“Our boys have upheld the honor of their town in the Hockey rink…” The Culture of Amateur Hockey in the Maritime Provinces, c. 1900-1925.
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From 1900 to 1925, amateur hockey in Maritime communities filled local newspapers and drew thousands of fans to the stadiums. The Acadian, The Union Advocate, The Advertiser, The Weekly Report and Western Annapolis Sentinel, and The Weekly Report, among other papers, provided reports of games and team rosters which enabled the tracing and identification of a small number of players and their families in the Canadian Censuses for the period 1871 to 1921. Identification revealed that young men from a wide variety of occupations and socio-economic backgrounds interacted through hockey. Analysis also identified the ethno-racial heterogeneity on teams and in leagues, as well as the stark exclusion of groups based on ethnicity and race. Women are identified as participating in hockey to a much lesser extent than men, and primarily as students in secondary and post-secondary schools. As hockey bolstered civic pride and prompted citizens to spend large sums on state-of-the-art hockey facilities, it also fostered inter-community rivalries. Geographic focus is on the small towns and rural communities of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, like small towns and rural communities across Canada underrepresented in sport history. The Newcastle-Chatham area in New Brunswick and the Wolfville and Windsor areas in Nova Scotia receive the most attention; however, study is not restricted to these centres. As players and teams move throughout the Atlantic region, and beyond, they built hockey networks which pulled them together into larger hockey narratives. Those networks and narratives are not intended to be representative of the hockey experience in the Maritime provinces. Rather they speak to those values, beliefs, and practices attached to hockey which appear to have grown from a trans-Atlantic world view and from experiences and events, such as the First World War, which were shared across the North Atlantic World. This period saw significant pushback against violence in hockey, part of an effort to sanitize the game for greater middle-class public consumption and part of a larger struggle between reformers and hockey enthusiasts. It also coincides with a period of intensifying anxiety over the physical, mental, and moral soundness of youth, in particular worries about the emasculation of young men. Hockey became important to addressing these concerns both in institutions of formal education and in youth groups such as the Boy Scouts and CSET. The time frame also overlaps with the rise of militarism and the devastation of the First World War that left an indelible mark on thousands of Maritime young men. Moving out from individual, community, and regional identities, the thesis begins to suggest how hockey influenced a Maritime embrace of aspects of a shared Canadian national identity.