1931 Colleens make hockey history
Drumheller has a storied history of hockey, starting with the Drumheller Miners and the Fabulous Bentley brothers, right up to the 1966 Allan Cup Champions. There were also the Falcons, which made to the AJHL finals in the 1974-75 season, and today’s Drumheller Dragons.
However there is one more team that can be mentioned in the same breath, and that is the Howlett Colleens.
The Colleens, an all-female hockey team, managed by Whitehouse Hotel owner Percy “Shorty” Howlett, captured the imagination of the valley when they won the 1931 Intermediate Provincial Hockey Championship. That year they defeated the Edmonton Jasper Park Hustlers in a two-game series to capture the title.
Former resident Betty Baier, now of Vancouver, shared a photo of the championship team and some newspaper clippings from the era of the Colleens. Her sister Marge Grant was a star player on the team. She later went on to play with the Calgary Tigerettes who played out of the Victoria Arena.
The Colleens were the darlings of Drumheller during those seasons, and garnered headlines for their play on the ice. Other recognizable names on the squad included Annie Gammie, Isa Brown and Bunty Brown.
It was a very different time for female sports, and this was emblematic in the language and the coverage. For just as many stories about the team’s on-ice performance, there were references to their beauty and female charms.
Annually the team would travel to the Banff Winter Festival to play and would come home stars, making headlines when they were included in the newsreels played at the talkies at the Napier Theatre.
In fact, in 1932 the Queen of the Carnival was Margaret Nicol, and the team posed as “Banff Bathing Beauties” in the hot springs for cameramen.
To get the annual festival they held dances to fundraise for the trip.
Also reflective of the times, in the January 30, 1930, edition of The Mail, a fan poem was printed extolling the team’s virtues, opening:
“Drumheller has a hockey team Composed of maidens fair. And a sweeter aggregation Cannot be found elsewhere.”
The provincial championship was not just a flash in the pan. The girls in green and white made it to the championship in 1932 but lost the Coffey Memorial Cup to the Red Deer Amazons 4-0.
The Colleens were busy in the off-season as well and hit field to play softball. In 1933, they went on a tour of the province playing teams from all over. The also competed in the provincial junior champion that year. After defeating Craigmyle, they went on to play the Morrin Flyers, but lost. The Flyers went on to win provincials, behind the pitching of Ellen Hoy.
While The Mail could not discern whatever happened to the Colleens, their short-lived legacy certainly provided some noteriety for the Drumheller valley.
The Howlett Colleens captured the 1931 provincial women’s intermediate championship. They are (top row; l-r) Peggy Taylor, Norma Owens, Mickey Clifton, Elsie Jefferies and Ellen Derry, (second row; l-r) Eileen Whitmore, Marjorie Gibson, Doris Walsh, Margaret Nicol, Eleanor Clarke, Alberta Davis and Mary Hutchison (third row; l-r) Mickey Paige, Florence Lindsay, Annie Gammie, Percy Howlett, Anne Clarke, Isa Brown and Ralphina Hatfield and (front row; l-r) Royal Mitchell, Edna Young, Marjorie Grant and Bunty Brown.