Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A 1910 Hockey Match - Montreal

Frances Fenwick Williams was a Montreal journalist,author and suffragist who wrote a few novels including The Arch-Satirist, from 1910, the year the woman suffrage movement got going in the City. She figures in my e-books Furies Cross the Mersey and Service and Disservice, about the Canadian suffragists and suffragettes.

This is a novel with too little plot and too much TELL and not enough SHOW, and little description of the city in that era, but the novel does contain a scene at a hockey game.  I'm not sure, but it may be one of the few early descriptions of the great Canadian game. The heroine of the story is being courted by a wealthy man, whom she likes but must reject due to a dark secret in her life. Here is the chapter entitled "A Hockey Match".

The Montreal Arena is a building of considerable size, capable of accommodating many thousands. It has been the scene of many a revel; horses,prima donnas, vegetables, all have exhibited here at one time or another; from Calve, who raved vith indignation at the idea of singing in such a place, to Emperor, the finest horse in Canada, who made no objection, whatever. Only a hockey match,
however, can count positively on filling it from wall to wall.

To-night was the Wales-Conquerors match: and many a business man of mature years had sent his office boy days before to stand in Hne from nine to eleven on a bitter winter morning in order to procure tickets. Mrs. Hadwell had secured six seats and had organized a party to escort her American guests thither. 

She,however, had not accompanied them,frankly acknowledging the obvious fact that she was no sport." I do love to be fin-de-siecle,'' she had said. 

But, when it comes to hockey or pug dogs — well, I simply can't, that's all.'' Then she had told a plaintive tale of how, when a girl, she had been taken to a hockey match. Her escort had been an enthusiast of the most virulent type; and she had been obliged to feign a joy which she by no means felt. It was ghastly," she observed, ghastly.

There I sat, huddled in grandmother's sealskin which wasn't a bit becoming, and watched a lot of weird things dressed like circus clowns knocking a bit of rubber round a slippery rink. 

And all those poor misguided beings who had paid two, three and five dollars to see them do it yelled like mad whenever the rubber got taken down a little faster than usual — oh, you may laugh! but I can tell you that when one of those silly men whacked another silly man over the head when the umpire wasn't looking because the second ass had hit that absurd bit of rubber oftener than he, the first ass, had — why, I felt sorry to think that the human species to which I belonged was so devoid of sense. 

And that great goat who stood at one end and tried to stop the thing from getting between two sticks! why did everyone think he was a hero when he managed to get his two big feet together in time to stop the rubber from getting through? 

I don't see anything very clever in putting your feet together and letting a rubber thing come bang against your toes, do you? ''But what's the use of talking! You must think it clever. You must! or why should you go? Where is the attraction? Do you like hearing those wild-looking men shouting insults at the men who don't play on their team? Does it amuse you to hear them snarling, 'Dirty Smith! Putimoff! Butcher Brown! Knockiseadoff, Robinson! '

 It is incomprehensible to me. I shall always remember Alice Mann's proud face as she watched her brother chasing round while the crowd hailed him by the dignified and endearing title of ' Dirty Mann/ I think that, if I had a brother and heard him called ' Dirty Mann ' in public, I should want to leave the city." 

Accordingly Mrs. Hadwell had stayed at home; but a merry and expectant party had met at Hadwell Heights and had driven to the Arena, where they sat now, awaiting the fray. It would be some time before this began, so the young strangers had time to look about them and comment on the various spectators. 

Ladies wrapped in costly furs sat side by side with shabbily dressed men, who, in spite of the printed reminder that smoke was forbidden, ejected a constant stream in the air, the while they hoarsely sang the merits of their favourite team and the demerits of the opposing one.

Small boys perched on the rafters, looking as though a finger touch would hurl them to instant destruction. If one of them did fall," inquired Bertie,with a shudder, " wouldn't he be instantly killed?"

"If he were lucky," returned her companion, a young McGill professor named Donovan, cheerfully. "Otherwise he might only injure himself for life. But you see, Miss Hadwell, none of them ever do fall. Not one boy has ever lost his hold, as far as I know. If one of them did get killed of course it would be stopped."

But don't they get awfully excited?" Excited ! They go mad. But they don't fall." 

"You see," interposed Gerald Amherst, "they never think about it. If one of them stopped clapping and wriggling and began to measure the space from his airy perch to the ice, below; and furthermore meditate on the consistency and solidity of the aforesaid ice and the probable fate of anyone whose head came in contact with it after a fall of seventy to a hundred feet — why, he would drop, that's all. They are occupied with more important matters, however; the merits of Smith as a goalkeeper, the demerits of Brown as a forward — they have no time to muse upon their latter end and the thin veil that lies between them and eternity."

 I'm glad they haven't; for my part I'm convinced that I shall have nightmare after seeing them. Is that your — what is the band playing for? Oh, is that the ViceRegal party? Dear me! what is every one rising for? Must I get up, too?" Her voice was drowned in the strains of the National Anthem which was howled enthusiastically by boxes and rafters, alike. 

As God save the King  died into silence the Governor-General bowed and took his seat; while his daughters gazed with interest about the Arena which they were visiting for the first time. " Observe his coat,'' said Mr. Donovan. "Feast your American eyes on it. That coat was bought by Lord Dufferin, and left by him to be worn by his successors. The sleeves are quite out of style by this time; but you see ' This is a man! ' What's your opinion of him, on the whole?" Why, I think — good gracious, what's that!"

A roar that shook the roof arose as the opposing teams emerged from the waiting room and skated upon the ice. The scarlet sweaters and caps of the Conquerors stained the crystal ice with daubs of blood: and the more sombre hues of the Wales showed with almost equal effect.

''Oh, are they beginning?'' cried Bertie in ecstasy. They were. The whistle blew and both sides skated to the centre to receive the customary warning. ''They both seem pretty cool," remarked Mr. Amherst. "No signs of nervousness that I can see." "Not a particle. Look! who has won the toss? The Conquerors? Hurrah! You must say ' Hurrah ! ' too, Mr. Hadwell, whenever anything nice happens to the Conquerors. It's no fun unless you choose a team."

 "Why is the Conquerors your team?" " Because — oh, because the captain's father was baptized by my grandfather, I believe. There is some such reason, but, for the moment, I forget just what it is. Any reason will do, you know; the point is that you must have a favourite team and shout whenever it scores and groan with indignation whenever the other team does. Do you see? ''I see. When am I to begin? and how am I to let the public know what I am groaning about? Oh, the public will know if you groan in the right place — that is, when the other team does well. Oh, look! there goes the puck!

It dashed across the ice, followed by a mass of skimming, pursuing forms; and, for the next few moments, silence reigned. Then a shout arose, ''Off-side!''

''Off-side" it was; and the indignant audience hurled insults impartially at both teams; no one seeming very sure as to which was " off-side," but each assuming that it could not be a member of his favourite team. The Conquerors lost to the Wales this time and the latter passed to one of his team who succeeded in sending
the puck flying toward the goal. Intense excitement reigned: would he succeed in getting the puck past the goal-keeper?

 No: the latter deftly turned it aside; and a roarof mingled delight and disappointment arose which made the American girl start and put her hands to her ears. Do they often make such a noise? she
asked, involuntarily.

I should think so, answered Donovan, staring. You don't mind it, do you? Oh, shame on you, Parton! what are you thinking about. Umpire? — don't mind me. Miss Hadwell, I'm just — Hurray! Bully for you. Marsh! oh, good work, old boy. You're the stuff! Push it along — Hurray!'' 

The puck had passed and the Conquerors had drawn first blood. In the first wild shriek that rose Bertie was conscious chiefly of one thing — everybody's mouth was wide open. No individual shriek could be distinguished, yet, judging from appearances, every one, from the Governor-General in his box to the smallest imp on the highest rafter, was shouting himself hoarse.

Slowly the excitement subsided; slowly the spectators sank back into the seats which they had vacated; and, after a minute or two of preparation, the game recommenced. Never tell me again that the English are a cold race, Bertie remarked solemnly as the party took their seats in Mrs. Hadwell's carriage at the close of the evening.

I have read of such things, but I never expected to see them in Canada. I could go to a hockey match every night in the week. It's grand! And, Mr. Donovan, if the Wales had won — as I thought at one time they would — I believe I should have cried myself to sleep. Oh, you needn't laugh! I mean it."