March 03, 2016

Happy Birthday To Hockey

Happy Birthday to Hockey itself today!

On March 3, 1875, the first recorded indoor ice hockey game took place at the Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal, Canada. Note that there is no photo of this event. The above photo is of hockey being played at the Victoria Skating Rink in 1893.

The game was organized by James Creighton, a Halifax figuring skating and hockey enthusiast who brought the game and rules as known to Nova Scotians with him to Montreal. By organizing this official hockey game and publishing the rules, he essentially standardized the game for all forms of hockey across the country. He took the great winter game indoors, and, as author Michael McKinley coined it years later, "Put A Roof On Winter." Somehow Creighton's legacy has escaped hockey folklore as his status of the father of hockey never stuck.

Creighton captained a team of McGill University students to 2-1 win over members of the Victoria Skating Club. The game featured two nine-member teams and use a wooden 'puck'. Two years later Creighton enrolled at McGill to study law and formed the first official University team.

The game was played at the Victoria Skating Rink,  located in the part of Montreal that is now bordered by the following streets -- Drummond, de Maisonneuve and Dorchester (now named Boulevard RenĂ© Levesque).

The rink, also famous for figure skating and used for public skating, was sold in 1925. A parking garage is now located there. Sadly, there is not even a monument to highlight the building's amazing history.

Here is the official game announcement, published in the Montreal Gazette:

Victoria Rink - A game of Hockey will be played at the Victoria Skating Rink this evening, between two nines chose from among the members. Good fun may be expected, as some of the players are reputed to be exceedingly expert at the game. Some fears have been expressed on the part of intending spectators that accidents were likely to occur through the ball flying about in too lively a manner, to the imminent danger of lookers on, but we understand that the game will be played with a flat circular piece of wood, thus preventing all danger of its leaving the surface of the ice. Subscribers will be admitted on presentation of their tickets.

Here is the official game report, published on March 4th, 1875, also in the Montreal Gazette.

HOCKEY -- At the Rink last night a very large audience gathered to witness a novel contest on the ice. The game of hockey, though much in vogue on the ice in New England and other parts of the United States, is not much known here, and in consequence the game of last evening was looked forward to with great interest. Hockey is played usually with a ball, but last night, in order that no accident should happen, a flat block of wood was used, so that it should slide along the ice without rising, and thus going among the spectators to their discomfort. The game is like Lacrosse in one sense -- the block having to go through flags placed about 8 feet apart in the same manner as the rubber ball -- but in the main the old country game of shinty gives the best idea of hockey. The players last night were eighteen in number -- nine on each side -- and were as follows: -- Messrs. Torrance (captain), Meagher, Potter, Goff, Barnston, Gardner, Griffin, Jarvis and Whiting. Creighton (captain), Campbell, Campbell, Esdaile, Joseph, Henshaw, Chapman, Powell and Clouston. The match was an interesting and well-contested affair, the efforts of the players exciting much merriment as they wheeled and dodged each other, and notwithstanding the brilliant play of Captain Torrance's team Captain Creighton's men carried the day, winning two games to the single of the Torrance nine. The game was concluded about half-past nine, and the spectators then adjourned well satisfied with the evening's entertainment. By moving ice hockey game indoors, the smaller dimensions of the rink initiated a major change from the outdoor version of the game, limiting organized contests to a nine-man limit per team. Until that time, outdoor games had no prescribed number of players, the number being more or less the number that could fit on a frozen pond or river and often ranged in the dozens. The nine-man per side rule would last until the 1880s, when it was reduced during the Montreal Winter Carnival Hockey Tournament.

The Montreal Gazette did not report anything about a post-game fight that may or may not have happened. The Daily British Whig out of Kingston, Ontario did report a fight between players and spectators, suggesting that "shins and heads were battered, benches smashed and the lady spectators fled in confusion."

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