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HERDER MEMORIAL TROPHY
A wide range of inter-community hockey was played within Newfoundland and Labrador from the start of the 20th century. Teams travelled short and long distances to engage other teams in competition in a haphazardly manner with a wide range of awards and trophies in contention.
There were some early hockey exchanges between Newfoundland and Canadian Maritime teams but it wasn’t until 1935 that official Islandwide, later provincial, senior hockey championship play came into being.
The Herder Memorial Trophy is the most prestigious athletic award in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador.
It has outlasted and outshined every other trophy and award ever placed in competition since it was first won by Corner Brook in 1935.
Originally donated by the Herder Family, publishers of The Evening Telegram, in memory of five brothers, it now honors the memory of seven Herders. The “original five” Herders were Arthur, William, Douglas, Augustus and Hubert and they were joined by Ralph and James.
All seven were fine hockey players and often played together, with four of them sometimes playing together on championship teams. In fact, James Herder coached the 1935 Guards team that lost the initial Herder championship to Corner Brook in a two-game, total-goal series at the Prince’s Rink in St. John’s.
With the Prince’s Rink in St. John’s destroyed by fire November 28, 1941. It would have been virtually impossible to have played the provincial final in St. John’s and as a result, it was in Corner Brook that Bell Island defeated Corner Brook for the 1941 Herder title.
The original base of the Trophy consisted of two tiers but as they were filled out with shields bearing the names and years of championship teams, two larger tiers were added to bring the award to its present size and shape.
St. Bon’s star Edward “Key” Kennedy was the model for the hockey player that stands atop the Trophy. Donor Ralph Herder took a photo of Kennedy, in playing pose, to New York where he had a model made and then had the figure cast in silver.
Leading up to the first All-Newfoundland championships and the first Herder Memorial Trophy series, the first Avalon Peninsula Championships were played in St. John’s March 7 and 8, 1934. St. John’s Mayor Andrew Carnell donated medals for the two-game, total-goal series that was won 7-5 by the Conception Bay All-stars.
Conception Bay won the first game 4-2 and the second game ended in a 3-3 tie, after ten minutes of overtime. Herb Coultas was referee for the games.Members of the winning Conception Bay All-stars included Bill Comerford, Lo Pike and W. Moriarty of Harbour Grace, Jim Norman, Reub Snow, William Russell and Bill Norman of Bay Roberts, J. Kearsey of Carbonear, Alan Wilcox and Bill Trerise of Brigus and Tom Kent, Phonse "Tiger"Hawco and Ned Penney of Bell Island.
The St. John’s All-stars included Bill Quick, Bert McNamara, Frank “Busty” Moore, Hector Meadus, Max Whelan, Harry Drover, Bernard Maher, Ed Brophy, Des White, Mike Monohan, Abbott, Brian White, Len Walsh, and Jim Edstrom.
The series is regarded as providing the start of activity to hold the 1935 All-Newfoundland championship and the first action to establish a governing body for hockey in Newfoundland.
The initial Herder Memorial Trophy championships were in fact held during March of 1935 and the Newfoundland Amateur Hockey Association was officially formed December 19, 1935.
From 1935 to 1962, the provincial champions and Herder Memorial Trophy winners were decided by a system that had east and west playoff series that finally sent two teams into the finals. This system, originally a total-goal setup but then best of three, five or seven games, allowed successful local leagues to operate with late season all-star teams advancing into the area competition that set up provincial play.
St. John’s, Bell Island and Conception Bay made up the east playoff structure while Corner Brook, Grand Falls, Gander and Buchans would play down in the west. Of the six communities, Buchans had the smallest population and was therefore at a disadvantage in the inter-town competition.
From the very start, employment was a factor in players moving from one team to another and several established players moved from one community to another. For the most part, this early movement was strictly within the province with Buchans and Bell Island offering employment to players to strengthen their teams.
Buchans started the importing of players from the Mainland in 1948 and when this proved successful other communities followed. The cost of these “imports” increased and teams found it necessary to generate more and more funds.
The need for more money was a major factor in the playoff structure changing slowly but surely from one of regional “series” to a full-season schedule. Again, slowly but surely, the demand for community all-stars to play 30 to 40 games provincial regular schedules killed the local league concept and decreased the playing opportunities for a large number of average players.
In 1954, in an effort to afford as many players as possible an opportunity to play at the provincial level, a senior “B” section was introduced with the Evening Telegram Trophy put in place for the winners. The “B” division lasted until 1959 when St. John’s defaulted the deciding game of the “B” finals to Grand Falls. After that the Evening Telegram was awarded to the team that was first after the regular schedule.
The result was the elimination of very intense community competition. Local leagues ceased to exist because they could not compete with the provincial league.
In addition to the “original” seven, Clarenville, Memorial University, Mount Pearl, Labrador City-Wabush and then Stephenville and Port aux Basques found their way, with varying degrees of success, into provincial senior hockey.
While this setup provided 30 years of excellent hockey for a wide range of fans, its cost would eventually become too high and the situation reached its predictable end in 1990 when the provincial senior league ceased to exist.
BACK TO SERIES
After having no Herder Memorial Trophy competition for the 1990 season, the Newfoundland Amateur Hockey Association reversed to a “series” system for 1991 and was able to declare a provincial senior champion.
Utilizing the stability of the St. John’s East League and the St. John’s West League, the NAHA introduced a playoff structure that involved these two leagues with the Central Newfoundland League. League champions advanced into a series of playoffs that were held after their regular schedules were completed.
Movement of players continues but the overall setup is not nearly as expensive as the importing of players and appears to leave the competition on a sound foundation.
The utilization of the original, affordable structure forced a change of the selection of individual award winners with local league statistics being used to select winners.
Local league statistics are also used to declare a winner of the Evening Telegram Trophy.
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