Still from "Champion City" (Farpoint Films)
Winnipeg was the pioneer frontier -- guess there was an inferiority complex back then -- so this was really an important game because it was Montreal, the civilized East, and Winnipeg had to show them that they could play hockey as well.
—Andrew Wall, Writer/director of "Champion City"
It was a glorious day when the Winnipeg Victorias wrenched Lord
Stanley's silverware out of Montreal's hands.
When the hockey puck dropped on February 14, 1896, no one was able to capture the historical game on film. But Winnipeg's Farpoint Films is set to help us relive that moment, with a new documentary.
The film, aptly named Champion City, was written and directed by Andrew Wall. SCENE's Mike Green caught up with Wall to find out why this game-changing moment inspired him to make this documentary.
Where did the idea come from to tell this story?
The real inspiration was as a kid growing up in the old arena, or the old barn. There were those old banners -- the Winnipeg Victorias Stanley Cup Champion banners -- I think everyone knows a bit about that, they know at some point in time 100 years ago Winnipeg won a Stanley Cup. But I think the story, the heart of it, was really forgotten.
So, one day I was researching another documentary and I stumbled across some of the older papers on the Winnipeg Victorias and I thought maybe I should take a closer look at the story. It was fantastic to discover what really went on in this game in 1896.
The Cup didn't have the notoriety it does today. In fact it was just sitting in a Montreal club house and the Winnipeg Victorias decided to challenge Montreal for it.
So how did this particular game change how the Stanley Cup was viewed?
It was the first successful challenge and it was the first challenge outside of Montreal. It had essentially been looked at as sort of a Montreal cup.
The Montreal Hockey team that had possession of it really didn't put that much value on it, until, of course, Winnipeg took it from them. When you loose something it tends to have more value so when a team from the "Wild and Woolly West" in Winnipeg, came and took that cup away, it had value. So this is the story that I tell.
[When Winnipeg's team won] Every team in Canada suddenly of woke up and said, "hey there is a cup we can challenge for." And, as Phil Pritchard from the Hockey Hall of Fame mentions, this really began to make the game into a national game. It went from isolated leagues to a fight for the Stanley Cup making people think on a much grander scale.
How did your research guide the story?
I tried to keep it really simple. I didn't try to run away with the characters and the re-enactments or anything. I tried to stay within the information we had from the papers. A lot of the newspapers were actually quite humorous, while the style which they were written is kind of like a poetic play-by-play report. They always referred to Winnipeg as the "Wild Wooly West" and they had some really grandiose statements and ways of communicating what was going on in this game.
It wasn't just a game, this was important because Winnipeg was the pioneer frontier -- guess there was an inferiority complex back then -- so this was really an important game because it was Montreal, the civilized East, and Winnipeg had to show them that they could play hockey as well.
What were some of the obstacles in making this film?
Getting props. The size of the sticks we couldn't be accurate with because all the guys now are so much bigger than they were back then. If you compare the weights and heights it was almost impossible to be realistic in that regard. Players were a lot thinner then and much shorter. We had to build the sticks and the Stanley Cup while we made the jerseys from scratch.
Even for period skates, we could find them, but none of our guys could fit them. So we used a lot of blurs to cover that up.
This interview has been condensed and edited by CBC
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The film premiere of Champion City takes place at the Tom Hendry Theatre, on Monday, February 13 starting at 7 p.m.. It's a charitable event with the proceeds going directly to the True North Foundation. At the premiere there will be an auction of hockey memorabilia along with items on display from the Winnipeg Victorias' 1896 team. Attendees will also have the chance to meet Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff.
It is almost a sell out so contact firstname.lastname@example.org right now if you want to be there.
Starting February 14 you can catch Champion City on MTS Winnipeg on Demand.