SIHR’s Behind the Boards

Ottawa New Edinburghs and the Ottawa City Hockey League

SIHR’s Behind the Boards

Ottawa New Edinburghs and the Ottawa City Hockey League

Oskar Tallqvist
Posted March 31, 2021

Viewed 607 times

The first installations of the Ottawa City Hockey League appeared during the 1890s, where it was first an amateur league with both senior and junior teams, and later a junior league only. Among the inaugural clubs during the 1890–91 season were the Ottawa Hockey Club, Ottawa Gladstones, Ottawa College and Dey’s Rink Pirates. In the latter half of the decade some of the more well known teams were the Ottawa Aberdeens, Ottawa Maples and Ottawa College.

During the first decade of the 1900s the Ottawa City Hockey League again morphed into a senior amateur league, where the teams would mix its rosters with young promising prospects and more established puck chasers. During the 1905–1910 window, leading up to the creation of the Interprovincial Amateur Hockey Union (IPAHU) in 1908–09 and the professional National Hockey Association (NHA) in 1909–10, the most prominent teams in the local city league were the Ottawa New Edinburghs, Ottawa Cliffsides, Ottawa Emmetts and Ottawa Primrose.

The Ottawa New Edinburghs, from the New Edinburgh neighborhood of Ottawa, played its first season in 1905–06 and had brought over its nucleus of players from the 1904–05 W. C. Edwards team: defenseman Jack Ryan and forwards Guy Boyce, Maurice “Morley” Neate and Charlie Snelling. Ryan, Boyce and Neate were all in their early 20s whereas Snelling was 19 years old. Joining the team for the 1905­–06 was also 21-year old defenseman Horace Merrill, also an outstanding paddler with the New Edinburgh Canoe Club, under which parent organization the ice hockey club also operated. Many of the players on the hockey team were multi-sport athletes and also figured in paddling or football, or in both.

Despite having a good team the 1905–06 Ottawa New Edinburghs didn’t manage to challenge successfully for the league championship, finishing in second place in Section A of the league behind the Ottawa Emmetts. The Emmetts then went on the claim the championship for the 1905–06 season by defeating the Ottawa Primrose of Section B 6 goals to 3 on January 2, 1907 in a deciding game that had been postponed from the previous season.[1]

The green-shirted Ottawa Emmetts, managed by its president Sam Bilsky, had a good group of players spearheaded by Jack Ebbs and future NHA players Billy Hague, Tommy Westwick, Horace Gaul and Nick Bawlf. Another player who had come up through the Ottawa Emmetts ranks, and played for the club during the previous 1903–04 and 1904–05 seasons, was sharpshooting forward Tommy Smith. Tommy Smith would later go on to enjoy a highly distinguished career that eventually landed him in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Billy Hague, Tom Westwick and Nick Bawlf
Billy Hague, Tom Westwick and Nick Bawlf

For the 1906–07 city league season the Ottawa New Edinburghs were joined by a young swift skating prospect in 17-year old forward Eddie Gerard, who had ascended up through the junior ranks of the organization. The team again finished second in Section A, after having lost a playoff game to the blue and white-shirted Ottawa Cliffsides 3 goals to 5 on March 19, 1907. The Ottawa Cliffsides would then go on to claim the city league championship on March 21 after having defeated the Ottawa Emmetts of Section B 4 goals to 1. The Cliffsides had strong group of players in Charles McKinley, Basil Frith, Norman Henry, Stephen “Coo” Dion, Billy Stewart and Alan Powell. “Coo” Dion would later in his career turn down offers to turn professional with both the Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators in the NHA.[2][3]

The Ottawa New Edinburghs found its league winning formula during the 1907–08 city league season, edging out the Cliffsides by two points in the standing, claiming the championship. Charlie Snelling emerged as the primary goal scorer on the team with 21 goals in 8 games, and Morley Neate was second on the team with 14 goals. Snelling, a centre forward position wise, was particularly effective around the nets of the opposing teams.[4] The team also got coaching help during the season from Alf Smith, the famous Ottawa Hockey Club player and coach. The Ottawa New Edinburghs were not a farm club to, or officially affiliated with, the Ottawa Hockey Club, but as they practiced against them at the Dey’s Arena they were also colloquially known as the “Ottawa Seconds”. They also played in the same red, white and black colours as the Ottawa Hockey Club. Billy Smith, a younger brother of Alf and Tommy Smith, led the league in goal scoring during the 1907–08 season with 25 goals in 8 games for the fourth placed Ottawa Emmetts.

Ottawa New Edinburghs in 1907–08. Players, left to right: Guy Boyce, Eddie Gerard, Morley Neate, Horace Merrill, Charlie Snelling, Jack Ryan and Lou Wright.
Ottawa New Edinburghs in 1907–08. Players, left to right: Guy Boyce, Eddie Gerard, Morley Neate, Horace Merrill, Charlie Snelling, Jack Ryan and Lou Wright.

The Ottawa Cliffsides moved to the newly founded Interprovincial Amateur Hockey Union for the 1908–09 season, where they eventually claimed the league championship and were awarded the inaugural Allan Cup, the newly instated trophy given to the amateur champions of Canada. Ottawa Cliffsides II, the second team of the club, took their place in the city league, but it couldn’t match the strength of the first team. With the Cliffsides out of the way in the city league, the defending champions of the Ottawa New Edinburghs instead found its main rival in the Ottawa Emmetts. The Emmetts had done a complete overhaul of its roster from the previous season and brought in a number of promising teenage forwards in 17-year olds Gordon Roberts and Alex Currie, and 16-year old Harry Broadbent. Also new on the team was 21-year old Harry McLaughlin, previously with the Hawkesbury Hockey Club in the Lower Ottawa Valley Hockey League (LOHA).

Gordon Roberts scored a league leading 19 goals during the 1908–09 city league season – while McLaughlin, Broadbent and Currie scored 16, 14 and 11 goals respectively – which helped the Emmetts to go toe-to-toe with the Ottawa New Edinburghs in the league standing. Charlie Snelling scored 19 goals for the New Edinburghs, tying Roberts for the goal scoring title, and Eddie Gerard added 11 goals for the New Edinburghs. The two teams finished tied at first place in the standing with 10 points each.

Two playoff games were arranged on March 10 and 13 to decide a league champion for 1908–09, and the Ottawa Emmetts managed to take the first game by a score of 6 goals to 3. McLaughlin and Roberts scored two goals each for the Emmetts, with Harry Broadbent and Alf Holt adding one each, and for the Ottawa New Edinburghs Boyce, Neate and Gerard had one goal each.[5] But the New Edinburghs managed to turn the tables on the Emmetts three days later and won the second game 6 goals to 1, for a final score of 9 goals to 7. Guy Boyce, Morley Neate and Charlie Snelling scored two goals each in the final game, whereas Alex Currie scored a late consolation goal for the Emmetts.[6]

Ottawa Emmetts newly acquired forward line would depart in its entirety for the following 1909–10 season. Both “Doc” Roberts and “Punch” Broadbent, starting their professional careers with the Ottawa Senators in the NHA, would go on to enjoy highly distinguished careers that eventually landed them both in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Alex Currie also ended up in the NHA with the Ottawa Senators. Harry McLaughlin had professional offers to join both the Quebec Bulldogs and the Toronto Shamrocks in the NHA, but he instead chose to stay amateur and compete for the Allan Cup with the Grand-Mère Hockey Club of the IPAHU.[7]

Harry McLaughlin (with Hawkesbury HC)
Harry McLaughlin (with Hawkesbury HC)

With the Ottawa Emmetts depleted of its most potent players, the new league addition of the Ottawa Stewartons instead presented itself as the main rival for the Ottawa New Edinburghs for the 1909–10 season. The Stewartons had their own bright prospects in 17-year old goalkeeper Clint Benedict and 19-year old forward Jack Darragh, and the two youngsters helped the yellow and black coloured aggregation to tie the Ottawa New Edinburghs at the top of the league standing at the end of the season. Darragh scored 11 goals in five games for the Stewartons, whereas Benedict sported a 3.00 goals against average. On the Ottawa New Edinburghs Charlie Snelling scored a league leading 23 goals, while Eddie Gerard scored 17 times. Both Benedict and Darragh later went on to enjoy Hockey Hall of Fame careers, also joining Ottawa Senators in the NHA.

A decisive playoff game between the two clubs was scheduled for March 19, 1910 where the Ottawa New Edinburghs managed to fight off the Stewartons, winning 2 goals to 1 in a hard-fought contest on a slushy ice surface at the Ottawa Arena. Harry Parker gave the Stewartons the lead, but Charlie Snelling and Guy Boyce answered with one goal each for the New Edinburghs, despite a strong performance by Benedict in front of the Stewartons nets, which was enough for a third consecutive league title.[8] 

Clint Benedict
Clint Benedict with Stewartons

During the 1910–11 season the Ottawa New Edinburghs figured both in the Ottawa City Hockey League and in the IPAHU, winning both leagues. In the IPAHU they were joined by Clint Benedict of the Ottawa Stewartons and managed to defeat the Grand-Mère Hockey Club for the championship by an aggregated score of 16–9 (7-5, 9-4) on March 11 and 15, 1911. As it was too late in the season, the Ottawa New Edinburghs didn’t get an opportunity to challenge the Winnipeg Victorias for the Allan Cup. 1910–11 was also the last season of competitive hockey for Charlie Snelling and Morley Neate.

After the 1910–11 season the Ottawa New Edinburghs departed the Ottawa City Hockey League for the IPAHU along with the Ottawa Stewartons, and the league subsequently took a 4-year hiatus before coming back for the 1915–16 season. In 1911–12 the Ottawa New Edinburghs would again win the IPAHU, defeating the Montreal Victorias in the league final by a score of 24 goals to 10 (7-3, 17-7), but again it was too late to challenge for the Allan Cup, this time against the Winnipeg Hockey Club. After the 1911–12 season Horace Merrill left the team for the Ottawa Senators in the NHA.

During the 1912–13 and 1913–14 seasons the Ottawa New Edinburghs twice lost in the IPAHU finals to the Grand-Mère Hockey Club. Guy Boyce left the team after the 1912–13 season to manage the Ottawa Britannia in the IPAHU. 24-year old Eddie Gerard finally left the New Edinburghs during the 1913–14 season, for the Ottawa Senators in the NHA, only playing in two games in the IPAHU that year. He later became a core piece on the early 1920s Ottawa Senators Stanley Cup winning dynasty, after having first switched from left wing to defense.



[1] Ottawa Citizen, Jan. 3, 1907

[2] Montreal Gazette, Feb. 6, 1911

[3] Ottawa Citizen, Feb. 3, 1913

[4] Ottawa Citizen, Feb. 11, 1910

[5] Ottawa Citizen, Mar. 11, 1909

[6] Ottawa Journal, Mar. 15, 1909

[7] Ottawa Citizen, Jan. 20, 1914

[8] Ottawa Journal, Mar. 21, 1910

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