reporter who now edits the Ottawa Sun, and has been making sure that his paper follows this story with all the appropriate bells and whistles attached. Faxes from Old Timer relatives in Ottawa have shown me just how much ink that paper has been prepared to give to our little story, but I didn't know about the Van Sickle connection until lately.
Then, of course, there have been nibbles of interest from David Letterman, TSN, CBC, several American networks and even "This Hour Has 22 Minutes", though after the ballet sequence on a recent episode I hate to think what they would do with this story.
Yes, it's pretty clear that the Old Timers' dream has caught on across the country, making even non-fans like me sit up and take notice. Now, if none of the players managed to injure themselves during the local playoffs here this week, they should put on a good show once they get on the road.
Whatever happens, I'm looking forward to those faxes from the trip. Reddick's obvious enthusiasm is bound to turn into good reading.
by Don Reddick
Author of Dawson City Seven and official scribe to the Nugget's Challenge Trip
I look over my goose-down parka and polar fleece shirts, shorts, socks, undershorts, undershirts, hats, mittens, gloves, head warmers and arm warmers and knee warmers and marvel at what I'm about to do.
I first stumbled into Dawson City with a friend in 1986. We were warned it could be forty below, and I thought, 'Forty below what? Seventy?' We stumble out of Diamond Tooth Gertie's a little worse for wear, our pockets lighter, and finding no lodging available during the midst of Discovery Days, proceeded to lay our blankets down in the sandpit at the end of town. Above us, surrounding a campfire on top of a long grade, was a group of Indians who kept us amiable company throughout the night, rising occasionally, yelling "Hey!" and firing empty bottles at us, before toppling over backwards. I appreciated their hospitality and sincerely tried to reciprocate, but my arm wasn't good enough.
After returning from our trip I was reading thorough one of those little hockey books that list everything in the back, but this book was unusual in that not only did it list Stanley Cup champions prior to the NHL era, but the losers of each series as well. It was then and there that I first saw that Dawson City had played for the Stanley Cup.
Dawson City? Dawson City? I thought of that remote, far-off settlement, astonished that anyone had journeyed that far to play hockey. This can't be, but I was fascinated and the first thing I did was try to find a book about it, realizing shortly thereafter there were none. And it was then, in 1989, that I made one of the fortuitous decisions in my life: I'd write the book myself.
Well, one thing leads to another in this life, and in November of '93 I found myself once again in Dawson City, enjoying a few beers with the boys back at John and Jennifer Flynn's house after my talk at the Library. And it was then that Budd Docken first presented me with a Dawson City Generals hat, and then told me of their dream to recreate the 1905 Klondikers Stanley Cup challenge. I remember it clearly - I just looked at Docken and replied "Listen, if you ever, ever decide to really do this, you've got to invite me."
And he promised they would.
Pat Hogan called me last spring. He warned me it could be forty below. "Forty below what? I asked him. "Seventy?"
Since then everyone involved has done a wonderful job, Deb Belinsky and Jim Nichols of DCB Productions with their publicity campaign, Zoran Rajcic with his corporate fundraising, Pat Hogan and Kevin Anderson up in Dawson coordinating it all. And I have tried to do my part in spreading the word. I am a field service guy in real life, and worked in India last August. In the car driving back to my hotel one evening were myself, our Indian interpreter, a guy from Montreal, and in the back seat three Japanese from Hiroshima, who spoke not a word of English. I was telling the guy from Montreal about the trip, the interpreter explaining to the Japanese as I spoke. When I was done, one of the Japanese spoke up.
"What did he say?" asked the interpreter.
"He say, 'Forty below what?'"
"Seventy," I replied.
I am the luckiest novelist alive. Most writers dream of getting published; this transcends that, because I never even dreamed this could occur. Has James Michener ever fought at the Alamo? Has Steven King ever died of fright? Well, I'm about to travel four thousand miles by dogsled, boat and train.
I stare at my gear strewn across my living room floor. I marvel at what we're about to do. I'm ready. I think.
(Ed Note: Don was worried about using the word "Indian", which is still common parlance, as in "American Indian", in the USA. His first trip here happened in 1982, long before "First Nations" became the acceptable reference in Canada, so I left it in.)
by Don Reddick
Author of Dawson City Seven and official scribe to the Nugget's Challenge Trip
In 1893 the departing Governor-General, Lord Stanley of Preston, the Earl of Derby, bequeathed the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup to the amateur leagues of Canada. Stanley appointed two Ottawa men, Sheriff John Sweetland and newspaperman Phillip Ross, as trustees of the London manufactured Cup, with instructions to develop a rational method of awarding the trophy. It was determined that teams could champion the Cup two ways, first, by winning the league in which the Cup currently resided, as the Montreal Victorias did in 1895, and secondly, by issuing a written challenge to the current Cup holder and then defeating hem, first accomplished by the Winnipeg Victorias in 1896.
In the first instance, there was little more for the trustees to do but watch; the second, however, became their domain, where any and all decisions rendered were irrevocable. The trustees took their responsibility seriously, formulating a system where only challenges from champions of recognized Senior Leagues were even considered. And it was this rule that guided the initial rustling of interest in the far-off settlement of Dawson City, in the Yukon Territory.
Six or seven thousand individuals inhabited Dawson in 1903, another twenty thousand or so working the neighboring goldfields. Athletics were a popular distraction to the harsh living and working conditions, with organized leagues playing indoor and outdoor baseball, curling, lacrosse, and of course ice hockey. During the winter a four team hockey league was formed, consisting of the Eagles, boasting the prowess of one George 'Sureshot' Kennedy, the Mounties, led by strong skating Jimmy Johnstone, Joe Boyle's Dawson Amateur Athletic Association team, the D.A.A.A. including Boyle's sidekick Archie Martin and the two Forrest brothers, and lastly the powerhouse Civil Service team, under the watchful eye of Jack Eilbeck, featuring such stars as Captain Lionel Benett, Randy McLennan, and Norman Watt. And of the dozens of individuals who participated in the evolution of the Dawson City Klondikers, it was probably the forgotten Jack Eilbeck who played the most prominent role.
Sheriff Eilbeck, described in the Dawson Daily News as "not only president, but also financial backer, chief rooter and mascot" of the Civil Service athletic club, was from Kingston, Ontario, an aging athlete "famed in the Yukon as a baseball player" who boasted of playing against Albert Spaulding in the '70's. He spared no effort in building up the Civil Service teams, and rumors of bribes, payoffs, and the awarding of government jobs to good athletes simmered and sometimes flared, garnering outraged headlines in the local newspapers. One of the more interesting incidents was Eilbeck's attempt to lure Sureshot Kennedy from the Idyll Hour's baseball team to the Civil Service in June '03, promising a $7.50-a-day government job and a spot on the Civil Service's hockey tour the following winter.
This is one of the first indications that a hockey tour was being discussed, and though there is no written account of exactly how the challenge evolved, it is easy to see where the talk emanated from. Athletic touring was common in the days before far-flung, organized leagues, 'barnstorming' a way for athletes to gain some money as well as a little adventure in the days of amateur sports. An all-Indian hockey team from Calgary was preparing to tour, Joe Boyle had toured the continent with Australian boxer Frank Slavin, the Sydney Slasher. Two of the Civil Service hockey players, Randy McLennan and E.C. Senkler, and toured England several years earlier with the Canadian Association football team. It was within this atmosphere that the idea for a hockey tour developed.
Wherever the notion originated, Eilbeck ran with it. He went outside in the spring, presumable to Ottawa, "promoting the hockey idea." And it was during this trip that the inclusion of a Stanley Cup challenge evolved and was unofficially frowned upon, Dawson's league not recognized as a legitimate Senior League, the Civil Service team not qualified for competition. In response to this rebuff, Eilbeck countered with the proposal that an all-star team, drawn from all four Dawson clubs, could represent the Klondike. This must have engendered a more favorable response, and Eilbeck returned to Dawson City with a more plausible plan for challenging for the Cup.
During the following year Eilbeck wrote numerous letters to prospective opponents across Canada, eliciting interest from teams across the Dominion from Brandon, Manitoba to Sydney, Nova Scotia. He also wrote the CPR for particulars on securing a train car for the trip, determining how much it would cost to transport and feed the team on their four-month-long journey, the Dawson Daily News reporting that "the replies are satisfactory. They show that the trip will not cost the barrel of money many people expected." It is unknown who wrote the official challenge, directed at the powerhouse defending champion Ottawa Silver Seven and delivered to the Cup trustees, but it almost certainly was Eilbeck. And so it must have been a heartbreaking, ruining of a soul, when on September 3, 1904, just six days before Philip Ross officially acknowledged receipt of the Dawson challenge, Sheriff Jack Eilbeck was dismissed from his presidency of the Civil Service athletic club due to one final, inexcusable attempt to influence the championship of the Dawson baseball league. Eilbeck would soon leave the Klondike for California, and instead of standing on the bench in Dey's Arena in Ottawa, would lie in a San Francisco hospital during the games, recovering from a broken leg amid the tremors of a soon to be ruined city. Joe Boyle, who had played on Eilbeck's curling team along with Fred Congdon, became more prominent in the Cup challenge, probably because he was outside tending business in Detroit and Ottawa, and therefore in a position to petition the Cup trustees personally. Known far and wide as a very tough, charming individual, he must have been persuasive, and though the games would not be officially sanctioned until December 10th, Ross and Sweetland conveyed to Boyle that Dawson was in.
On October 27 the Dawson Daily News reported that the Hockey players were petitioning Ottawa for a postponement of the games, originally to be completed by January 10th, so they could participate in elections scheduled for December 16th. On November 12 a meeting of the hockey club met to establish a committee to select the team's players. On the following Tuesday the D.A.A.A. rink opened, and on Wednesday the Klondikers held their first practice, with the pronouncement that the players would practice every night until they left. With more than twenty players trying out, it was decided to hold a series of four scrimmage games to determine the final team. One of the men entrusted with the decisions and expected to play himself was a former Ottawa star, Weldy Young.
Young had played seven tumultuous seasons for Ottawa, six of them with the famous Harvey Pulford, the future Hall of Famer, as his defense partner. In 1894 he played in a losing cause against Montreal in the second Stanley Cup game ever played. Charged with brutality in a game in Quebec in '95, charging into the stands in Dey's Arena to assault a fan in '98, he left a checkered, notorious past when he followed his dreams of gold after the '99 season. This was a catastrophic decision as far as Young's hockey-playing legacy is concerned; the Ottawa's were verged on dominating Senior hockey and the Stanley Cup, and had he remained he almost certainly would be in the Hall of Fame today, as are six other members of what was to become known as the Ottawa Silver Seven: Harvey Pulford, Alf Smith, Bouse Hutton, Frank McGee, Harry Westwick, and Billy Gilmour.
Young had not played in the Dawson league the previous season, having spent the winter working his claim on Lower Dominion. Enjoying an elevated status as a former Senior League player, and despite the fact he was well into his thirties, he was expected not only to lead the team, but help in its direction. Facing his former teammates must have been an exciting possibility, but Young soon faced a dilemma: the series delay was granted in Ottawa, but not enough. The first game was pushed back to Friday, January 13th. In a passage soon to be prophetic, the Dawson newspaper stated, "had the original dates been carried out it would have meant that the visitors would have had to go into the ice immediately on their arrival after a four thousand mile trip and they would naturally have been severely handicapped. With the change of dates the team will have a week to practice before their initial effort to lift the Stanley Cup." This was devastating news for Weldy Young, for his new Civil Service job required him to assist in the election returns which would prevent him from departing with the team. Uncertain as to what he would do, Young continued supervising the practice sessions and scrimmages and was elected Captain of the team by a vote of the players on November 20th.
The All-Klondike team was selected in early December. Chosen to play with Weldy Young were Captain Lionel Bennett of the Civil Service, "formerly of Nova Scotia and a star," Norman Watt of Aylmer, Quebec, "left wing, a fast, scientific player, quick on his feet and a good combination player," Dr. Randy McLennan, the graduate of Queen's University and veteran of one Stanley Cup game, a loss to Montreal in '95, "with all the craftiness of the veteran and a hard player," and George Kennedy, "or 'Old Sureshot' as he is called, who received his first lessons in hockey at Winnipeg and played on a number of teams in that city and also for Rat Portage, Selkirk and similar places, and is one of the Civil Service stars." Also selected were Hector Smith, from Kennedy's hometown of Selkirk, Manitoba, Jimmy Johnstone of Ottawa, and, despite never having played goal before, Albert Forrest, formerly of Three Rivers, Quebec.
The Dawson Daily News proclaimed that "the boys are in much need of financing and are working like beavers to get it." Practice games with teams drawn from rejected players, the gate added to the tour kitty, were played not without some rancor, some of the players already arranging new teams to compete for the Cup when it was brought back to Dawson. But as time grew short, two calamities befell the team: Weldy Young, after agonizing for two weeks, decided he could not leave his Civil Service job. Suddenly the team was without its star player-coach, the blow compounded when Captain Bennett also declined the tour. His wife had been severely injured the previous winter when she was dragged sixty feet by a runaway sleigh in front of Northern Hotel at the corner of 3rd and Queen, and he decided he could not leave her alone in Dawson. It was then decided to arrange for the addition of Lorne Hannay, "formerly of the Yukon," and now living in Brandon, Manitoba, to the team, as well as bringing Archie Martin, one of Joe Boyle's best friends and better known for his lacrosse playing, along.
Hannay was from the Maritimes and had played in Brandon's Stanley Cup challenge to the Silver Seven the previous March, scoring two goals. He had seen first hand Ottawa's fearsome stars, Frank McGee and Alf Smith scoring thirteen of fifteen goals against them in the two game series. It seems the Klondikers felt he was eligible simply because he had once been in the Yukon. And so the team was set: Smith, Kennedy, Watt and McLennan the forwards, Hannay and Johnstone the defense, Albert Forrest the goalie, with Archie Martin allegedly as spars.
On December 14th Frank Slavin, Boyle's old pugilist partner, arrived off the trail from Whitehorse suffering from appendicitis and with bad ?news: there was little snow. The team members appear to have differed in their view on how to proceed, Martin, Kennedy and Smith, hoping for snow, would leave with dog teams. The rest of the players would depart on Bicycles the following day. The newspaper of the day reported, "If the snow is well packed the time will be much better, than otherwise. If much light snow is encountered the lads will have the experience of pushing their wheels through the accumulation until good stretches can be found..."
On Sunday morning, December 18, 1904, it was ten degrees below zero Fahrenheit when Martin, Kennedy and Smith assembled on the streets of Dawson City. And with their first steps toward the wilderness, amidst the cheers and well-wishes of their other teammates, friends, and families, the legend began.
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