The following series of stories are a compilation of memories that have been shared by various people over the years. These memories are not captured in a form that can be found in the manner my generation has become accustomed to, with a simple click of a mouse, but rather in the few faded copies of the paper in a back room of the Wadena News or in the history books collecting dust high on the shelf in a neighbor’s basement. Although a few people in town recall these stories like they were yesterday, there are those that do not – and a very real danger looms for the rich hockey history of this town to slowly fade. I have found endless enjoyment in my quest to promote the Cameco Hockey Day in Saskatchewan by researching the history of the Wildcats, and have stumbled upon many tales that I have not heard before. When you are skimming over 100 years of history in a few short stories it is impossible to include everything or everyone. Although I struggled with choosing what to share and what to edit out, I attempted to include the content that will remind the residents of Wadena why our children should be proud to wear a Wildcat on their jersey, play in our facility, and represent the Town of Wadena. I hope that you will follow along for the next few weeks and enjoy reading as much as I did writing!
– Angela Jones
History of Hockey in Wadena Part 1
Written by Angela Jones
Information from ‘Remembering Times Wadena and Area dating back to 1882’ history book.
The symbol of hockey in Wadena, the Wildcat, is named in honour of the 214th Battalion – a group of men from the area who served proudly in the First World War. The history of this group and its members have a special place in the memories of Wadena residents for a variety of reasons. Here is a small excerpt of our town’s part in this story.
The fall of 1915 saw authorization of Harvey Hearn to raise a platoon of 250 men at Wadena. On Feb. 24, 1916, further authorization was given to raise a battalion from as far west as Vonda, south to Wynyard, and east to Invermay, Canora and Preeceville where individual platoons were organized and trained. All platoons gathered in Wadena in the spring of 1916 to form the 214th Battalion.
The spirit of pride and support was as evident in the residents of this town back in 1916 as it is now. Prior to the departure of the battalion from Wadena to Camp Hughes (sandy plains near Brandon, Man.,) the mayor at the time, F.E. Vatnsdal, declared the afternoon of Friday June 2, a civic holiday. This day hosted many special events geared towards fundraising for the battalion’s colors and ended in an evening dance.
The town was crowded the next day with citizens offering support and wanting to see the battalion members off. Most of the residents stayed up all night to see the two trains pull out at 4:00 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (IODE) tried to make arrangements for the men to come back to Wadena the following month so they could do a proper presentation of the colors ceremony. When that didn’t pan out, Wadena residents chartered their own train to Camp Hughes and put on an impressive ceremony. “A report of the event claimed that the appearance, physique and steadiness of the men as they marched in review brought exclamations of admiration from all present.” – Remembering Times Wadena and Area
The 214th battalion seemed to create admiration in everything it did. The battalion baseball team topped all others and a report that was found and quoted in the history book stated that the 214th was the nicest looking camp on the grounds. The camp was marked off in sections with white stones and between each of the staff tents were flower beds. This camp boasted a power system which supplied electricity to common areas, staff offices, and regimental flower beds.
The 214th Battalion left for overseas on April 11, 1917. The last of the surviving men returned in 1919. Community members welcomed all who made it safely home and mourned those who did not. Ninety-six years later, the community still remembers with pride and respect all the members of the legendary 214th Battalion.
Years after the war, the colors of the 214th Battalion were brought back to Wadena and placed in the War Memorial Hall. One part has the maple leaf in green topped by a crown made of red velvet and metal with five jewels. The letters CCXIV and the figures 214 are in gold thread. In the centre – padded and embroidered to make it stand out – is a cat, the symbol of the battalion which was known simply as the Wildcats.