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The dedication of the Stanley Cup in 1893 as the symbol of world hockey supremacy led to the establishment of a competition to determine the best team in the sport. Winnipeg Victorias issued a challenge to the reigning champion Montreal Victorias and on February 14, 1896, the two teams met in Montreal in the first truly national championship match.
Over 2,000 spectators watched as Winnipeg gained the early advantage on a goal by team captain Jack Armytage and the Montrealers were shocked when C.J. Campbell gave the visitors a 2-0 lead prior to the end of the first half. In the second half, the Winnipeggers played a more defensive game and faced growing pressure from the Montreal squad. An exceptional effort by goaltender George “Whitey” Merritt, who was the first backstop to wear leg protection in the form of cricket pads, led the Winnipeg team to a stunning 2-0 triumph and brought the trophy westward for the first time.
Winnipeggers, who received the first ever play-by-play accounts via CPR Telegraph, were elated by the victory and celebrations lasted until the team’s return on February 24. Following a parade on Main Street, thousands of citizens greeted the team in a mass display of civic pride.
George Merritt (goal), Rod Flett (point), Fred Higginbotham (coverpoint), Charles Johnston (coverpoint), Dan Bain (center), Jack Armytage (forward- Captain), Colin "Tote" Campbell (forward), Attie Howard (forward)