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HUSTON, JAMES – Volume VIII (1851-1860)

d. 21 Sept. 1854 at Quebec

Confederation

Responsible Government

Sir John A. Macdonald

From the Red River Settlement to Manitoba (1812–70)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir George-Étienne Cartier

Sports

The Fenians

Women in the DCB/DBC

The Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences of 1864

Introductory Essays of the DCB/DBC

The Acadians

For Educators

The War of 1812 

Canada’s Wartime Prime Ministers

The First World War

The Amateur Ideal and Professional Sports
Original title:  2011713-maple-leaf-stadium-1937-f1257_s1057_it0850.jpg

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George SLEEMAN of Guelph, Ont., a brewer and active member of his community, made significant contributions to the organization and the professional development of baseball:

“[Sleeman] loved baseball, taking it up as a pitcher for the Maple Leaf Base Ball Club when the game was introduced to Guelph in 1863. The team quickly became a source of civic pride, with hundreds of fans following it to competitions in southern Ontario and the United States [see Thomas Goldie*]. In 1869 the Maple Leafs won the Canadian championship, defeating teams from Ingersoll and Woodstock in a three-day tournament in London. They would remain the dominant team in Ontario for another seven years. As a chief organizer and financial backer of the club – he was elected its president in 1874 – Sleeman was one of the earliest managers to import Americans to play; he kept them happy by giving them a share of the end-of-season surplus. These developments marked the beginning of professional team sports in Canada. Such a strengthened Maple Leaf team won a tournament in 1874 in Watertown, N.Y., which its organizers called ‘the non-professional championship of the world.’ Two years later Sleeman began to pay players salaries and encourage others to do the same in the newly formed Canadian Association of Base Ball Players, of which he was president. Ironically, these steps paved the way for the Americanization of the game and the competitive decline of the small-town clubs.”

 

In the early 1900s the journalist, publisher, and philanthropist John Ross ROBERTSON was concerned that the growth of professional hockey would undermine the key principle of the amateur ideal – non-payment for participation. He worked, as did other heads of Canadian sports associations, to regulate the sport:

“A fervent advocate of amateur sport, [Robertson] became president of the Ontario Hockey Association in 1899, at a critical moment in the history of the sport. His battle to protect hockey from the influence of professionalism caused him to be called the ‘father of Amateur Hockey in Ontario.’ According to Alan Metcalfe, Robertson’s legacy was mixed: the OHA was able to set rules defining professionalism in hockey but professionalism increased enormously after 1910, with the result that participation in organized amateur hockey in central Canada was limited to a middle-class élite. When he retired as president in 1905, he was made a life member of the association, and he continued to run its affairs as one of its ‘Three White Czars.’ He worked especially hard to rid hockey of increasing violence both on and off the ice. Robertson’s donation of silver trophies to hockey, cricket, and bowling further encouraged amateur competition. He was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1945.”

 

A promoter of amateurism and secretary of the Canadian Amateur Athletic Union, Norton Hervey CROW found himself at the heart of the debate about payment to athletes at the turn of the 20th century. This debate, which highlighted conflicting social perceptions of sports, led to a split within the Canadian Amateur Athletic Union in 1906:

“Sportsmen were bitterly divided over whether athletes should be paid for their efforts. The idea of non-payment (amateurism), which had emerged from the aristocratic Victorian prejudice against wage labourers, reinforced the ideal of heroic, selfless play that attracted the middle class to sports, and it kept costs down. The practice of paying athletes (professionalism) grew out of carnival contests, stakes races (the structure of the championships won by Jacob Gill Gaudaur*, Edward Hanlan*, and William Joseph O’Connor*), and team sports such as baseball where recruiting better players with cash gave a ready advantage.

“These differences made the Toronto-based Canadian Amateur Athletic Union, the association of clubs which attempted to regulate the main sports, ungovernable. In 1906 the liberal faction, led by the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association, stormed out of the Union to form the Amateur Athletic Federation of Canada, which would allow a measure of professional-amateur cooperation along the lines of that found in American baseball and British soccer. During the next few years, while athletes, sportswriters, and fans argued on, Union and Federation leaders stumped the country to win adherents.”

 

The biographies grouped in the following lists provide additional information about the development of professional sports, the amateur ideal, and the debate between supporters of amateur and professional sports and its repercussions:

 

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