The Northwest Rugby Football Union

Operated 1889 — Dec. 1, 1898

NRFU Notes

  • League Formed: October 1, 1889
  • Disbanded: December 1, 1898
  • Seasons suspended: None
  • Seasons operated: 10

In October 1889, L.A. Hamilton of Winnipeg donated the Hamilton Cup which would be awarded to the champions of the northwest (Manitoba and Northwest Territories). Several sources state that the first winner of the Hamilton Cup was the Winnipeg Rugby Football Club. I have not been able to determine what games were used to determine the champions that first year.

The Northwest Rugby Football Union was formed in 1891. Over the next several years (1890-91 to 1897-98) the Northwest Championship was held to determine the winner. The Northwest Championship was conducted over the course of a weekend in a tournament format. Winnipeg, MB; Regina, NT & Moosomin, NT all played host on a revolving basis.

In the spring of 1891, as many as 7 teams were expected to be in Regina to compete in the tournament. Teams that failed to show up were Cannington Manor, Battleford, Lethbridge & Calgary. It is possible that Lethbridge and Calgary did meet for a game on that weekend (in Lethbridge).

In the fall of 1897, the Northwest Championship was to be held in Regina. The tournament was called off when the NWMP were deployed to the Yukon to police the Klondike Gold Rush. In the spring of 1898, one of the MRFU league games doubled as the Northwest Championship game.

The Northwest Rugby Football Union disbanded and although they received challenges, St. John’s Rugby Football Club refused to put the Hamilton Cup at risk. The most recent mention of the Hamilton Cup was from a Winnipeg Free Press article in 1931. It stated that the Hamilton Cup still resided in the Headmaster’s office at St. John’s College.