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Victor Victorias: Film examines Winnipeg's first Stanley Cup triumph

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If only the Winnipeg Jets could channel their inner Victorias then we could put all this talk of making the playoffs to rest.

Back in 1896, the Winnipeg Victorias became the first and only team from the Manitoba capital to win the Stanley Cup with a 2-0 victory over the Montreal Victorias in a one-game challenge. (They later won it twice more, in 1901 and 1902.)

Monday is the day before the 116th anniversary of the historic win, the same day a short film on the team entitled Champion City will première at the Tom Hendry Theatre at the MTC Warehouse. Andrew Wall, writer/director of the 24-minute film, which was shot by Farpoint Films last spring, said the victory by the locals had far-reaching effects across the sport.

First, it created the notion hockey was indeed a national game and not one played just in certain pockets of the country. Second, it produced instant demand for the Stanley Cup.

"The Stanley Cup really wasn't viewed as a big trophy that was worth winning until a team from the wild and woolly West walked in and won it," Wall said.

"For the Winnipeggers to come in and take it, it suddenly had relevance. Then other teams throughout the country started looking at it and submitting challenges for it."

In fact, Wall said the defeated Montreal squad wanted to take the same train back to Winnipeg as the victors for an immediate re-challenge but were refused.

Captain Jack Armytage scored the winning goal in a game most hockey fans wouldn't recognize today. For example, forward passes were not allowed and teams iced the same seven players -- one was a "rover" -- for the entire 60 minutes. The Winnipeg goaltender, George "Whitey" Merritt, wore cricket pads while in net and was the first to be recognized for adopting the innovative equipment on a major stage.

The other first to result from the game was the inaugural Stanley Cup parade, which made its way down Main Street a few days after the Victorias' victory.

Onalee Ames, producer of Champion City said Winnipeg's rich hockey history is often forgotten. (The screenplay was based mainly on newspaper stories and telegraph reports in newspapers.)

"We need to ride on some of those coattails sometimes. We made a difference in hockey in 1896 and we made one in 2011," she said, noting finding equipment from more than a century ago proved to be a challenge.

The première will also feature some modern-day hockey flavour. Jets co-owner Mark Chipman will speak on behalf of the Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation, which will receive all the proceeds from Champion City, and general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff will do a meet-and-greet with the filmgoers.

Memorabilia from former Winnipeg Jets captain Dale Hawerchuk and current captain of the Chicago Blackhawks, Jonathan Toews, as well as Winnipeg Jets tickets, will be up for auction.

Champion City will be available on MTS TV On Demand starting Feb. 14.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 11, 2012 B1

History

Updated on Saturday, February 11, 2012 at 3:12 PM CST: adds fact box

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