Don Johnson, honorary Chairman for Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador’s 75th anniversary celebrations, says “we have never forgotten who our founding fathers were.”
So it’s fitting that for its final intitative of the anniversary year, HNL paid tribute to the men who founded the Newfoundland Amateur Hockey Association (as the HNL was originally known) by holding a special officer’s meeting Monday — 75 years to the day — in the very room where the association was formed.
On Dec. 20, 1935, 315 Duckworth Street in St. John’s held the offices of Robert S. Furlong, a St. John’s lawyer who invited several prominent individuals from across the island.
Earlier in the year, the very first Herder Memorial Trophy championship series had been held between the Guards and Corner Brook, and all those who gathered in Furlong’s office shared a common interest in seeing the Herder trophy continue as the top prize for senior hockey in Newfoundland. However, the meeting went further
Furlong, who later became Chief Justice of Newfoundland from 1959 to 1979, was elected as the first president and served for 17 years, a term that stands as the longest in the body’s history (Claude Anstey served for 16 years from 1970 to 1986).
The rest of the executive of the day included vice-president Ronald Taafe of Corner — who was not able to attend the St. John’s meeting, but was represented by Ronald Martin, also of Corner Brook; secretary Arthur Johnson; chairman of the St. John’s Branch Gordon Halley, and the Honorable Justice W.J. Higgins, Ralph Herder and Edgar Ewing. The latter four served on the associations’ first appeals committee.
To this day, the only record of the meeting is in the form of a local newspaper article, signed by Arthur Johnson with a note reading “for your records.”
“Robert Furlong served hockey like a dog for 17 years, a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland,” contends Johnson, a former NAHA and Hockey Canada president.
“What a statement for a sports governing body.
“I played a part in Newfoundland joining with Hockey Canada, and I think that’s kind of nice, but Furlong could say he started it all.”
Today, the office is that of former Chief Justice Clyde Wells, but for a few minutes Monday afternoon, the current officers conducted a brief meeting there and passed a pair of resolutions to honour the aforementioned men as the founding fathers of the province’s hockey association and all those who have served the NAHA/HNL over the past 75 years.