Winnipeg Falcons Hockey Club
Following the wave of Icelandic immigration to Manitoba in the late 19th century, and drawing from the large community of Icelandic-Canadians in Winnipeg, the Falcons hockey club was formed in 1909 from a merger of the Icelandic Athletic Club and the Vikings, adopting the name of Iceland’s national bird. The Falcons’ skill, speed, and sportsmanship provided a focus for Icelandic-Canadian pride and identity in the years before and after the First World War. They won Canada’s amateur championship, the Allan Cup, in 1920, beating a strong University of Toronto squad, and represented Canada at the Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium the same year, winning the first Olympic gold medal in hockey.
The Falcons played their inaugural season in the intermediate Manitoba Independent League, alongside the Monarchs, the Winnipegs, Kenora, and Brandon. The Falcons and Monarchs finished tied for first that season, but when they both applied to enter the city senior league, only the Monarchs were accepted. The Falcons persevered in various formations of the Independent League, and were finally admitted to the senior league’s second tier after a particularly strong showing in the 1914/15 Allan Cup playoffs. By this time, however, the First World War was raging in Europe, and in 1916 the entire Falcons lineup enlisted. Most of them joined the 223rd Battalion, CEF. Six of the players saw active duty and two were killed.
After demobilization, the Falcons reassembled. They were again denied entry to Winnipeg’s senior league and ended up forming a new league with Selkirk and Brandon. The champions of the two leagues met in the provincial championship playoffs in 1920, and the Falcons proved their quality by defeating the Winnipegs 5-0 and 10-1. They beat the Fort William Maple Leafs 7-2 and 9-1 to win the Western Hockey Championship. Finally, the Falcons met the University of Toronto (‘Varsity’) in the Allan Cup final, and won the Canadian amateur championship over two hard-fought games, winning 8-3 and 3-2.
The Canadian Olympic Committee had already decided that the winner of the Allan Cup would represent Canada at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium. These were the summer games (the first Winter Olympics were not held until 1924), so the hockey competition had to be held early to take advantage of the natural ice. They won the gold medal, defeating Czechoslovakia 15-0, the United States 2-0, and Sweden 12-1 in the final. The Falcons returned home to wild applause in Parliament, in the media, and in the streets of their home town of Winnipeg. They had also attracted the attention of talent scouts, and three key players soon left to play professional hockey elsewhere.
The future still looked bright, as the Falcons’ junior team won the Memorial Cup, Canada’s junior hockey championship, in 1921. The senior team won the Manitoba Senior Championship again in 1923, but for the 1923/24 season, they amalgamated with the Winnipeg Tigers to form the Falcon-Tigers. The Falcon Athletic Association resumed activities in 1928 and the Falcons Hockey Club was revived in 1932, but finally merged with the Rangers in 1938.