During the early 1930s, many of us boys looked forward to the time when Johnson’s Lake (1 ½ miles east of Elk Point) would freeze over so we could get in some early skating. The outdoor rink in Elk Point was never flooded until the first part of December, and we used this lake until our ice was ready. We usually prepared an area about the size of a skating rink, where we spent countless hours skating and practising hockey. During the 1930s, hockey equipment and skates were hard to come by. We were into the depression years and very few of us had money to spend on equipment and sticks. I recall when two of us uprooted a dry willow tree and somehow shaped it into a crude hockey stick. When no puck was available, we used a frozen horse bun.
Equipment during the 1930s in no way resembled that used today. In those days players didn’t wear helmets, and the knee pads were lightly reinforced with bamboo strips. The entire cost of all your equipment, including skates, did not exceed $20. Uniforms, which consisted of a hockey sweater and a pair of stockings, were ordered from the mail order catalogue. You had a choice between the Toronto Maple Leaf uniform or the red Montreal Canadien design.
Scanning through a 1924-25 Eaton’s catalogue, the following equipment was listed and priced. A pair of men’s skates was sold for $5.95 (boy’s skates were listed at $2.95), knee pads were sold for $1.25 and shoulder pads were priced at $1.95. Sweater and matching stockings were listed at $5.95. Men’s hockey sticks cost $1.00, children’s sticks were priced at 50 cents. A goalkeeper had to pay $4.50 for his pads and an additional $1.50 for his stick. Goalkeeper’s masks were unheard of at that time.
One of the first hockey games I recall seeing in Elk Point was during the winter of 1926. It was played on an outdoor rink which was located near where George Jacobson lived. Some of the players who I recall played on the Elk Point team were Dr. F.G. Miller, George Bartling, Russell Milholland, August Bartling and Lloyd Lambright. Elk Point’s opponents that day were from Mooswa (now Lindbergh). During the middle 1930s, Dr. F.G. Miller got a number of us boys interested in hockey and a Juvenile team was formed. This team remained intact for seven years with very few player changes. Dr. Miller not only managed this team, he was also the coach and provider of all our operational costs. All our games were played on an outdoor rink situated where the Elks’ parking lot is located (SW corner of 50 Ave and 51 St). The caretaker of this outdoor rink for many years was William Soldan. The rink was exposed to all the elements. Every time it snowed it had to be cleared off. Flooding it was always a problem, especially during extremely cold weather conditions, when large cracks would appear causing many a dirty spill when your skate came in contact with a bad piece of ice.
During the 1930's every boy’s favourite team was the Toronto Maple Leafs. Seldom did they miss Foster Hewitt’s Saturday night radio broadcast. For some unknown reason, most of us had no love for the Montreal Canadiens or the rugged Boston Bruins. During this early period most of the hockey players played for the love of the game. There were no hockey scouts at that time making their rounds throughout the country looking for players who had professional talent. Most of the good players were developed in larger centres where the players were able to get good coaching.
Today every young boy dreams of becoming a Wayne Gretzky, a Mario Lemieux or an Eric Lindros. These boys no doubt also dream of the fabulous salaries which in many cases exceed well over a million dollars. Many of us who follow professional hockey feel that the game as it is played in the NHL today has developed into a game of greed. These players are now represented by lawyers who go all out for the top dollar. It seems that no matter how much these players make, they seem to think they are still being underpaid. (Their average salary exceeds $400,000.)
It is hard to believe that during the 1934-35 NHL hockey season the highest- priced player received $5,000. His name was Charlie Conacher, who played with the famous Toronto Maple Leaf “kid line”. His team mates were Harvey “Busher” Jackson and Joe Primeau. At that time there were only six teams playing in the NHL. Today there are 28.