The 1922 Canadian Figure Skating Championships


The world's first insulin treatment had just been made at the Toronto General Hospital. Byron Gay's foxtrots blared on gramophone players. In kitchens across Canada, molasses and layered orange spice cakes were popular favourites. The Toronto Argonauts celebrated their win at the Grey Cup. The year was 1922 and in February, the Rideau Skating Rink in Ottawa played host to The Dominion's best skaters at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships. 


If you look at the number of skaters and clubs that are represented at the 2022 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships, it's hard to believe that when this event was held one hundred years ago only three clubs from two provinces participated - the Toronto and Minto Skating Clubs from Ontario and Winter Club of Montreal from Quebec.


Competitions for junior skaters weren't regularly held at the Canadian Championships in the early twenties but the host Minto Skating Club had originally planned to include these events "to educate the youngsters of Ottawa in the art of skating." They were unfortunately scrapped at the last minute and postponed until March 2. The winners of these events were Brian Meredith (Sifton Cup for boys), Marion McDougall (Minto Cup for girls), Frances Claudet (Devonshire Cup for girls 12 and under), Teddy Beament (Club Cup for boys, 1st and 2nd years), Kathleen Hose (Club Cup for girls, 1st and 2nd years) and Diana Kingsmill and Prudence Holbrook (Soper Cup for similar pairs).

The competition was held on February 17. Tickets ranged from fifty cents to a dollar and fifty cents, if you wanted to have a reserved seat for the free skating events in the evening. A report from "The Ottawa Citizen" recalled, "Competitors from Montreal and Toronto... brought their friends with them, nearly fifty visitors being present. Owing to the severity of the weather the spectators in the morning were limited to competitors and club members and these, finding it a little too cold to stay in the body of the rink, took refuge in the clubrooms and watched the events from behind glass." The three judges, Louis Rubenstein., J.J. Cawthra and Matthew Bonnell, "faced a cold day's work, the temperature being lower than ever remembered for this annual event." 

Both the men and women had to skate figures... but they weren't the only ones! At the 1922 event, eight skaters who entered the pairs and fours events (but not singles) were required to perform four out of the five figures that the singles skaters had completed before the judges. While the figures counted for sixty percent of the singles skaters' scores, they only counted for one twelfth of the marks for the pairs and fours skaters. This exercise, which had never been tried before at the Canadian Championships, was considered to be "educational". It was "thought that by compelling these tests, the competitors would be encouraged to enter the singles events in coming years and would gain confidence by this experience."

The figures for the women, pairs and fours skaters were held in the morning and at one thirty in the afternoon, everyone took a break for lunch. Colonel Cameron Edwards, the President of the Minto Skating Club, invited everyone in attendance to an afternoon of skating at Government House the following day and told the the visitors from Toronto and Montreal that they were welcome "to visit the Minto and make use of the club premises whenever they were in Ottawa."

After lunch, the three men's competitors (Melville Rogers, John Z. Machado and Duncan McIntyre Hodgson) performed their school figures. By all accounts, they were quite well-matched in their execution of most of them. Ormonde B. Haycock, who had won the first official Canadian men's title back in 1905, was in the audience and cried out "Very good!" when Melville Rogers performed one figure. Whether his show of support had any influence on the judges is unknown. The Closed Marking System was used.

A large crowd braved the cold and showed up for the free skating events in the evening. Jeanne Chevalier, the winner of the Canadian women's title in 1921, did not compete. Ottawa's Dorothy Jenkins, who had been runner-up the previous two years, succeeded her as women's champion. She was in "perfect time with the music and that in itself made her exhibition a treat to watch... In her jumps, during which she twisted and changed edge, she sometimes leaped a foot or more in the air. Her spins were marvelous and very pretty. Her dance steps were airy and light and she seemed to flit across the rink from figure to figure like a butterfly. She finished with a perfect grapevine backward to the end of the rink and well deserved the storms of applause that marked the end of her program." Alden Godwin, also of the Minto Skating Club, was the runner-up and pre-War Canadian Champion Eleanor (Kingsford) Law finished third. The other three competitors were Jeannette Rathbun and Mrs. Clifford Sifton Jr. of Toronto and Mrs. F. Stanton Mathewson of Montreal.

Duncan McIntyre Hodgson of Montreal successfully defended his title as Canadian Champion in the men's singles with a free skating program that "showed wonderful grace and speed. His skating was very rhythmic, keeping perfect time with the music. He changed feet and edge with the greatest of ease. He executed some beautiful spins and jumped... high off the ice repeatedly... One particularly spectacular piece of skating consisted in a leap in the air, a turn, and a crossing of the legs in what used to be called a 'twinkle' in old English skating, without a slip or loss of balance of poise. He performed very fine work on the toes. Another graceful movement was a backward spiral on left outer edge with arms folded." Melville Rogers suffered a fall and stumble in his free skating performance and finished second overall, ahead of John Z. Machado.


Ottawa's Alden Godwin and Major Andrew Gordon McLennan were victorious in the pairs event and Elizabeth 'Bet' Blair, Florence Wilson, Philip Harvey Chrysler and Cecil Rhodes Morphy brought the Earl Grey Trophy for fours skating home to the host Minto Skating Club. 

Instructions for mask-making issued during the Spanish flu pandemic. Photo courtesy Provincial Archives of Alberta, A13187.

The 1922 Canadian Championships, though much smaller than the events we see today, were a happy occasion. Three years earlier the event had been cancelled in the height of The Great War and the Spanish flu pandemic

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