February 29, 1908: Duluth Northerns return as U.S. Amateur Hockey Champions

On this day in Duluth in 1908, the Northerns of Duluth returned from a road trip as the amateur hockey champions of the nation. The trip included matches in Detroit, Cleveland, and the “Copper Country” of Michigan’s Northern Peninsula, which had several teams, including one in Houghton. The Northerns reportedly enjoyed the entire trip except for their time in Copper Country, where “they were ill-treated from start to finish.” But team members felt more ill-treated by an entity right in the Zenith City: The Duluth Herald, which had said the Northerns were not worthy of the title. Team members told the News Tribune that “This talk about our not being entitled to the amateur championship of the United States is rot of the worst kind. We cannot understand why the Herald has such an enormous desire to knock us…. Why, those teams in Copper Country that the Herald is boosting for the title don’t even consider themselves in the race.” They went on to explain how the Cleveland team had bested teams from Yale, Princeton, Harvard, and Pittsburgh and then, after losing to Duluth, conceded the championship to the Northerns. The Cleveland team was so impressed by the Northerns speed that they “thought Duluth was a Canadian city.” The News Tribune clearly had the team’s back: on March 2 the paper ran an editorial explaining that the Duluth squad had “clearly won the honor” of a national championship. It went on to say that “Every game was played with near-champions…. No easy team was sought for a match” and that “Duluth is proud of these young sports, who are clean, honorable, manly and industrious in their everyday pursuits as they are earnest in their games.” The Herald’s only reference to the championship was a cartoon depicting a dog representing the Superior Columbias snapping at the heels of a Northern player wearing a crown captioned, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” Its coverage of the Northerns’ road trip only mentioned that fans in Saulte Ste. Marie were upset because the Duluth team missed a game at the Soo to stay in Cleveland one more day to play an exhibition game against a squad of Canadian all-stars. Neither paper reported the results of that game.

This cartoon ran in the Duluth Herald the day the Northerns returned to Duluth as the 1908 national amateur champions. (Image: Zenith City Press)