Just as Canada could be deemed a hockey nation, so too is the sport so very popular here in the Shuswap.
Throughout the season, many hundreds of players of all ages are on the ice in one of the region’s five arenas in Chase, Salmon Arm, Sicamous, Enderby and Lumby. The sport also has a rich local history complete with community teams, arenas and outdoor rinks, tournaments and championship awards that date back to the early days of settlement.
The region’s first arena was a private facility built by Andy Baird in 1904 adjacent to the Shuswap River near the Enderby brickyard. As with all the early rinks, the ice was dependent upon the weather and warm winter temperatures were a common problem that cancelled many games and practices.
Efforts began in 1910 to build a public arena in Enderby, which was finally constructed after the First World War in 1921. The focus on the sport in Enderby no doubt contributed to their team’s success on the rinks, as they won the first Coy Cup in 1923, which was the trophy donated by Colonel Coy for the B.C. Amateur Hockey Association championship award.
The first arena in Salmon Arm was built in 1914. It doubled as a stockyard shed for the Fall Fair Association and was also used by the curling club. It was a grandiose building with a high arch ceiling, but by the mid-thirties the structure was deteriorating. It burned down in 1942 and teams were forced to use outside rinks.
The book Fleeting Images has a number of photos of the early hockey teams posing with their awards, including the high school hockey team, the Tavern All Stars and legendary Maw’s Jam Eaters, which won the city league title in 1940 and was undefeated in 1943-44. Another early team, the Salmon Arm Aces, included imported players who were paid $15 a month and given free rooms.
Just as today, there were youth teams, women’s teams and old-timer teams. From 1926 until 1933, the coveted prize was the Mainline Hockey League championship award, the Bruhn Cup, donated by local MLA R.W. Bruhn. Teams from Salmon Arm, Enderby, Vernon, Lumby and Revelstoke competed for the cup. Once lost, it was found in the White Lake dump in 1971, refurnished and now displayed by the Minor Hockey Association.
Efforts to build a new arena for Salmon Arm began after the end of the Second World War as a memorial to the war effort. The unique plan they developed resulted in the building of the community owned Salmar Theatre, with the profits going to help pay for the costs of the new arena.
Finally, with support from the city, the Memorial Arena was constructed in 1958. However, it was not until 1961 that the ice plant was installed, which is the same year the Salmon Arm Minor Hockey Association was formed.
Hockey old-timer and former co-owner of the local hockey school, Gord Mackintosh fondly remembers his early days playing on Lester’s pond in South Canoe, when the games had players of all ages. His first coach was Charlie Williams, who also organized the Native Hockey Tournaments in the 1960s. Equipment was rarely purchased new in those days, as most kids were thrilled to find a used pair of skates under the Christmas tree.
One of Gord’s favourite events was the Saturday night Jamborees, when all the teams each played short five to ten minute long games and at one he scored a goal at the young age of seven. Only a few parents attended the games then and the young players would pack into a few vehicles to travel to tournaments. Once the arena was built, it was the kids who scraped the ice, as there were no Zamboni machines in those days.