I recently managed to find another excuse to visit the Yukon. I did events to promote Bad Singer in Whitehorse and Dawson City, saw friends and enjoyed the scenery, the skies and the light, but the main reason for my trip was research.
I want to write a historical non-fiction book about Dawson City’s 1905 Stanley Cup challenge. In those days, before the NHL, the Stanley Cup signalled amateur supremacy in Canada. And once a team won the Cup, it had to defend the title. So an all-star team from Dawson City issued a challenge to the Ottawa Hockey Club. Often known as the Silver Seven, the Ottawas hockey’s first dynasty and featured “One-Eyed” Frank McGee, the sport’s first superstar.
The problem was, the Dawson team had to get from the far northwestern corner of the country to the nation’s capital, a distance of more than 7,000 kilometres. Just to reach Vancouver and the transcontinental train required travelling by foot, bicycle, train and steamer. The players thought the whole trip would take them eighteen days, giving them a week to practice in Ottawa before the best two-out-of-three series began. But just about everything that could go wrong did and they arrived forty-eight hours before the first game.
There’s so much I love about this story, including the sheer audaciousness of the journey, of course, and that it takes place just when Canadians are falling in love with hockey. I certainly have research challenges ahead — no journals or letters from the players survived (if they ever existed) — so I don’t know how this will all turn out. But, for the moment, I’m not letting that stop me.
More info about the project in this interview with CBC Radio host Dave White .