May 07, 2013

Hockey's First Book: Arthur Farrell



I get these two questions frequently. What was the very first hockey book. And who wrote it?

The answer is believed to a book called "Hockey: Canada's Royal Winter Game." The book, published in Montreal by C.R. Corneil, was written in 1899 and only four copies are known to still exist. Digitized versions of the book can be found at Library and Archives Canada for free. A copy, once owned by Red Fisher and used by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, now resides at Concordia University.

The 122 page handbook of hockey looks mostly at strategy and how-to skills advice. Three sets of rules are also provided. Photos and drawings, including one of a female player, are scattered through-out

The book was written by a star hockey player of the time around the turn of the 20th century. Arthur Farrell, a Montrealer born on February 8th, 1877, was quite the amateur player with College Sainte-Marie while studying there from 1895 to 1897.

Farrell later played for the Montreal Shamrocks in the Canadian Amateur Hockey League in 1897, helping the Shamrocks to Stanley Cup victories in 1899 and 1900. Farrell once scored five goals in a game against Quebec (on March 2, 1901), but he was better known as a proponent of play-making and team play.

Farrell wrote the book while playing for the Shamrocks in response to demand for a hockey book. He later released 2 similar books specifically for the American marketplace: Ice hockey and Ice Polo Guide of 1901-1904 and How to play Ice Hockey, published in 1907.

Farrell was a bit like a latter day Ken Dryden - star player on the ice and notable author off of it. But his life would be cut short thanks to a bout of tuberculosis. He contracted the disease in 1906 but hung on until 1909, existing in a sanatorium.

In 1965 the Hockey Hall of Fame inducted Arthur Farrell in the player category.

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