In the greatest game of the season Selkirk opened with a terrific burst of speed which carried all before it. Joe Simpson was training his sights on the Falcon goal and after a characteristic rush scored the first goal for Selkirk. Selkirk pressed hard, sending four men down and Slim broke away on a counter-attack to beat Brandow, alone on defence and notched the equalizer. Falcons finished strong, Selkirk seemingly having burnt up a lot of their surplus pep in the opening attack. Despite the stubborn and desperate nature of the defensive tactics there were singularly few penalties and those only for minor infringements. With end to end rushes in perpetual sequence there was never a dull moment throughout although there were stages when both sides seemed to have played themselves to a standstill. Supremacy hung in the balance. Upon resumption of play in the second period, Selkirk literally swarmed over the ice around the Falcon citadel. They fought desperately, and Crutchy Morrison scored on a beautiful effort to send Selkirk into the lead. There followed another goal by Pete Mitchell, whose shot from behind caromed in off a Falcon skate. Just ten seconds later, Jocko Anderson took a pass from Mitchell to again increase the Selkirk lead. The pace was terrific! Continuing their strong pressure, the fifth marker came from Ernie Anderson's baton on a snap pass from Crutchy Morrison. Just before the end of the second period, the Falcons scored. Fridfinnson, known as the useful sub, got the marker which reduced the Selkirk lead, leaving the score 5-2.
Into their dressing room for the interval filed the Falcons. Steamer's usual crisp, apt remarks, always the right word at the right time, had the desired effect and the boys rested quietly. Meanwhile, the able trainers rubbed aching muscles back to suppleness and renewed power.
The referee signalled with his bell that the rest period was over. Aquiver with eagerness to be into the game, the Falcon men went out for the third period in just the right frame of mind to permit of their reaching the peak of their form, and intent on following implicitly their manager's instructions. On taking the ice they did not dash about but did stand around or circle slowly until they got their bearings.
The bell rang for the resumption of play. We can picture the play as the game progressed towards its dramatic conclusion. With the 5-2 lead entering the third period the game seemed to be tucked away in the old 'fish basket,' when suddenly the Icelanders who had been travelling under somewhat of a cloud, reasserted themselves, recovering their hold on the game and began to pull down their opponent's lead. The phenomenal speed and back-checking of Mike Goodman, who tied up the great Joe Simpson, began to swing the tide in the Falcon's favour. Joe tried desperately to get through but Mike, as a man imbued with a single great purpose, checked the Selkirk 'cyclone' to a standstill, swooping back to poke the puck away and again skating backwards zig-zagging in front of the onrushing Joe to frustrate his best efforts. The great audience gave voice to the surge of enthusiasm with cries that burst from thousands of throats and mingled together in the familiar roar. Selkirk seemed bent on defensive play, but this was broken up. Bobby Benson sallied down alone and scored a pretty goal, which infused the breath of hope into the struggling Icelanders. "Speed! Falcons, speed!" was the cry of the multitude of fans. Slim Halderson culminated a piquant combination with Fredrickson to fetch the Falcons within tying distance, and suddenly unexpectedly the equalizer came when Mike Goodman, from the face-off thirty feet out, back-handed past Bobby Morrison. Pandemonium reigned!
The teams were matched to a hairline, finishing exhausted and practically at the last gasp, yet showing throughout hockey above criticism, speed beyond praise, sufficient to rouse the most phlegmatic to fanatic enthusiasm.
Jaded, and well nigh exhausted, the teams returned to the fray, fighting for the winning goal in a spirit fraught with desperation. The first ten minutes of hectic overtime play brought no score. More overtime! There followed a short interval. The band played a stirring overture. Jack 'Speed' Snidal, great booster of the Falcons, stepped onto the rail and 'walked the rope,' balancing with arms thrown wide, to the great delight of the fans.
Again they returned to the fray, and do-or-die scrimmage for a place in the sun on the one hand and a virtual safe lead for the ultimate honours on the other, was resumed. Jocko Anderson rushed fast and crashed into the Falcon goal, but the puck was not in! Konnie cleared and plowed down centre ice on a 'take all with you' that sent two Selkirk men and himself floundering on the ice. Resurrecting the last and flickering remnants of their fading energy, staking their all on a last and whirlwind spurt, the Falcons combined in the closing stages of the last five-minute overtime period. With less than two minutes to go, Johnnie Mitchell gave Brandow a perfect pass in front of the Falcon goal, but Byron pulled off a wonderful save and Bobby Benson grabbed the puck and travelled down the ice fast to give Morrison a hot shot. Morrison was equal to the occasion but unable to clear in time and Halderson, skating in fast, batted it into the net for the tally that transformed the monster gathering of wild-eyed fanatics into a vast multitude of maniacs in a scene that beggared description.
It was the dramatic finish to a heartbreaking game, where the sympathies were as generous to the losers as the congratulations to the winners. All the other games of the season were cast into oblivion before this gruelling tussle and never did fervid fandom get so many opportunities to enthuse and give vent to their pent-up feelings.
The usually taciturn Steamer Maxwell beamed on his proteges. The spirit of the Falcons had prevailed, the spirit that would not acknowledge defeat that retained confidence as long as there was a minute left to play that subjected the individual to the good of the club. This victory stamped the Falcons as a truly great aggregation yet they kept their 'balance' and grew in power. They were never over-confident but had always the steady determination to stay with it until they won. And always the cry was, "Speed! Falcons, speed!"
Meeting the Winnipegs, winners of the other section of the Senior League, the Falcons' superiority was evident by the scores of 5-0 in the opener and 10-1 in the second game.
Eliminating the Fort William stalwart brigade by 7-2 and 9-1 in the semi-finals, the Falcons were ready to travel to Toronto in quest of the Allan Cup which had been in the East for the previous three years.
The same poise and quiet reserve was always noticeable in the Falcons' dressing room before games and practices. Steamer had a favourite nickname for most of the players and used these with no malice but in a most appropriate and telling manner in his efforts to bring out their best. If Frank Fredrickson was expounding to Slim on some weighty matter using four and five syllable words, Steamer would quietly remark, "Hey! Education! Save your wind for the game!" And, "You, Good-lookin," (directed at Slim), "get out there and get your hair messed up."
En route east, to meet the Varsity team at Toronto for the Dominion Championship, the boys maintained their steady way. The spirit that prevailed, their playing talent and Maxwell's firm guidance, all fused together making them into a coordinated aggregation with almost unlimited possibilities.
Those memorable games against Varsity will long be remembered by those who were fortunate to witness them. Some of the newspaper reports, which we have preserved, are worth relating. An enormous crowd packed the great arena to the roof for the opener. The Falcons played brilliantly to win the first game, 8 goals to 3. Frank Fredrickson scored the first goal in seventeen minutes on a pretty play a rush from his own end through the Varsity. Gouinlock scored in one minute in a mix-up in front of the Falcon goal mouth. The second period started with a bang, the pace being terrific. The third goal came after a face-off at the side of the Varsity net, Goodman taking Frank's quick pass and lifting it into the corner of the net. Mike Goodman scored his second goal in five minutes. It was a beautiful play with Frank Fredrickson. They broke fast, with the puck being passed twice to work right inside the defence for a fast shot which Langtry had no chance to save. Varsity attacked viciously but close checking prevented them getting through. Halderson broke away and dodged the defence but missed the net by inches. Byron made a brilliant save from Olson's shot. Frank took the rubber at his own defence and went right through the Varsity team to score while off balance. This was the most spectacular goal of the game. Thirty seconds later Mike scored a long shot that bounded into the corner of the net. Varsity pressed desperately but Benson relieved. The play attained terrific speed; attack followed by counter-attack in rapid succession. Konnie Johannesson made a great poke check on a two-man combination and he tumbled Goodman on the play so that the great speed merchant had to be taken to the dressing room, having hit his head on the ice.
In the third period, Falcons started with a rush. Fredrickson scored in forty-five seconds, going down from the face-off with Halderson and when the defence looked for a pass, he dodged right through and beat Langtry when he was right on top of him. Johannesson toppled Gouinlock when he was right through and saved what looked like a sure goal. The play shifted with phenomenal rapidity, and masterly work by both teams had the fans in a continuous state of intense expectancy as the colourfully clad figures made their lightning thrusts, or swooped back like hawks to smother attacks that were pressed with all the vigour of straining sinews. There are few sights in sportsdom more impressive than the fine figure of a man flashing at full speed down the playing surface with power in every line and movement with the deftness of the stick work making it appear as if the puck were part and parcel of the speeding figure which swerves and shifts with almost imperceptible movements then "literally leaps, with all powers exerted, to an opening for a bullet-like drive trained on the opening! The goal keeper's quick stab! The dented net! And the roar of acclaim as the goal umpire throws up his hands!
Gouinlock scored when he dodged right through for a close shot, giving Varsity their second goal. Goodman brought the crowd to its feet with some wonderful skating, but was checked as he nearly got through. Ramsay beat the whole defence with a clever exhibition of stick-handling but failed to score as he was checked upright in the goal mouth. Wright dodged and gave Carson the puck right in the goal mouth, but Bill missed it. Sullivan made a sensational rush and gave Byron a sharp shot which Wally deflected with a lightning movement of his hand. Bobby Benson took the puck at his own goal, jumped and hurled down on a great rush with Frank on his left. Bobby slipped a fast pass to Frank who went in to score. Varsity pressed and scored shortly before the bell rang for full time, and the final score read Falcons 8, Varsity 3.
The second game was a hectic struggle for supremacy with Varsity using their weight freely. Here, we might mention that Dr. Joe Olson was a star with the Varsity team, as at that time he was studying dentistry in Toronto. Joe was formerly a teammate of the Falcons. Right after the commencement of the third period, with the Falcons holding a 2-1 lead, a long shot he did not see hit goal keeper Wally Byron in the left eye. A fifteen minute delay ensued, several stitches being required, and after the doctors had dressed the wound, they refused to permit Wally to return to the ice. 'Babe' Elliott, faithful substitute goalie, donned the gear and went into the nets to give a fine performance and the Falcons put on a splendid exhibition of how to keep the opposition from getting inside the defence for a shot on goal. Mike Goodman scored the Falcons' third goal on a pass from Fredrickson and the valiant efforts of the Varsity squad netted them another well-earned tally, making the final score, Falcons 3, Varsity 2. By the two-game score of 11-5, the boys were worthy winners of the Allan Cup, emblematic of the Amateur Championship of Canada.
Back home in Winnipeg the enthusiasm of the citizens was boundless and the great crowds hearing the returns at the Free Press and Tribune were in jubilant mood as the results came over the wires. The prize a trip to Antwerp for the Olympic games. About the Falcons chances at Antwerp, the Free Press had this to say in the write-up by Billy Finlay:
"The Winnipeg Falcons, conquerors of America's classiest hockey teams, embark on the steamer Melita this afternoon at St.John where they are looking for more worlds to conquer, when they will carry with them the best wishes of all Canadians in their efforts to bring back to Canada, and Winnipeg, the world's amateur hockey championship. That the boys who upheld the name of Winnipeg so nobly at Toronto, when they lifted the Allan Cup and demonstrated beyond all doubt that they were the best amateur hockey team playing the game in Canada, can be depended upon to continue their triumphs in the Olympic games, goes without saying. They have the winning spirit imbued right into their systems and there are few Canadians who would dare to say that they will not return with the world's title. Conditions will be much different from playing in Canada. The rink will be narrow, the seven man style of game will be in vogue and the ice may not be as fast as the boys have been used to playing on, but the Icelandic boys have shown the winning punch under all conditions this year and there is no reason to feel that they will not carry it into Belgium with them, where the majority of the lads are right at home, from their exploits in helping in the downfall of the Huns.”
It was regrettable that the Club's great manager, Steamer Maxwell, had to forego the trip to Antwerp and all which that entails. This was in keeping with Fred Maxwell's magnanimous, unselfish spirit and showed the character of the man. He was not looking for the glory but followed his best judgment unerringly. On this subject the Free Press commented:
"It is indeed unfortunate that manager Steamer Maxwell finds it impossible to accompany the boys to Antwerp owing to business reasons. Every player had implicit faith in what Maxwell said, and though at times he seemed to be rather gruff and hard in his rulings, the boys never lost faith in his ability to know what was the best for them. Steamer's word was gospel all the time, and his presence with the boys overseas would spell success. Let me say right here that much of the success of the Falcons this winter was due to the strategy of Fred Maxwell. He had a habit of studying the other team, and he taught his boys how to combat their style of game. He showed splendid judgment in handling the boys at Toronto, and the fact that they went on the ice and played faultless hockey and showed wonderful condition despite the fact that the boys hadn't played a game for seventeen days, is a credit to the manager of the team. No better behaved bunch of athletes ever represented Winnipeg in a championship affair than the Falcon players. They took everything seriously and were very faithful in their training at Toronto. they would not drink the Toronto water, or anything stronger than tea or coffee, did not smoke, and returned to bed early every evening. Even after winning the championship there was no celebration by the players, as might be expected from the tamest kind of team. The afternoon of the first day somebody walked into Slim Halderson's room smoking a cigarette, and he was hardly in before Slim told him, very politely, that no smoking was allowed in that room, and to kindly throwaway the cigarette.”
Their winning the world championship was confidently anticipated by the people of Canada, who eagerly followed every dispatch and news item on the Olympic games. The boys did not disappoint their admirers. Continuing their steady ways, they defeated the strong United States entry in a hard, close seven-man game by 2-0 and carried through to glorious victory and the first Olympic Hockey Championship. Their club spirit had brought them to the pinnacle of hockey fame.
The Swedish and other European teams (Belgium, France, Czechoslovakia and Switzerland) appeared on the ice in togs similar to those used in Soccer Football with no protection. In their style of play it was a rare occasion for any player to come in contact with another but after watching the Canadians in practice and learning how powerful the shooting of the Canadians and Americans really was, the Swedish goal-keeper turned up bandaged in all the absorbent cotton he could round up. When the Swedes managed to score their lone tally on the Canadians all the players on the Swedish team rushed to the Falcon men to thank them profusely for their generosity in allowing them to score a goal.
The able Hebbie Axford, President of the club, accompanied the team to Antwerp along with that most capable of hockey club secretaries, Bill Fridfinnson, both of whom gave unselfishly of their services to the club for years. Billy Hewitt of Toronto made a very popular manager for the Falcons on their Olympic trip. Just before the big game of the Olympic series between the Canadians and the United States' team, Bill Fridfinnson got into a tight corner. An officer of the American army of occupation offered to bet (on behalf of some of his American army friends) the small amount of one thousand francs against the Canadians. Bill, having no intention whatever of taking the offer, thought to pull a fast one and said, "make it ten thousand francs or nothing." The officer went away and Bill thought there would be nothing more heard from him. Imagine his surprise, however, when the American returned shortly to say that he could only get eight thousand francs. Still with no intention of betting, Bill held out for the ten thousand, but after the American had unsuccessfully tried again to increase the amount, he was in a quandary. Instead of pulling a 'fast one' he had made a 'faux pas,' but after consulting with Hebbie Axford, they felt that they had practically obligated themselves to cover the American money, which they did. Of course nothing was said to the players but Bill and Hebbie were certainly on pins and needles throughout the game and breathed great sighs of relief when the game was over and won.
Olympic Victors' Homecoming
The boys visited Paris while en route home and their stay there is particularly remembered by a delightful dinner given them by Mr. and Mrs. R.D. Waugh (a former Winnipegger, Mr. Waugh was at that time Commissioner of the Saar Valley).
Upon their return to Canada they were royally welcomed at Montreal and in Toronto were banqueted and presented with silverheaded canes.
Arriving in Winnipeg on the 22nd of May, they were tendered a great Civic welcome and the public demonstrated their pride and intense appreciation by turning out to greet them in vast throngs that seldom (if ever) had been seen on other occasions in the City. Great preparations had been made by the City Council and the sporting fraternities. Crowds lined the streets from the C.P.R. Depot (the immediate vicinity of which presented an enormous milling mass of enthusiastic humanity) down Main Street and along the great wide (Portage) Avenue to Wesley College, waiting to witness a mile-long parade, and the cheers of the multitude echoed and re-echoed along the line as the Falcon boys, seated in open cars, wended their way along the designated route. Frank Fredrickson, by the way, missed this glorious homecoming, having gone directly to Iceland to do some flying for the Government of the little northern island.
A half-day holiday had been proclaimed in the City of Winnipeg and everybody who could possibly get out was there to cheer their champions. The jubilant shouts of the crowds, combined with the spirited playing of the City's best bands, placed at intervals among the brilliant floats carrying members, in uniform, of various local hockey, baseball, football, lacrosse and other sports, made a memorable spectacle. The boys received the ovation of their proud fellow-citizens with becoming modesty and all along the route it was, "Hello, Falcons," and, "Hello, Slim," "Good old Mike," and, "Hi! Wally," "Atta boy, Bobby," "Hello, Konnie," "Nice going, Steamer," and "Hello Chris." Little folks, big folks, all seemed to own them as their personal friend. Their names were on every tongue.
The Club members were banqueted and the team presented with tokens of esteem by various organizations and service clubs. Tammany Tigers Athletic Association gave a dance in their honour and presented them with souvenirs of the occasion. A reception for the victorious Falcons was promoted by the Jon Sigurdsson Chapter lODE. The dinner tendered the Falcon club by the T. Eaton Company on the 25th of May, 1920, to celebrate their victorious return from Antwerp, was a sparkling, colourful affair. Not the last and by the same token, not the least, was the great civic banquet at the Fort Garry Hotel, which local sportsdom and civic officials had been planning for weeks, and where, at the numerous tables set and decorated beautifully, sat a vast assembly of lovers of the sport. At the long head table, the great hockey machine heard their praises 'sung' and the pride and appreciation of the citizens conveyed in glowing terms.
The hearty congratulations of all accompanied the presentation of beautiful gold watches, suitably inscribed, the gift of the City of Winnipeg to the Falcon Hockey Team, the World's Olympic Champions.