To mark the launch of Historica Canada’s Heritage Minute about the Winnipeg Falcons, this exhibit collects photographs, news-clippings and other memorabilia related to the historic squad.
The Winnipeg Falcons team was mainly composed of players of Icelandic heritage. In the late 19th century, Icelandic hockey players in Winnipeg had not been allowed to join the city leagues due to prejudice against immigrants. They therefore formed two teams, which merged circa 1910 to become the Winnipeg Falcons. The Falcons then joined with a number of other teams to form an independent league. The team won the independent league’s title in 1915 and achieved one of its long-sought goals when it was then admitted to the B section of the Winnipeg Senior League.
However, the First World War intervened, with many of the Falcons volunteering for service abroad. Two players — Frank “Buster” Thorsteinson and George Cumbers — would not return.
Following the war, the team reassembled and joined one of the divisions of the Winnipeg Senior League for the 1919–20 season. They emerged as Manitoba League champions, and soon after won the Western Hockey championship. Following an unexpected victory against the University of Toronto team, they earned not only the Allan Cup but also the honour of representing Canada at the first Olympic hockey tournament — held in 1920 in Antwerp, Belgium.
The Falcons were heavy favourites to win the tournament. They did not disappoint the crowds. Their gold medal victory was praised in newspapers across the country and loudly applauded in the House of Commons. The players were met by cheering crowds upon their return, particularly in Winnipeg, where the city staged a banquet and a mile-long parade.
Legends of Hockey
The Falcons have not always been recognized as the first Olympic gold medallists in hockey — that honour has sometimes fallen to the Toronto Granites, who won the second gold medal in Olympic hockey at the first Olympic Winter Games in 1924. However, the Winnipeg Falcons’ rightful place in Canadian (and international) hockey history is now recognized by organizations such as Hockey Canada, the Hockey Hall of Fame, and Historica Canada.