SIHR’s Behind the Boards

The Citizen Shield: The Battle Prize of the Ottawa Valley

SIHR’s Behind the Boards

The Citizen Shield: The Battle Prize of the Ottawa Valley

Oskar Tallqvist
Posted April 16, 2021

Viewed 746 times

Organized senior amateur league hockey in the Ottawa Valley, around the Ottawa River, had taken form already around the immediate turn of the twentieth century, in the form of the Ottawa Valley Hockey League (OVHL) – starting in 1898–99 – and the Lower Ottawa Hockey Association (LOHA), starting out in 1901–02. But for the 1902–03 season the two leagues would get a joint challenge prize to play for in form of the Citizen Shield. The Citizen Shield was launched and donated by the local Ottawa Citizen newspaper, and the two champions from each valley league would meet each other in Ottawa at the end of each season to decide a joint valley champion.

The Ottawa Valley Hockey League also became known as the Upper Ottawa Valley Hockey League (UOVHL) around 1902–03 – in contrast to its lower valley counterpart – playing in the eastern parts of Ontario centered around the towns of Renfrew, Pembroke, Arnprior and Almonte.

The LOHA – also known as the Lower Ottawa Valley Hockey League (LOVHL) – in turn operated in the lower Ottawa River valley region, between Ottawa and Montreal. From Ontario came teams from Hawkesbury, Vankleek Hill and Rockland, and from Quebec the league drew aggregations from Buckingham and Lachute. The teams from the LOHA also competed annually for their own trophy, the MacLaren Cup, donated to the league by Albert MacLaren, a pioneer ice hockey player in the city of Buckingham, Quebec and a son of notable local lumber businessman James MacLaren.[1]

The first Citizen Shield was claimed on March 4, 1903 by the Vankleek Hill Hockey Club of the LOHA after they had defeated the Renfrew Hockey Club of the UOVHL 5 goals to 2 at Dey’s Arena in Ottawa. Vankleek Hill’s fast and tricky rover Eddie Sherman had a big game for the winning side, scoring four times on Renfrew goalkeeper William Egan, and on defense captain Ollie Mooney was a tower of strength for Vankleek Hill.[2]

 Vankleek Hill Hockey Club
Vankleek Hill Hockey Club

Next season, in 1903–04, the UOVHL instead managed to come out victorious in the quest for the Citizen Shield, as the Arnprior Hockey Club succeeded in defeating the Lachute Hockey Club of the LOHA 2 goals to 1 on March 15, 1904 in front of 3,500 spectators at the Aberdeen Pavilion in Ottawa. Arnprior rover Prosper Dontigny scored the game winning goal, and the other Arnprior tally was made by 20-year old centre forward Harry Smith. The 1903–04 season was Harry Smith’s first senior amateur experience in a career that would eventually see him with both the Ottawa Senators and the Montreal Wanderers.[3]

After the March 15, 1904 game Arnprior captain Melford Milne praised the Citizen Shield initiative and claimed that it had greatly improved the sport along the Ottawa River:

“The game showed that there’s been a great improvement in the article of hockey in the towns along the Ottawa [River] since last season. The [Ottawa] Citizen is primarily responsible for bringing about this improvement.”[3]

–      Arnprior H/C captain Melford Milne on March 15, 1904

 Arnprior Hockey Club

Harry Smith left Arnprior after the 1903–04 season for the Smiths Falls Hockey Club in the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA), but the speedy Arnprior boys still managed to repeat as Citizen Shield holders in 1904–05 after having defeated the Hawkesbury Hockey Club septet 5 goals to 3 on March 15, 1905 at Dey’s Arena in a hard fought battle, with Reddy McMillan scoring twice for the winning side.[4]

Quite a number of renowned players would go through the quest for the Citizen Shield throughout the first two decades of its existence, before embarking on highly successful professional careers in either the National Hockey Association (NHA) or the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA). One such player was future Hockey Hall of Fame goalkeeper Hugh Lehman, aged 20, who backstopped the 1905–06 Pembroke Hockey Club to the Citizen Shield. Lehman recorded a shutout and Pembroke cruised to a 5-0 victory in the Citizen Shield final against Hawkesbury on March 9, 1906.[5]

Between 1907 and 1909 the Renfrew Hockey Club won three consecutive Citizen Shield, twice being backstopped by future NHA, PCHA and NHL goalkeeper Bert Lindsay, and supported offensively by future professionals Bobby Rowe and Steve Vair. In 1907 Renfrew defeated Vankleek Hill in the final by a score of 9 goals to 3, in 1908 the Buckingham Hockey Club septet refused to play Renfrew in the final as they perceived them as a professional club, and in 1909 Renfrew defeated Hawkesbury 14 goals to 12 before also knocking off Kazabazua from the Gatineau Valley Hockey League 7 goals to 1.

Renfrew winning the Citizen Shield for a third consecutive year in 1909 made them permanent holders of the prize, which forced the Ottawa Citizen newspaper to work on a new plaque to donate.[6]

The original and replacement Citizen Shield
The original and replacement Citizen Shield

For the 1907–08 season the Ottawa New Edinburghs of the Ottawa City Hockey League also became briefly engaged in the quest for the Citizen Shield, but the team was defeated by Renfrew in the district semi-finals by an aggregated score of 24 goals to 9 (7-5, 17-4). The New Edinburgh team held a 4-1 lead after the first period in the first meeting between the two clubs, but Renfrew turned the tables in the second period, and in the second game two key injuries to the New Edinburghs – on Bob Harrison and Morley Neate – prevented them from putting up an adequate enough fight.[7][8]

In 1910 the Hawkesbury Hockey Club septet could finally claim the Citizen Shield, in absence of an actual physical prize, after having defeated Arnprior 5 goals to 1 on March 24, propelled to victory by four goals from their star forward Edmund “Harry” McLaughlin.[9] Hawkesbury had previously lost in the 1905 and 1906 finals, and in the semifinals in 1909 to the eventual champions from Renfrew. It also marked the first time since 1903 where a team from the LOHA had won the Citizen Shield.

In 1911 the Pembroke Hockey Club was back with a winning formula again, after four fruitless years of chasing the Citizen Shield. And again the team had the honor of showcasing future Hockey Hall of Fame talent, this time in 21-year old defenseman Harry Cameron and 18-year old forward Frank Nighbor. In an exciting and high-scoring contest at the Ottawa Arena on Laurier Avenue on March 1, 1911 the Pembroke lads managed to pull off a 10-8 victory against the Vankleek Hill septet. Cameron and Nighbor each had two goals in the game, and Lindsay Fluker scored a hat-trick for the Pembroke side en route to claiming the newly donated version of the Citizen Shield.[10]

 Pembroke Hockey Club
1910-11 Pembroke HC with Harry Cameron on the far left, Frank Nighbor on the far right

From the 1907–08 season and onwards the LOHA had seen some new additions to their league in form of the Hull Athlétiques, Hull Excelsiors and Alexandria Hockey Club. The Hull Athlétiques saw a brief performance during the 1909–10 season from a 17-year old Harry “Punch” Broadbent, and two other players with bright futures in hockey who would pass through the league between 1915 and 1916 were Cy Denneny (with the Russell Athletics) and Georges “Buck” Boucher (with the Ottawa Royal Canadiens).

Rockland Hockey Club won the Citizen Shield in 1912 with an exclusively French Canadian roster, after having defeated Pembroke 3 goals to 2 in a dramatic overtime decision, which set off a five-year reign with Citizen Shield champions from the LOHA. During the 1912–13 and 1913–14 seasons the UOVHL appeared as the Northern Division of the Interprovincial Amateur Hockey Union (IPAHU), and as a consequence they didn’t send its champion team to challenge the LOHA for the Citizen Shield, but the league was right back in the fray for the 1914–15 campaign.

 Rockland Hockey Club
Rockland Hockey Club

The strongest competitor for the prize during the 1912–1916 window would be the Buckingham Hockey Club. Buckingham claimed the Citizen Shield in 1913, 1915 and 1916, only interrupted by the Hull Athlétiques in 1914. Two key players on the victorious Buckingham teams were defenseman Ed Gorman and forward Billy Cameron, who would both enjoy brief NHL careers in the 1920s. Defenseman Emile Brisebois and the two McCormick brothers, Larry and Joe, were other notable players on the Buckingham teams.

At the end of the 1916–17 season Hawkesbury from the LOHA and Renfrew from the UOVHL couldn’t agree on a playoff arrangement for the Citizen Shield. Hawkesbury wanted a single game format in Ottawa whereas Renfrew preferred a home and home series, and the final between the two teams was subsequently cancelled.[11] And in the following war years of 1918 and 1919 the Citizen Shield was not competed for at all due to general league inactivity.

But in 1920 the quest for the Citizen Shield was on again with Aylmer Hockey Club of the LOHA claiming the prize. Competition for the coveted ice hockey plaque would then continue to go on between Ottawa Valley teams up until the 1950s, either in senior amateur or intermediate levels of competition.



[1] Ottawa Citizen, May 23, 2017

[2] Ottawa Citizen, Mar. 5, 1903

[3] Ottawa Citizen, Mar. 16, 1904

[4] Ottawa Citizen, Mar. 16, 1905

[5] Ottawa Citizen, Mar. 10, 1906

[6] Ottawa Citizen, Feb. 21, 1911

[7] Ottawa Citizen, Mar. 13, 1908

[8] Ottawa Citizen, Mar. 17, 1908

[9] Ottawa Citizen, Mar. 26 1910

[10] Ottawa Citizen, Mar. 2, 1911

[11] Ottawa Citizen, Mar. 14, 1917

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