This Day in History: BC women’s hockey team get its due a century later

The Vancouver Amazons were one of the pioneering women’s hockey teams in Canada.

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The Vancouver Amazons probably hadn’t played much hockey by February 1918. But the girls’ team from King George High School in the West End had nerve — they issued a challenge to Vancouver’s “senior puck chasers,” the Vancouver Ladies Hockey team.

The challenge, according to The Vancouver Sun, was to “come and get defeated at hockey by the Amazon Girls’ club.”

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Vancouver Ladies’ hockey team, December 1916 or Jan. 1917. Stuart Thomson Vancouver Archives AM1535-: CVA 99-336 Photo by Stuart Thomson /sun

The Vancouver Ladies team obliged, and defeated the Amazons 1-0 at the Denman Arena. But it wasn’t easy.

A Sun reporter wrote the Amazons had played “honest-to-goodness, heartbreaking, aye, bloodcurdling hockey,” tearing after the puck “like a cyclone” and taking “ice chops” at their opponent’s “shin or leg or knee” when the occasion arose.

The Amazons would not be denied, winning two rematches and declaring themselves the “1918 Champions of British Columbia.”

A team photo in the Vancouver Archives shows seven players who look like they’re 16 or 17 years old, in some cases even younger. Most of them played together for several years, and they became the top B.C. women’s hockey team of their era.

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Vancouver Amazons in action vs. the Calgary Byngs at the Banff Winter Carnival on Feb. 1, 1922. Somebody had written “Nannie” beside a player carrying the puck, who is probably Nan Griffith. This print has been darkened in photoshop. Photo by Courtesy BC Sports Hall of Fame.

The peak of their success came in 1922, when they travelled to the Banff Winter Carnival to battle for the Alpine Cup, which was billed as the championship of women’s hockey in Western Canada.

Fast and skilled, the Amazons became crowd favourites, even against homegrown Alberta opponents. But they suffered a big blow when their captain, Phoebe Senkler, was injured and sidelined for the championship game on Feb. 4, 1922, against the defending champions, the Calgary Regents.

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The Province reported the Regents scored on a deflection in the first period and “rained” shots on Amazons goalie Amelia Voitevic, but she withstood the onslaught with her “eagle eye.”

Amazons left winger Kathleen Carson tied the game in the third period with a dash up the ice that ended with “a neatly placed shot.” In overtime, Carson “repeated her spectacular play” and scored the winning goal.

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Vancouver Amazons Hockey Team, 1921-22. Photograph shows head and shoulders portrait of Betty Hinds, F. Johnson, Guy Patrick, P. Senkler, A. Voitkevic, L. Cannon, K. Carson, N. Griffith, N. Senkler, M. Leahy and the Alpine Club Cup. Vancouver Archives AM54-S4-: Sp P108 sun

One hundred and two years later, the 1921-22 Amazons team was enshrined this week in the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame.

“With women’s hockey really exploding, the timing of it is just perfect,” said Jason Beck, curator of the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame. “One hundred years ago there was a thriving women’s team and league in B.C. and Western Canada.”

The Amazons’ story could have been scripted by Hollywood. The team members were captivated by hockey and the Vancouver Millionaires, which had won Vancouver’s only Stanley Cup in 1915. So they started skating and practising at the Denman Arena, which was only a few blocks away from their high school in the West End.

There weren’t a lot of women’s teams to play, so the Amazons travelled to Banff to compete for the Alpine Cup. But it was a far cry from the Denman Arena. In Vancouver they played indoors, on artificial ice. In Banff they played outdoors on the Bow River.

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“The one year (they won) it was minus 30 degrees,” marvels Beck. “To go from the comfort of Denman Arena to minus 30 degrees on an outdoor rink on the Bow River is pretty extreme.”

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Pioneer Vancouver women’s hockey great Thelma Insley Kaye, who was added to the Vancouver Amazons roster for their appearance at the Banff Winter Carnival in 1922 and 1923. Here she appears in her Vancouver Ladies hockey team uniform. This photo was recently discovered by her family, and several of her descendants attended the induction ceremony of the 1921-22 Amazons team into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame May 16, 2024. Courtesy the Kaye family. sun

It was so cold in early February 1922 that the following year organizers pushed the Banff Winter Carnival back a few weeks. But they had the opposite problem in late February 1923 — there was a warm spell, and the ice melted and was slushy.

The Amazons wound up losing to the Fernie Swasticas 2-0 in 1923, partly because Fernie assigned two players to shadow the Amazons’ star scorer, who was called Mrs. Guy Patrick in the write-ups. The year before, she had been Kathleen Carson — whenever women players of the time were married, they were identified by their husband’s name.

Guy Patrick was the manager of the 1921-22 Amazons, and a member of the family that owned the Millionaires and the Denman Area. In 1921, he organized a three city women’s championship in with Seattle and Victoria, which the Amazons won.

The Amazons are also believed to have played the first international women’s ice hockey game against the University of Washington on March 8, 1920, between periods at a Millionaires game at Denman Arena.

The Amazons are the second women’s hockey team to be inducted into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame, following a Rossland Ladies team, which won four B.C. championships between their founding in 1900 and their demise in 1918.

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The Amazon’s Hockey Team 1918 Champions of British Columbia. Gibsons Studio Vancouver Archives AM54-S4-: Sp P107 sun
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Photo montage of the Vancouver Amazons in the Feb. 3, 1923 Vancouver Province. Several players from the 1921-22 team had left, replaced by players like Thelma Kaye (top left), who had competed in 1922 as Thelma Insley — she had got married in between tournaments. sun

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