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History ’n‘ Hockey: Canada’s forgotten prime minister

On this day in 1873, Prime Minister John A. Macdonald resigned after it was learned that he had accepted political contributions from Sir Hugh Allan in exchange for awarding him the contract to build Canada’s transcontinental railway.
Canada’s forgotten prime minister, Alexander Mackenzie. Photo supplied

On this day in 1873, Prime Minister John A. Macdonald resigned after it was learned that he had accepted political contributions from Sir Hugh Allan in exchange for awarding him the contract to build Canada’s transcontinental railway.

This imbroglio became known as the Pacific Scandal as Allan’s company was the Canada Pacific Company. Following Macdonald’s departure from office, Governor-General Lord Dufferin asked Liberal leader, Alexander Mackenzie, to assume the role of Prime Minister, a request that the latter accepted on Nov. 7 that year. In January 1874, Prime Minister Mackenzie called an election and the voters rallied around the Pacific Scandal issue, allowing the Liberals to scoop up nearly 54 per cent of the popular vote.

New York Islanders at Montréal Canadiens, 7:30 p.m.

2015-16 Season Records: NYI 7-3-3 (2nd in the Metropolitan); MTL 11-2-1 (1st in the Atlantic)
Leading Scorers: John Tavares (5G, 6A); Andrei Markov (1G, 12A)

Despite the incredible play of Carey Price last year, Montréal often struggled on offence, finishing in the bottom half of the league in Goals For despite nearly winning the President’s Trophy. This year, it appears they’ve flipped the script, so far. The Canadiens currently have seven players on pace to reach the 25-goal mark. Last season, they had just four. Granted, the shooting percentages of players like Torrey Mitchell (26.3 per cent) are unsustainably high and will fall back down to Earth, but for now this is great news for a team that has often relied too heavily on its goalie. The timing of this offensive surge could not be better, as Price remains on the shelf this week with a lower body injury. 

Prediction:Montreal by 1

Winnipeg Jets at Ottawa Senators, 7:30 p.m.

2015-16 Season Records: WPG 8-4-1 (3rd in the Central); OTT 6-4-2 (2nd in the Atlantic)
Leading Scorers: Blake Wheeler (6G, 10A); Kyle Turris (8G, 5A)

The Senators will be without Mark Stone again tonight as he serves the final game of his two-game suspension for an illegal hit to Detroit’s Landon Ferraro. Stone has been superb so far in his sophomore season, following up on his impressive rookie campaign which saw him earn a Calder Trophy nomination. Since the Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg for the 2011-12 season, Ottawa has had the Jets’ number. At home, they are 3-2-1 but when playing in the MTS Centre they are undefeated in five meetings. That being said, tonight’s game is being played in Ottawa and the Senators have not beaten the Jets at home since Jan. 2, 2014. 

Prediction:Ottawa by 1

Philadelphia Flyers at Calgary Flames, 9 p.m.

2015-16 Season Records: PHI 4-6-2 (7th in the Metropolitan); CGY 3-9-1 (7th in the Pacific)
Leading Scorers: Mark Streit (4G, 3A); Johnny Gaudreau (2G, 11A)

Philadelphia continues their Western Canadian road trip tonight against the Flames. The Flyers desperately need their offence to catch fire this evening. In their last 10 games, they’ve only mustered up 20 goals and are 4-5-1 over that span. Since the 2004 lockout, Philadelphia is 4-1 against the Flames in Calgary, but they’ll need more than history on their side. Claude “the Pride of Hearst” Giroux remains the team’s primary driver of offence and he has some old scores to settle with Calgary. In eight-career meetings, he has two goals on 24 shots, well below his career shooting percentage. Look for him to light the lamp tonight.

Prediction: Philadelphia by 1

Last Minute of Play

Alexander Mackenzie is considered by some as one of Canada’s more forgotten prime ministers, by simple virtue of assuming the position in the interlude before Sir John A Macdonald returned to power in 1878. Mackenzie was also unfortunate enough to take office just as the economy was declining.

Consequently, with the budget hamstrung, Mackenzie prudently focused on key constitutional and political issues. During his time as Prime Minister, he oversaw a number of important national developments, including the establishment of the Supreme Court of Canada, the creation of the Office of the Attorney General and the introduction of the secret ballot.

Mackenzie was also a supporter of provincial autonomy and greater powers for Canada within the British Empire, something he embodied by his continuous refusal of knighthood offers throughout his career.

While Mackenzie might have been less provocative than some of his successors, he presided over some significant moments in Canadian history and is deserving of more attention in our collective political imagination.

Prediction Record: 1-4

Mike Commito is a Canadian historian and avid hockey fan. Follow him on twitter @mikecommito.


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