EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cree and Ojibway 'spectacular' barnstorming hockey tour of Canadian and American cities in 1928 included players from Chapleau

The highly successful Cree and Ojibway Indian hockey barnstorming tour of Canadian and American cities in 1928 included players from Chapleau.

In fact, Dr. Andrew Holman of Bridgewater State University, in his grant application to write about the tour, referred to it as "spectacular" and "celebrated"  as 14 hockey playing Cree and Ojibway, travelling on a chartered bus, set out in January and February to play in 17 cities and towns in Canada and the United States.
Tony Cachagee
I have been assisted by  an incredible group of people  over the past month since 'The 1928 Cree and Ojibway Barnstorming Tour' by Kevin Plummer appeared in the Torontoist. 
The Chapleau players on the tour have been pretty well confirmed as being Charles William 'Tony' Cachagee aka 'Boxcar', George 'Farmer' Linklater, Alex McAuley and Wilfred McAuley. The other players on the Cree team appear to have been from other locations, and additional Chapleau players may have been involved too. In stories about the tour, McAuley was usually spelled McCauley.
Kevin Plummer provided background on the tour: "The “Cree and Ojibway Indian Hockey Tour,” as it was billed on the side of the bus, featured  the “Fast Ojibway Indians” versus the “Great Cree Indians.” One team was composed of Ojibway players from Bear Island in Lake Temagami—now known as Teme-Augama Anishnabai or Temagami First Nation. The other was composed of Cree players from Chapleau (according to one newspaper) or “the James Bay territory” (according to another). Papers weren’t concerned with such precision. It seems likely that the Cree team was drawn from Bear Island as well as Chapleau Cree First Nation, and possibly even Moose Factory or elsewhere."
He added that teams composed entirely of aboriginal players were not that unusual in the 1920s but   "The truly unusual thing about the Cree and Ojibway Tour was that rather than standard hockey jerseys, each player wore a 'feathered head-dress', buckskin tunic emblazoned with a C or an O, and 'beaded waists' on the ice. Almost every press report commented on the seemingly traditional attire and emphasized the players' authenticity as 'full blooded Indians'."
Mr Plummer noted that  the First Nations teams appear to have been "self-managed, cleverly marketed, and extremely popular as an exotic spectacle for (presumably white) urbanites in Canada and the US"
Dr. Holman wrote that the tour began in Ontario then reached its real target market which included Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. 
"In some cities the players divided themselves into two 'tribes'," Dr Holman explained, and "held out their game as part of a series for the Indian hockey Championship of Canada" while in other places only one team was put on the ice to face a local side."
It appears that the tour was the idea of William 'Bill' Friday, who in reports was referred to as the team captain but he did not play. Mr. Friday was an entrepreneur and businessman from the Temagami area who opened Friday's Hotel on Bear Island in the 1920s.
The Toronto Telegram reported in a story headlined, 'Cree Indians win in match with Ojibways'  that, "Toronto hockey fans were treated to a unique spectacle at Ravina rink ...when two full blooded Indian hockey teams, the Cree from Chapleau and the Ojibway from Lake Temagami engaged in a hockey game..." which the Cree won 12-4.
My cousin Michael McMullen advised that, "There is no doubt that in 1928 when the Cree and Ojibway teams played their exhibition games there that Ravina Gardens would have been one of the premier arenas in Toronto, probably only second to the Mutual Street Arena, where the Toronto Maple Leafs played before the opening of Maple Leaf Gardens in 1932."
Michael added: "I recall "Ravina Gardens" fondly as I played hockey there often in the mid-to-late 1950s. Everyone referred to the arena as just 'Ravina'.  For many years, it was one of the most used rinks in Toronto for minor hockey and High School hockey in Toronto.  For an arena that was built before WW1, I can remember how well the building had aged.  It was also unique in that it had boards that were about 18 inches higher than anywhere else."
After the team played in Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Post reported that "They are in demand all over the country and are unable to fill half the engagements offered them."
Mr. Plummer noted: "Although their names were printed in the newspapers, the Cree and Ojibway Tour players were never given a voice as well-rounded individuals. Toronto journalists praised the hockey skills of the players, judging that a handful of them were on par with any in the Ontario Hockey Association. But descriptions focused on their physical attributes.
 “Both teams are composed of big men, who are fast and tireless skaters,” the Providence News said. “They play a hard, body checking game that has always been replete with thrills.”
My good friend Derik Hodgson, a former sports writer and distinguished Canadian journalist, after reading Kevin Plummer's article commented that, "fascinating glimpse into the past ... and it was only a glimpse. Sounds much like a formula the Harlem Globetrotters used to much success in B-ball later."  
Sports teams on barnstorming tours were also popular in the 1920s.
Tony Cachagee, who retired from playing hockey when he was 40, was only 17 when he was chosen to play for a Northern Ontario All Star team and then joined the Cree team for the tour. Tony's grandson Kyle Cachagee advised that his grandfather played in so many places that he wrote the names of all of them on a hockey stick which still remains with the family.

After reading this story, Bill McLeod emailed me to relate that his father Borden McLeod was attending school in New Jersey at the time of the tour, and went to New York City to watch his "buddies" from Chapleau play. 
Chapleau hockey team 1918. Alex McAuley, top right
In Chapleau, there were First Nations players on hockey teams from at least 1918, and likely much earlier. Alex McAuley, who was on the tour played on a team which also had legendary goaltender Bob Turner on it.
The Cree Ojibway hockey tour has been the subject of some study by academics over the years in the context of sociological and cultural values in society in the 1920s and of course stereotyping, but with this team, William Friday and the players  seemed to take the view that some held of the "Indian" in society, and cleverly turned it into an advantage dressed, for example, in traditional dress  for the games. They were also good hockey players and won their fair share of games.
Kevin Plummer and Dr Andrew Holman have certainly contributed to a look into the role of First Nations players in hockey in Canada.
Special thanks to Donald and Ian White for their help
I so much appreciate the assistance provided by so many as I worked on this story and I extend my most sincere thanks to: Anne (Zufelt) McGoldrick, Ian White, Donald White, Doreen (Cormier) Cachagee, Derik Hodgson, Michael McMullen, Charles Saylors, Tom Saville, Dr. Bill Pellow, Don Houghton, Kyle Cachagee. Any errors are mine.

If readers would like more information, just Google "Cree Ojibway Indian hockey tour 1928". My email is mj.morris@live.ca

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Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE