Springwater Sports Heritage

Founding Benefactor: The McGuire Trust

Hockey: 20 Guys On A Team

Back to articlesclippings

Harry Foyston Musings (Interviewed by Wendell White, early 1970’s)
Source – A History of Vespra Township, Chairperson, Heather Smeding

Now, in the wintertime, there were a lot of boys who were interested in play hockey.  We didn’t have any ice in the schoolyard, so we’d get an area about the size of a couple of houses, and we’d make a hard surface to play hockey on.  There was no limit to the number of players on each side, as there is now.  Every boy wanted to play, and you just had to take them all in, possibly 20 guys on each side. 

For pucks, wed go to the bush and cut a tree about the size of an ordinary rubber puck in diameter.  We’d saw it about an inch or an inch and a half thick and we’d generally cut about half a dozen, so we’d have spares if we lost them.  There was lots of wood in those days.  We didn’t have any trouble getting pucks.

At school, we just played hockey in our regular clothes.  As we got into hockey games with the Senior Minesing teams, why, we would have to buy our own sweaters and pants and socks.  We used magazines for shin-guards quite often, if we hadn’t the money to buy hockey equipment.  Mostly, we didn’t have any knee pads and we didn’t have any shoulder pads.

We bought hockey sticks for 25 or 50 cents.  They were generally made of ash-wood.  There was ready sale for good, straight ash-wood in those days, as I understand.  They were made in southwestern Ontario.  They were quite durable, but we always taped them to prolong their life.

I believe our skates were CCM skates and they weren’t tube skates.  I don’t know the year that tube skates came into being, but it must have been about 1910, I believe.  The skates that you used to have to screw to your shoes were in my Father’s day. 

The old Princess Rink (opened in 1902) was a closed rink.  The ice surface in that rink was 40 feet by 100 feet and there was a 20 foot extension on that at the front.  That was to put your skates on and watch hockey games.  And, then, there was a gallery above that, which some of the boys and girls used to use quite frequently to play cards in.

The first lighting I remember in the rink was coal-oil lamps and then gasoline lamps and Coleman lamps.  Those were the last lamps used in the old Princess rink.  There were quite a few pucks that hit guys on the face because there wasn’t adequate lighting in those days.  There were beams across this rink about 40 feet long and about a foot squarer, make of pine.  Many a goaltender scored goals, lifting the puck over the beams from one end of the rink to the other, because you couldn’t see the puck when it was sailing over those beams.

We didn’t have nets when I started to play hockey.  There were just two wooden posts and they were stuck into the ice with iron pegs.  The umpire, the goal umpire, stood behind the goalkeeper, right on the ice.  He was in a dangerous spot.  As the players got better and better, as the years went by, they became better shooters and they had to have some protection for the umpires so they had nets.  Some rinks used chicken wire and, of course, the wire wasn’t strong enough and we’d shoot the puck right through at times. 

We had seven players, the six players that they use now and a rover.  The rover was stationed behind the centre man when the game started, and he could roam all over the ice.  At the start, they had the goalkeeper and then the point and the counterpoint.  They stood, not side-by-side like they do now, but one behind the other.  Then there was the rover, the left wing, the right wing and the centre.  That made seven-man hockey, so there were fourteen players on a rink 40 feet by 100 feet.  Of course, the goalkeepers, there were only 12 men on the ice who players.

When we had games away from home, we sometimes hired a man with just an ordinary sleigh, with a box on, that held about twelve to fourteen fellows.  We’d pay him possibly a dollar each to take us to Elmvale for the return trip.  We’d start from Minesing about two o’clock in the afternoon and it would take, maybe, three hours to reach Elmvale.  We used to figure it was 15 to 16 miles.

On one occasion, we knew of these people who sold pies about halfway up to Elmvale, so we stopped out on the road and some of the boys went in to buy some pies.  We ate them on the road to Elmvale and we all had bellyaches after.

But, we recovered from that, and Elmvale had a banner out that particular night.  They had a banner across the street, ‘Now or Never, Minesing Must Be Defeated’.  Our two teams were great rivals for many years.  They had brought in two star players from a nearby town and they thought they were going to defeat us, but we defeated them 5-2 that night.

My brother, Frank Foyston, is in the Hockey Hall of Fame.  He played with several Senior OHA teams and he played on the first Toronto professional team in 1912 and 1913.  Hap Holmes was the goaltender on that team.  He played a couple of years with the Toronto Blueshirt team, I think.  Harry Cameron, the finest skater in hockey I’ve ever witnessed, was right defence and I can’t recall the name of the other defenceman. 

They hadn’t many reserves in those days; you had to be practically a sixty-minute man.  Possibly they’d have two spares.  The forward line was composed of my brother, Frank, who players left wing or centre, and a fellow names Wilson, and Jack Walker on the other wing.

Now, there was a hockey war between East and the West Coast in later days and the Patricks came down from the West Coast and took my brother and Jack Walker and Hap Holmes and Wilson back.

They hired those fellows and I can recall taking Frank out to the CPR to catch the midnight train to the West.  There weren’t any snowplows in those days and the roads were so piled with snow that they had been plowed out with a very narrow snowplow they used in those days, about the width of a load of hay.  When you met anybody in those various places where the snow piled up deep, you had to stop and throw your cutter out of the road.

I can recall, this night in January, when I took Frank out to meet the twelve o’clock or on o’clock train going west, we were fortunate that we didn’t meet anyone. 

This horse that I drove was very high-spirited and when the train came in – there were steam engines in those days – it puffed out a lot of steam when it stopped at the station.  This horse broke the tug.  That was the leather thing that pulled the cutter and I had to patch it up.  I had the dickens of a time holding her, while the train was puffing and snorting at the station.  When the train got away, I finally got it fixed up.

When Frank stared with the old Toronto Blueshirts, he was paid $800 for a winter.  That was 1912 and 1913.  He went out West in 1915, I believe and played with the Seattle Metropolitans. 

Photo Gallery