June 13, 2008

Barney Holden

Barney Holden was well known in Winnipeg as an amateur baseball player before he started playing semi-pro hockey in his hometown.

Holden left Manitoba for Portage Lake, Michigan where he turned professional in the infamously rough International Hockey League. He helped Portage Lake win three consecutive championships. It was hockey's first professional league, and Holden is the answer to an interesting trivia question: he scored the first goal, in the first game, of the very first professional hockey league on December 9, 1904 in Pittsburgh's Duquesne Gardens.

Holden had a legendary wrist shot. It was said that his wrist shot was so hard that it broke the 2 inch thick end boards in Brandon, Manitoba, one night.

He was also known to fire high shots in on net from the blue line and he would score goals from there. With primitive lighting the goalie would often lose sight of the dark disc.

He was not just a heavy shooter but a heavy hitter.

Boy was he tough. In another great story had Holden's skate ripped open early in the second half of the game (back before the creation of three periods) and he continued to play the entire rest of the game with his foot exposed. When the game was over he simply poured the blood out of his boot and awaited the doctors' stitchings.

On the downside of his career Holden moved back to Canada where he played with the Montreal Wanderers and Quebec Bulldogs.

It was said asthma that forced him to hang up his skates, although he played some semi-pro baseball after hockey and was active coaching his 5 sons and 1 daughter hockey and baseball teams in Winnipeg city leagues.

He also worked in the lumber business and in a door factory. He died in 1948 in Burnaby, British Columbia.

Holden's grandson Dan wrote a book in 2004 about Barney Holden titled "Cross Check!"

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