Sunday, Nov. 12, the North Peace Hockey League officially turned70!
It was Nov. 12, 1953 when a group of men met at the Victory Hotel in Peace River and decided to proceed with a new league. It was decided at the meeting that Fairview, Falher, McLennan and Peace River would comprise the league.
Details? A $50 entry fee was set along with a $200 performance bond. Teams agreed to play 18 games, two at home and away against the other three teams, plus a home and home versus the already operating South Peace Hockey League (Dawson Creek, Grande Prairie and Hythe).
Earlier on Nov. 1, Fairview informed the SPHL they were leaving for the new NPHL.
And an earlier meeting, on Oct. 25, it was agreed the league was almost a certainty. Lee J. Boyd, of Peace River, was elected president. T. Dentinger of Falher, was elected vice-president and W.B. Skead of Peace River secretary-treasurer. At the meeting, Falher announced they expected their new arena to be ready by Dec. 15.
But the first meeting was Oct. 14, again at the Victory Hotel, when plans for the new league were discussed.
The first games were Dec. 16 when the Fairview Monarchs defeated the visiting Peace River Stampeders 2-0 and the hometown McLennan Red Wings blanked the Falher Pirates 4-0.
South Peace News publishes Dec. 20. At that time, I will be releasing the Top 100 NPHL players of all-time. I have received input from many people in compiling this list including three who have recently passed away: Jack McAvoy, Tony Doll and Mo Provencal. It is amazing to realize how many terrific hockey players have played in this league. Stay tuned!
The NPHL has struggled through its history. I compare the NPHL to the CFL in being that little league that always could. Always fires to put out, long-time president McAvoy used to say.
The league has given many fans tremendous entertainment. There is nothing better to watch than an intense senior hockey game played by men for bragging rights. And when the local men won, the community burst with pride. High Prairie and Grimshaw have won the most league titles with 13, but Manning still bursts with pride in talking about its lone title, or Falher and Fairview with three each. McLennan also won three titles in the mid-1950s. Communities rally behind their teams.
Teams have come and gone, some returned over the years. It is bizarre that the NPHL now has seven teams but none in Fairview, Grimshaw, Peace River or High Prairie. Between them, they have won 43 of the league’s 67 titles. All that glorious history waiting to be revived and write another chapter.
What will the NPHL look like next year. In three years? One never knows. McAvoy used to worry year after year about the future of the league, but – somehow – it has survived.
I have worked for the NPHL for over 30 years but first and foremost I am a fan. Love the game, love the people. There was never a better time than in the mid- to late 1990s when the Regals and Lakeland Eagles both had strong teams. Too bad we won’t see that again. We never knew how good we had it.
For many, including myself, it’s been a blast!
by Chris Clegg