Canada Soccer

Connaught Series: St. Boniface were Canada's first ever champions

Posted on 18 June 2017 in Around the Soccer World

The City of St. Boniface, some 50 years before it was amalgamated as part of the City of Winnipeg, were Canada Soccer's first national champions. Not once, but twice in a row the Norwood Wanderers of St. Boniface lifted the Connaught Cup emblematic of the Dominion of Canada Football Association's champions.

They won the first championship in 1913 in Fort William (today known as Thunder Bay) and then repeated as champions much closer to home in 1914 in Winnipeg.

In 1913, the city council of St. Boniface wrote, "you have worthily upheld the traditions of clean British sportsmanship and have won a great and most coveted position in the annals of Canadian sport. On behalf of the city council and citizens in general, I am glad and happy to say that we assisted financially in helping along the good work and I wish therefore to thank you for the splendid way in which you have the justified our assistance and have also brought before the people of this Dominion the name of this our great city of St. Boniface."

CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIP: Toronto FC face Impact Montréal FC in the 2017 Canadian Championship final. Watch both matches on TSN and RDS, with the first leg on 21 June and the second leg on 27 June.

In both 1913 and 1914, the Dominion of Canada Football Championship was a round-robin affair, with St. Boniface winning the title on the last day each year. Undefeated in both years, the Norwood Wanderers won their two titles by the slimmest of margins: in 1913 by a single point after three matches and in 1914 through goal average after four matches.

As noted in the Manitoba Free Press after their second championship, "pandemonium was let loose on the way. No one could escape the knowledge that Norwood Wanderers of St. Boniface had won the Connaught Cup for it was spelled out, shouted and sung from every throat in all the cars and the noise was increased by several dozen horns which the boys blew till their heads ached."

The first Dominion of Canada Championship came down to the last day, with a 2:2 draw tipping the standings in favour of St. Boniface over the hosts from Fort William. After five days of football, Toronto Old Country and Lachine were out, which meant the Norwood Wanderers FC of St. Boniface (three points) and Fort William CPR (two points) were left to fight it out. A victory by either side would ensure first place, but St. Boniface could also finish first with a draw.

Fort William opened the scoring in the first half, but St. Boniface both equalised and took the lead in the second half. Centre forward Simmonds scored both goals to give the Manitoba champions the lead before Fort William’s Jerry Dean equalised. The draw, however, was enough to clinch first place and the Connaught Cup. Centre half Billy Innes was noted as St. Boniface’s hero of the match.

The Norwood Wanderers’ Simmonds scored the series-winning goal in the last match of the 1913 Championship. With the club needing a draw or better in their final match, Simmonds delivered a two-goal performance to clinch the title.

St. Boniface’s centre forward Simmonds scored five goals in three round-robin matches during the 1913 Championship. Fort William’s outside right Jerry Dean finished second with three goals scored.

After the final match, the Connaught Cup was handed to Alex Simpson, the captain of the Norwood Wanderers team, by Tom Watson, the new president of the Dominion of Canada Football Association. While the winning players received “Champions of Canada” medals, the 22 players from the runners up Fort William and Lachine received lockets donated by outgoing DCFA president Fred Barter. As noted in the Manitoba Free Press, the Norwood Wanderers “received congratulatory messages from Mayors Deacon and Berry.”

The Norwood Wanderers were the first champions and “accorded (a) great reception” after winning the Connaught Cup. Upon returning home from Fort William, the team was met at the train station by the mayor and civic council of St. Boniface.

Norwood Wanderers FC of St. Boniface captured their second consecutive Dominion of Canada Football Championship by finishing at the top of the 1914 Connaught Cup standings. It all came down to the final day and it all ended with the same outcome: St. Boniface captured the silverware.

For its second year, the Connaught Series expanded from six to 10 matches with the addition of the Saskatchewan winners from Regina. After four days, Regina and Lachine were out, leaving Toronto Eaton’s, Fort William CPR, and St. Boniface in a three-way fight on the final Saturday.

In the first match, Fort William beat Toronto to reach six points, leaving only St. Boniface with a chance to catch them. In the deciding game, St. Boniface needed to win and they needed to maintain a superior goal average across their four matches - which they did with a 1:0 win over Lachine (with Nicholson the goalscorer).

Walter Simpson was the hero with three clean sheets in four matches.

Fort William CPR scored more goals (eight) and finished with a greater goal difference (+5), but Norwood Wanderers had a better goal average. St. Boniface scored four goals and conceded once; Fort Williams scored eight, but conceded three.

St. Boniface enjoyed the support of the home crowd throughout the 1914 Championship, with all matches played in neighbouring Winnipeg. The defending champions did not disappoint, with captain Harry McMaster collecting the Cup on the final day. As noted in the Manitoba Free Press, the St. Boniface winners were celebrated with “an automobile procession around the two cities of Winnipeg and St. Boniface. About ten cars carrying the players of the team and about 75 friends went down to York avenue, back to Portage and west as far as Free Press corner,  cast again to Main Street, and south almost to the CPR, and then south to Norwood and back through St. Boniface to the city hall.”

In celebration of our nation's 150th anniversary, the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame pays tribute to the early years of our Championship: the Connaught Series from 1913 to 1939. Every Sunday from May through September, Canada Soccer remembers the players, legends, teams, and champions from a golden era of football in the Dominion.

‎In Canada's 150th year, Canada Soccer will crown their 150th national champions across all adult and professional competitions since 1913. The 2017 competitive season will crown the Futsal Canadian Championship winners in April, the professional Canadian Championship winners in June, and the amateur National Championships women's Jubilee Trophy and men's Challenge Trophy winners in October.




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