The Boyle's back: High school hockey teams vying for title that's more than 100 years old

·3 min read
Stephen Handrigan, president of St. Bonaventure's College, and Michael Holden, manager of the school's Tier 2 hockey team, are proud to resurrect the Boyle Trophy.  (Terry Roberts/CBC - image credit)
Stephen Handrigan, president of St. Bonaventure's College, and Michael Holden, manager of the school's Tier 2 hockey team, are proud to resurrect the Boyle Trophy. (Terry Roberts/CBC - image credit)
Terry Roberts/CBC
Terry Roberts/CBC

What's believed to be the second-oldest trophy in the history of hockey — behind only the coveted Stanley Cup — is back in the spotlight after sitting idle in the provincial archives as an artifact for years.

Scroll to continue with content

The historic Boyle Trophy was donated in 1903 by Newfoundland Governor Sir Cavendish Boyle and competed for by the top senior hockey teams in St. John's and the Maritimes. The trophy was awarded up until 1971, when the St. John's Senior Hockey League folded.

During that run the hardware was engraved with the many names of its winners. Arguably none are bigger than Toronto Maple Leafs legend Howie Meeker, who retired to St. John's after a pro career that boasted four Stanley Cups, a coaching stint and an election to Canadian Parliament. Meeker's name is on the Boyle four times as part of the St. John's Guards.

In the 1980s, hockey officials looking for a new place to award the trophy decided it was best suited for high school competition but was only played for sporadically and never in an annual tournament.

"This is the Stanley Cup of Newfoundland," said Michael Holden, manager of the Tier 2 St. Bonaventure's College high school team, who pushed to return the trophy to prominence and establish a tournament in its honour.

That tournament is underway in St. John's, with eight Tier 2 high school teams from St. John's, Laval, Mobile, Clarenville and Avondale competing.

"There's a lot of Tier 1 tournaments throughout the season, starting in October, and there hasn't been any Tier 2 tournaments the whole season," Holden said.

"So we decided to do our own Tier 2 tournament."

Terry Roberts/CBC
Terry Roberts/CBC

St. Bon's itself has a long-standing history with the trophy. The team has won the title more than any other club — 27 times — since it was first awarded 120 years ago.

Stephen Handrigan, president of St. Bonaventure's College, said Friday it was an emotional moment to even stand next to the trophy at The Rooms.

"I think [we won] 16 consecutive years in a row at one point," he said.

"It's actually a beautiful trophy and there's some incredible names on it. So it's worth kind of studying it just to see the names."

Handrigan said hockey at St. Bon's stretches back even further than the Boyle and predates even some of the most historic teams in the NHL.

"We had our first hockey team starting in 1899. That hockey team is older than the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens, just to name a few," he said.

"Our hockey history goes really a long ways back so we're kind of celebrating and claiming that. Standing next to the Boyle Trophy kind of reminds me there is deep history within our school within the hockey world and Newfoundland."

While the actual trophy won't be presented to the winning team this weekend — given its age and significance — players and coaches will have their names engraved on it alongside 120 years of history.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador