The 61st Overseas Battalion, 1916 Allan Cup Champions


61stOverseas Bat hochey team allan cup champions

Submitted by

The Manitoba Agricultural Museum

The Manitoba Agricultural Museum digitally copied a number of photographs from the collection of Mr. W. Wilson of Gladstone. In these photographs was this postcard of the 1916 Allan Cup Champions, the 61st Overseas Battalion. 

The 61st Overseas Battalion was raised in Winnipeg in 1915. While gathering more recruits and training, the unit put together a hockey team and began to play in the Winnipeg Patriotic League in the fall of 1915. The team progressed to the finals of this league and managed to defeat the opposing team, the Winnipeg Monarchs. The Monarchs were the 1915 Allan Cup Champions. The 61st then faced challenges from other teams for possession of the 1916 Allan Cup and defeated in succession the Winnipeg Victorias, Fort William and the Regina Victorias. As no more challengers stepped forward to face the 61st , the 61st was declared as the winner of the 1916 Allan Cup in the spring of 1916. 

 Apparently the movement of the battalion to Europe was delayed so as to allow the team to participate in the Championship.  The 61st  was transported  to Britain in the spring of 1916. Once there  the unit was broken up and the soldiers in the battalion redistributed to Canadian army units in France as replacements. This was a common occurrence and many battalions raised on the Prairies and the rest of Canada were broken up once they arrived in Britain and the soldiers sent on to other units. While the breaking up of units was hard on the morale as soldiers suddenly lost the companionship of men they had trained with and perhaps enlisted with, the leadership felt it was better that veteran units were kept up to strength as these units had actual experience on the battlefield and could better pass on this experience to new re-enforcements.

Four members of the 61st hockey team went on to play in the National Hockey League: John ‘Crutchy’ Morrison, Emery ‘Spunk’ Sparrow, Hal Winkler and  ‘Bullet Joe’ Simpson. Bullet Joe played six years for the New York Americans, won a Stanley Cup with the Americans and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Bullet Joe was wounded twice while on the Western Front serving with the 43 Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF).

Two members of the hockey team died in action in France. Lieutenant William Alexander Simpson was killed in action at Hill 70 on August 15, 1917 while with the 8th Battalion CEF. Private David Morrison was killed in action at Passchendaele on November 6, 1917 while serving with the 31st Battalion CEF. The bodies of neither men were recovered and the men have no known grave. Lieutenant Simpson is listed on the Canadian Memorial at Vimy Ridge. Private Morrison is listed on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres. 

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