Connaught Series: the captains who lifted Canada's national laurels
Posted on 2 October 2017 in Around the Soccer World
Five days after capturing the 1922 Dominion of Canada Football Championship, Calgary Hillhurst FC were welcomed home to a Thursday parade, a Friday luncheon, and a Saturday smoker. Coming off the train, the captain Stan Wakelyn presented the Connaught Cup to his father William before being shouldered off by teammates to the awaiting cars.
Stan Wakelyn, remembered years later as "probably the greatest centre forward this city has seen," was the hero of Calgary, bringing home the Connaught Cup just a year after Alberta Soccer entered the national competition. As winning captain, Wakelyn received the Connaught Cup in Toronto after his team defeated Toronto Ulster United FC in the championship series. Upon returning home, he served as the team spokeperson, explaining at a reception that "to know that the people of Calgary are proud of the fact that we performed the championship feat successfully is quite as pleasant to us as to actually be identified in the games that brought us title results."
Wakelyn was one of the great Alberta soccer players from the first half century, also recognised as a finalist in The Canadian Press polling for soccer's Best in 50 Years. On the pitch, Wakelyn's greatest feat was delivering what turned out to be Alberta Soccer's only Dominion title in more than 50 years before Calgary Springer Kickers finally returned the national laurels to the province in 1974.
From 1913 to 1939, there were 21 different captains or vice-captains that lifted the Dominion of Canada Football Championship trophy, be it the Connaught Cup until 1925 or the sterling new Challenge Trophy starting in 1926. Dave Turner of Westminster Royals FC was the only player to accept the trophy on multiple occasions.
In most years, it was the Canada Soccer President or Past President that handed the trophy to the winning team. Newly-elected president Tom Watson was the first presenter at Fort William on 6 September 1913, handing the trophy to Alex Simpson, captain of the Norwood Wanderers of St. Boniface, Manitoba.
John Easton, Canada Soccer's president from 1922 to 1925, made the most presentations up until 1939. As Past President, he was often the highest ranking local officer when the Championship final was played in Winnipeg. Over the years, he made presentations to captains James McDougall (Nanaimo FC 1923), Art King (Winnipeg United Weston FC 1924), Neil McFarlane (Nanaimo FC 1927), Davie Weir (Toronto Scottish FC 1933), Humphrey Payne (Verdun Park FC 1934), Jim Lawrie (Vancouver Johnston National Storage 1937), and Tommy McKibbin (Vancouver Radials 1939).
In 1925, Easton presented the Connaught Cup to Tommy Johnson, who was filling in for ejected captain Bobby Lavery of Toronto Ulster United FC. Incidentally, that was the last year that the Connaught Cup was presented to the winning team of the Championship. In 1926, Canada Soccer council member H.W. Scrymgeour presented the new Challenge Trophy to Winnipeg captain Dan King.
Lavery wasn't the only captain who missed the Cup presentation over the years. In 1915, Billy Corrie filled in for injured Billy Anderson when Winnipeg Scottish FC won the Connaught Cup. Anderson missed the final through an ankle injury, but he still traveled with the team to Toronto and wrote about the game for the Winnipeg Tribune.
Billy Somers likely would have lifted the Challenge Trophy in 1933 had he not missed the final series through injury. Weir took his place as team captain. One year earlier, Somers had lifted the 1932 title for Toronto Scottish FC in Toronto. Canada Soccer's past president Tom Holland presented the trophy to Somers.
Somers was one of eight captains that got to lift the national trophy in their home or a neighbouring city. Harry McMaster was the first in 1914, lifting the Connaught Cup for St. Boniface in neighbouring Winnipeg. After that, Jimmy McLaggan won the 1919 title in Montréal (Grand Trunk FC), Tiny Thombs won the 1920 title in Toronto (for Hamilton Westinghouse), Harry Acourt won the 1921 title in Toronto (Scottish FC), the King brothers won the 1924 and 1926 titles in Winnipeg (United Weston FC), Somers won the 1932 title in Toronto, and Turner won the 1936 title in Vancouver (for Westminster Royals).
In 1929, the Challenge Trophy was actually presented by an agent of club sponsor Canadian National Railways to Montréal CNR head coach Humphrey Payne. The coach Payne then presented the trophy to captain Peter Keir. Years later, Keir was player-manager when Montréal Aldred Building won the 1935 title, but that year Winnipeg Mayor John Queen presented the Challenge Trophy to captain Bob Campbell.
In 1938, Canada Soccer general secretary Sam Davidson presented the Challenge Trophy to North Shore United FC captain Bob Harrison. Like Keir before him, Harrison won another Championship years later as manager of a winning team, North Shore United FC in 1949. Again like Keir, Harrison let his captain Tommy Cummings accept the Challenge Trophy, presented by then president Otis Todd.
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.