by Gerry Foster
In The Life and Times of Grand Forks by Alice and Jim Glanville they write, “Hockey fever infected the locals in the winter months as shown by the 488 paid admissions to a hockey game between Grand Forks and Greenwood on Jan. 27, 1910. The 150 Greenwood supporters came to Grand Forks on a CPR special train.”
The Gazette reported in 1913, “Eight hundred attended a hockey game in Grand Forks, including 150 from Phoenix.”
A second account from the Glanville Centennial History refers to a game on Feb. 11, 1914 when over 1,000 fans attended the contest between Phoenix and Grand Forks.
Understandably the players on any team are the major focus but the faithful support of fans is a critical component to a team’s success. A third element that is necessary in achieving a winning formula is administration. From within a community gifted and committed persons must step forward to govern the operation of the club. This is as true today as it was a century ago.
The historic photo of the 1913-14 Grand Forks championship roster includes the executive who offered leadership and assistance. The president was N.L. McInnes, owner of several businesses in the community including selling McLaughlin cars.
One day, someone bet him $50 that his six-cylinder McLaughlin would not be able to make it to the top of Spencer Hill in high gear. This hockey president accepted the challenge and picked up an easy $50 which would be around $1,100 today! [From The Life and Times of Grand Forks by Alice and Jim Glanville]
The secretary of the team was T.A. (Tom) Love. In 1911 he moved down from Phoenix to become the editor of the Grand Forks Gazette.
Love became very active in civic affairs as well as the hockey team. He was elected mayor of Grand Forks 13 times, served as an MLA in the provincial government and was also the chair of the school board. Love submitted the winning entry in a 1921 contest to choose a motto for the Grand Forks valley. Now you know who named this place the Sunshine Valley!
Grand Forks Border Bruins
The purpose of this article was to look back at the early development of hockey in the Boundary Country which was also the dawning of hockey in British Columbia. What a cherished piece of our history!
However, another date needs to be highlighted in the overall history of hockey locally. On a hot summer day in 1969, representatives from Grand Forks and other communities met in Castlegar to formulate plans to establish a junior hockey league.
Five teams including the Grand Forks Border Bruins officially launched the West Kootenay Junior Hockey League, 1969-70 being the inaugural season. Spokane joined in 1972, and the name was changed to the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. The KIJHL, with 20 teams, is now the largest Junior B League west of Southern Ontario. Many also believe it is the best.
Grand Forks and the Boundary are known for many things. There is much to commemorate in our history, our land and our people. In this commentary I have made the claim that when it comes to the origin and establishment of organized and top calibre ice hockey in Canada’s westernmost province look no further than this place.