From Dawson City to Ottawa: The 1905 Nuggets Stanley Cup Journey

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There have been many interesting Stanley Cup winners, from the Kenora Thistles of 1907 to the legendary NHL teams such as the Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers. None have been more interesting, or have took a greater journey to the Cup, than the Dawson City Nuggets.
Their journey has become an integral part of Stanley Cup lore, and they are a team that is now remembered not for the lopsided loss for the Cup, but for their commitment to playing for it in the first place.

It could be said that the Dawson City Nuggets are the most famous of all Stanley Cup challengers, going back to the very beginning of the Stanley Cup. The biggest reason for this is the immense amount of work that the Nuggets completed just to play for the Cup.
At the time, any team could compete for the Stanley Cup if they put a challenge in. Feeling that they had a pretty good team, Dawson City decided to give it a go.

The Beginnings
The interest of competing for the Stanley Cup goes back to about 1900 in Dawson City. It was in that year that Weldy Young, a former member of the Ottawa Hockey Club, sent a letter to the Ottawa Citizen indicating an interest in playing for the Cup. In 1901, the Stanley Cup trustees received a letter indicating that Dawson City wanted to challenge for the Cup against the Winnipeg Victorias.
In 1904, a challenge letter was sent to the Stanley Cup trustees once more, asking that Dawson City have the chance to battle the Ottawa Silver Seven. The challenge was authorized in December of that year.
At the time the Ottawa Hockey Club, or Silver Seven, were one of the greatest teams hockey had ever seen. On the team were Hall-of-Famers Frank McGee, Rat Westwick, Alf Smith, Billy Gilmour and Harvey Pulford. In addition, the team had gone 7-1-0 and finished first in the Federal Amateur Hockey League. The team had also won the Stanley Cup in 1903 and 1904, and was in the midst of a Dynasty Run towards becoming one of hockey’s best teams. By 1911, the team had won seven Stanley Cups.
With $3,000 from Colonel Joe Boyle, the self-proclaimed King of the Klondike, the team was ready to make its way across the country.

The Dawson Roster
Albert Forrest: Came with his parents from Quebec to find a fortune. A speed skater, he was the goalie for the team despite never having played the position before. He was only 17-years-old and is still the youngest person to ever play in a Stanley Cup Game.
Jim Johnstone: A former police officer from Ottawa.
Randy McLennan: A graduate from Queen’s University and a doctor, he came from Ontario and was the only player on the team to have played for the Stanley Cup. He had played for Queen’s University when they lost 5-1 to Montreal for the Stanley Cup in 1895. At the time, he was working in the ming recorder’s office.
Lorne Hannay: A defenceman, he came from Manitoba and had played against the Silver Seven the year prior when he played for Brandon. In that experience, he had two goals.
Norm Watt: Coming from Quebec, he was known as one of the toughest and dirtiest players on the ice. He worked in the post office.
George Kennedy: A civil servant from Manitoba.
Hector Smith: Also a civil servant.
Archie Martin: A star lacrosse player from Ottawa, he was a personal friend of Joe Boyle and worked in his dredging company.
J.K. Johnstone: Worked in the post office with Watt.

Two players, Weldy Young and Lionel Bennett, the two best players on the team, did not make the journey. Young, who had played with the Silver Seven, had to work as an election official. He would eventually arrive late for the games.
Bennett chose to stay by his wife who had been injured when she was dragged by a runaway sleigh.

The Journey
As soon as they received their approval to challenge for the Stanley Cup, the Dawson City Nuggets began the long journey down south. Beginning on Dec. 19, 1904, they travelled from Dawson City to Whitehorse by dog sled first, with most of the team using dogs and some players riding bicycles.

Dawson City to Whitehorse by dog sled: 500 kilometres
Once reaching Whitehorse, the team went on to Skagway by train.
Whitehorse to Dawson City by train: 150 kilometres

Upon getting into Skagway, the team then boarded a ship and sailed down to Vancouver on the next leg of their epic journey. Having missed their boat by two hours, they sat at the location for five days waiting for another ship. During this leg of the journey, many players developed sea sickness, making the trip even more miserable. 
Skagway, Alaska to Vancouver, British Columbia by ship: 1,700 kilometres

After reaching Vancouver on Jan. 6, 1905, the team then boarded a train and the easiest leg of their journey began. Travelling the distance from Vancouver to Ottawa, the team reached their destination on Jan. 11, only two days before the match was supposed to begin. 
Vancouver, British Columbia to Ottawa, Ontario by train: 4,200 kilometres

The entire journey for the team was a long one, covering a total of over 6,500 kilometres. For the small team from Dawson City, the trip was an epic one and the biggest part of their journey was about to begin, the Stanley Cup challenge.
The Games
While the team arrived two days before the first game, Ottawa would not allow them to adjust the date of the game. That being said, the city itself was more than welcoming to the men from Dawson City. A huge welcome greeted the men as they arrived by train, and a welcoming dinner was held for them. In addition, the Ottawa Amateur Athletic Club provided rooms to everyone on the team, without cost. 
Everything kicked off with the first game in front of a crowd of 3,000 people and Dawson only down 3-1 halfway through. The team from the north seemed to be holding its own but things quickly changed. Norman Watt of Dawson tripped up Art Moore of Ottawa. Moore then hit Watt in the face with his stick and Watt responded by knocking out Moore with his own stick. Both men received 15-minute penalties.
By the end of the game, Ottawa had won 9-2 and the Dawson City players complained that many of the goals were offside. It is believed from first-hand accounts that the lone referee missed as many as six off-side Ottawa goals. 
In the game, Alf Smith would score four goals, Harry Westwick and Frank White scored two goals and Frank McGee scored one. Randy McLennan and George Kennedy both scored for Dawson City. 
Feeling a bit big for his shoes, Watt then said that Frank McGee was not that good since he had only scored one goal in the first game. McGee, possibly because of what was said, decided to respond in the best way he could. He began to score goals. He just didn’t score a few goals, he scored more goals than anyone ever has in a hockey game, before or since. 
In the first half of the game, McGee scored four goals. By the end of the game, he had added another 10 goals. Ottawa would win the game 23-2, making it the most lop-sided Stanley Cup win in the history of the game. Frank White scored once in the game, while Alf Smith scored three times and Harry Westwick scored five, all well behind McGee. Hector Smith scored both goals for Dawson City.

The Aftermath
While the Dawson City Nuggets lost, they were still celebrated at a banquet held by the Ottawa team. Albert Forrest, the Dawson City goalie, was also celebrated for his work to keep the score from being double what it was in the second game. He was named as team MVP but the team didn’t seem to care what happened to him after the games were over. he would walk alone, from Pelly Crossing to Dawson City, a distance of about 250 kilometres, on the return trip home. 
Another bit of Stanley Cup lore came after the game when the members of the Ottawa Silver Seven drop-kicked the Stanley Cup into the Rideau Canal and left it there overnight. It was retrieved off the ice the next day. 
After the games, the team went on to play several games in the Maritimes and eastern United States. Improving their play through the month of March. They would play a team from Pittsburgh and defeat them two games out of three and outscoring the Americans 17 to 10.
Eventually, the players would return to their old lives but McLennan and Watt would find out after the second game that they had been laid off work, effective immediately, albeit with pay until June 30, 1905.
Ottawa would be challenged two months later by Rat Portage and would win the best-of-three series two games to one to hold onto the Stanley Cup. For their part, Rat Portage would become Kenora and in 1907 the Kenora Thistles won the Stanley Cup and are the smallest community in Canada to ever win. 
McGee would go on to win one more Stanley Cup with Ottawa before he enlisted to fight in the First World War. He was killed on Sept. 16, 1916. His body was never found. When the Hockey Hall of Fame was founded in 1945, McGee was one of the first inductees. In 22 Stanley Cup games he had an astounding 63 goals. 
In 1989, the Dawson City Nuggets would be inducted into the Yukon Sport Hall of Fame. 

Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ottawa_Senators_(original)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1904%E2%80%9305_Ottawa_Hockey_Club_season#Ottawa_vs._Dawson_City
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dawson_City_Nuggets
http://www.greatesthockeylegends.com/2007/04/stanley-cup-challenge-from-yukon.html
http://sportyukon.com/programs/hall-of-fame/1989-dawson-city-nuggets-hockey-team-hockey/
http://yukon-news.com/letters-opinions/the-game-that-almost-brought-the-stanley-cup-to-dawson

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