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 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.
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.
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.
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.