Connaught Series: Nanaimo City win national titles in 1923 and 1927
Posted on 3 September 2017 in Around the Soccer World
From 1921 to 1927, British Columbia's representatives in the Dominion of Canada Football Championship were all Vancouver Island teams. While Ladysmith (1921) and Cumberland (1926) finished as runners up, only Nanaimo succeeded as champions, doing so in 1923 and 1927.
In 1923, Nanaimo FC emerged from the west to beat Montréal Canadian Pacific Railways in the Championship. Beginning that year, Winnipeg’s Alexander Park became the site of the Dominion final for the next nine years, a fair choice being somewhat half way between the teams in the west and the teams in the east. From 1923 to 1939, Winnipeg hosted all but two Championship finals: the 1932 edition was in Toronto while the 1936 edition was in Vancouver.
En route to the final, Nanaimo FC beat Coleman in Calgary and then the Fort Rouge Rangers in Winnipeg. The Vancouver Island team then stayed in Winnipeg where they met the traveled Montréal CPR, who arrived from the semi-finals in Fort William.
The hero of the 1923 series was 31-year old Dickie Stobbart, who two years earlier had reached the Dominion final with Ladysmith FC. In capturing the 1923 Championship, he became the last player to win both The People’s Shield (1913 with Nanaimo United) and the Connaught Cup (which he would win again in 1927, 1928, and 1931).
In 1927, two-time Dominion champions Winnipeg United Weston FC failed to reach the inter-provincial playdowns, with the Fort Rouge Rangers winning Manitoba’s place for the opening round against Saskatoon. Led by Dennis Rivett, Saskatoon won the first series, but then lost to eventual champions Nanaimo FC.
Playing without star fullback Ernie Edmunds (away on international duty on Canada’s summer-long football tour of New Zealand), the Nanaimo Wanderers pushed past Edmonton Canadian Legion before trouncing both Saskatoon in the semi-finals and Fort William Canadian Legion in the final.
Nanaimo FC broke the competition’s six-year record for goals in the playdowns (31 goals in six matches, broken one year later) and the 12-year record for biggest win in the Dominion final (a thorough 9:0 win over Fort William on 1 August, finally broken 42 years later by Vancouver Columbus FC in 1969).
Four Nanaimo players scored five or more goals in the competition, with Dave Cowie (six), Alex Fowler (five), John Sandland (six), and Nelson Wilson (five) all hitting the target at a regular pace. Cowie was the hero of the Dominion final, scoring five goals in two matches.
As competition in British Columbia would have it, the now two-time Dominion winners from Nanaimo would not reach the inter-provincial playdowns for another eight years, with mainland squad Westminster Royals FC ready to start an incredible dynasty. That run of four Championships in nine years started in 1928.
STORY OF THE 1923 CHAMPIONSHIP
Nanaimo FC Wanderers were the first team from British Columbia to win the Connaught Cup as the Dominion of Canada Football Association’s champions. From the west, Nanaimo eliminated Alberta’s Coleman and Manitoba’s Fort Rouge Rangers en route to the Dominion final against Montréal. In the final series in Winnipeg, Nanaimo won Saturday before Montréal won Monday to even the series. In the extra third match, Nanaimo won 1:0 to win the series 2-1 on aggregate.
It was noted that rain dampened the final match, but Nanaimo still dominated play and even hit the crossbar before scoring the winner in the second half. Goalkeeper Tommy Routledge posted his third clean sheet of the playdowns while Fowler scored his third goal. Montréal’s goalkeeper Johnny Nicol was the star of the final match while Dickie Stobbart was the series hero from the Nanaimo club.
CHAMPIONSHIP WINNING GOAL • ALEX FOWLER
Only one goal separated the two finalists of the 1923 Championship. In the second half just before the one hour mark, Alex Fowler scored the lone goal of the final after fullback Tommy Dickenson centered the ball from the right side.
TOP SCORER • WILF REED of FORT ROUGE RANGERS
Wilf Reed scored five goals and two assists in four matches. He opened the Championship with a four-goal effort against Regina Imperial Oil. Teammate Duncan Watson also scored five goals in four matches.
CONNAUGHT CUP • CAPTAIN JAMES McDOUGALL
After the final match, John Easton, president of the Dominion of Canada Football Association, presented the Connaught Cup to Nanaimo team captain James McDougall. Wrote the Winnipeg Tribune, McDougall “said that he was proud of the championship team and they would do their best to hold the trophy at the coast for several years to come. He also expressed his appreciation of the sporting manner in which the series had been played and thanked the Winnipeg football followers and officials for the kindness and courtesy that had been shown to his team.”
STORY OF THE 1927 CHAMPIONSHIP
Nanaimo FC won the 1927 Dominion of Canada Football Championship after going undefeated in six matches and setting a record with 31 goals scored. After eliminating Edmonton Canadian Legion and Saskatoon Sons of England in the playdowns, they beat Fort William Canadian Legion in the Championship final.
Dave Cowie was the hero, scoring five of his six goals in the final series against Fort William. Alex Fowler (five), John Sandland (six), and Nelson Wilson (five) also scored regularly throughout the playdowns. The team’s two biggest victories were an 8:1 win to capture the West and then a record 9:0 win to open the Dominion final.
CHAMPIONSHIP WINNING GOAL • ALEX FOWLER
Alex Fowler gave Nanaimo a 2-0 lead in the first match of the 1927 Championship final, a 9:0 victory over Fort William. Nanaimo won the two-match, total goals series by an incredible score of 14-1.
TOP SCORER • DAVE COWIE
Nanaimo centre forward Dave Cowie scored six goals in five matches during the 1927 Championship, including five goals in the final two matches. Teammate John Sandland scored six goals in six matches.
CHALLENGE TROPHY • CAPTAIN NEIL MacFARLANE
After the final, the Dominion of Canada Football Association met Nanaimo at the McLaren hotel where they made the official presentation of the Championship trophy. John Easton, past president, handed the trophy to Neil MacFarland, the Nanaimo team captain.
In celebration of our nation's 150th anniversary, the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame pays tribute to the early years of our Championship: the Connaught Series from 1913 to 1939. Every Sunday from May through September, Canada Soccer remembers the players, legends, teams, and champions from a golden era of football in the Dominion.
In Canada's 150th year, Canada Soccer will crown their 150th national champions across all adult and professional competitions since 1913. The 2017 competitive season will crown the Futsal Canadian Championship winners in April, the professional Canadian Championship winners in June, and the amateur National Championships women's Jubilee Trophy and men's Challenge Trophy winners in October.