St. John's Senior Hockey League
Origin and inaugural season
The first hockey league in St. John's had its origins in the former St. John's Hockey Club (formed 1895) and the Newfoundland Hockey Association (NHA formed in the winter of 1897). NHA was arranging matches in 1897 & 1898. Commonly referred to as the "City league", it remained the Newfoundland Hockey Association until 1935 when hockey was organized on a provincial level prompting the NHA to officially changed its name to the St. John's Senior Hockey League (source: Stirling, Book of Nfld Vol. 2). In 1935 Newfoundland hockey was organized island-wide with the formation of the Newfoundland Amateur Hockey Association (NAHA).
During 1897-1898 there are documented association games between native Newfoundlanders and native Canadians, a bank team and a city team and a match between a team from the Fieldians Association and a team from the NHA.
[Montrealer Robert G. Reid Sr., in all likelihood, named the team of Reid railway employees after the defending Stanley Cup champion Montreal Victorias, who were named for the Victoria Skating Club. The St. John's Victorias are depicted as league champions for 1898-1901 in the 1901 James Vey photo but it's not known if the railway team were named the Victorias prior to the 1899]
With construction in progress for a new rink in St. John's in the fall of 1898, there was growing interest from clubs and athletic associations to form hockey teams in a new league.
A new association and league
The inaugural season
The following seven teams formed the league in the first season:
The first game in the new league took place at the Prince 's Rink on Wednesday February 1, 1899. It was not a match-up of two league teams but between a team of native Newfoundlanders and a team of Canadians.
First hockey match at the new rink
(Evening Telegram - Feb 2, 1899)
Each club played 6 games in the first season over a six-week period. The Victorias won all six matches, outscoring their opponents 34-5.
1899 Final Standings (Evening Telegram - Mar 21, 1899)
The championship match was played on Saturday March 11 between the Victorias and the Bankers. The Victorias were the first champions of the new league after defeating the Bankers 6-1. [it's not clear if this was the last regular season match of the year or a match between the top two teams in the regular season]
(Evening Telegram Mar 13, 1899)