The East End, especially the Beach, is steeped in the history of all types of recreation activity. At this time of year we are geared to ice skating and hockey.
There is no doubt that hockey has kept Canada together, from British Columbia to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, from the Northwest Territories to southern Ontario. The sport has been and will be the glue that holds our country together. As the world knows, Canada is the greatest hockey country in the world, and Toronto is hockey’s capital, and the Beach is Toronto’s.
Hockey has been played in the Beach for 130 years, with skating first taking place on Alfresco Lawn just to the east of the current rink in Kew Gardens. Later came the Kenilworth Avenue Skating Rink, now known as Pantry Park.
I was in Kew Gardens one morning watching the old-timers (and some not-so-old) playing shinny hockey as they have been for years – the whiz of the blades against the ice, the ‘thud’ of bodies banging against the boards, the ‘whump’ of the puck hitting the goal post, seniors like Fred Panier from Fred’s Sporting Good on Kingston Road, trundling down the ice – this, I thought to myself, is what sport is all about: the love of the game.
I remember a couple of years ago at the same spot a Balmy Beach Club hockey team played a benefit game against a team from 55 Division in honour of the deceased Sgt. Ryan Russell – a great example of sportsmanship for a good cause.
The East End should get some credit for an attempt to build an artificial ice rink before the Mutual Street Arena, which housed our National Hockey League teams, first the St. Pats and later the Maple Leafs.
About 100 years ago, a syndicate of local businessmen, financiers, politicians and sportsmen came together to build a large skating rink for the East End. They formed a company and sold shares to build an artificial ice hockey and pleasure skating rink. The arena was to be about 200 by 100 feet. The site was near Kingston Road and Malvern Avenue – however, it was not to be.
In January of 1914 the Beaches Hockey League opened. The league had the honour of being the largest outdoor rink association in Ontario – at least as long as there was ice in Kew Gardens.
The hockey series began on or about Jan. 10, 1914, and ended on or about Feb. 10, depending on the weather. Teams came from across Toronto and the suburbs, and were divided into Senior, Intermediate, Junior and Juvenile divisions. Players were amateurs from churches, clubs, schools, factories and offices and included all interested in playing hockey.
In the Senior section, the teams were Grand Trunk R.R., Aura Lee, Don R.C.. and the Waverleys.
The Intermediate Western section consisted of the Beverleys, Broadview and Maitland. The Eastern Intermediate was made up of the Yorks, Coxwells and Eastern Stacs.
The Junior teams included two groups each in Western and Eastern sections. The Eastern Group A included the Coxwells, Waverleys, Woodbine and Beaches, while Group B was made up of St. Anne’s, Broadview, St. Joseph’s and the Presbyterians. The Western Group A featured the Diamonds, Dominion Express and Grand Trunk R.R., with Parkview, Riverdale and the Dunlops in Group B.
Group A in the Juvenile section included Woodbine, East Toronto, St. John’s and the Waverleys, while Group B was made up of the Coxwells, Broadview, Greenwood, St. Matthew’s, St. Simon’s, the Crescents, North Riverdale, Aura Lee and Riverdale.
Many young Beach amateurs went on to play on professional teams in Canada and the US. A few of our bigger stars include Hooley Smith, Nels Stewart and Ted Reeve, to name a few.
The spirit of the great sport of hockey has been kept alive in the Beach by young and old players like those found on the ice in Kew Gardens today.