What Do Bobby Orr, King Clancy, Lester Patrick And Geraldine Heaney all have in common?
Paul Adie, in his essay "Honouring The Defenders of Ice Hurley," tells us it is much more than the fact that they are all in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Honouring The Defenders of Ice Hurley
Guest post By Paul Adie
In fact, it can all be traced back to the origins of hockey, the game of hurley and the pride of Ireland.
A game was described in 16th century Ireland as “The horlinge of the litill balle with hockie stickes.” The same game in Scotland was called “shinty.” If all this makes you think of ice hockey, you wouldn’t be far off – but the centuries-old game thus described is instead the uniquely Irish game of hurling (or hurley).
Ice hockey is uniquely Canadian, but it was not so much a game invented from scratch, as it was an adaptation of a stick & ball game to our climate and culture – and likely an adaptation of hurling itself.
The first written accounts of “ice hurley” date back to the early 19th century at King’s College School in Windsor, Nova Scotia. The game soon evolved to become ice hockey with pucks and wooden sticks fashioned by Mi’kmaq carvers, and spread east to Montreal for the first organized indoor hockey game in 1875.
By the turn of the century, the Stanley Cup had been born, and hockey teams and leagues were widespread across the country. At this time, three of the great “builders” emerged. One was a defenseman out of McGill by the name of Lester Patrick. Lester is credited with being the first defenseman to score a goal, and in 1906 and 1907 led the Montreal Wanderers to two Stanley Cups – scoring 13 goals in 8 playoff games.
The second builder was Lester’s brother Frank. Frank Patrick is credited with the formation of such things as the blue line, the penalty shot, and the raising of the stick when a goal is scored. Lester and Frank formed the Pacific Coast Hockey Association in 1911, and built the first artificial ice arenas in Canada.
A third builder was Conn Smythe. Smythe captained the University of Toronto Varsity Blues to an OHA final in 1914, and a championship in 1915. But more notable for hockey, he went on to form the Toronto Maple Leafs, and to build the Maple Leaf Gardens. In 1930, Conn Smythe traded two players and $35,000 to obtain another player by the name of King Clancy. Clancy, a defenseman, had just finished a career high season of 17 goals and 44 points in just 40 games, and by his second season with the Leafs, had won the Stanley Cup. When Clancy retired, he was the top scoring defenseman of all time with 136 career goals.
Of course, Clancy would eventually be unseated by Bobby Orr, who became the greatest hockey defenseman of all time. In his injury-shortened career, Bobby won two Stanley Cups (scoring both winning goals), two league scoring titles, eight consecutive Norris Trophies, was league MVP three years in a row, MVP for both Cup championships, and MVP of the 1976 Canada Cup.
There’s a theme at work here, for all the aforementioned names share a few things in common. They’re all men of course, they’re all members of The Hockey Hall of Fame – and they’re all of Irish descent. But what could be more fitting for a game that started off as ice hurling anyway?
Well, perhaps just one thing. Maybe when hockey was born two-centuries ago in Nova Scotia it was written in the stars that there would be a National Hockey League, indoor Arenas, the Stanley Cup, and a Hockey Hall of Fame with chairs in it for the likes of three extraordinary Irish-Canadian defensemen in Patrick, Clancy, and Orr. But if so, there was something else that was destined at the same time – that women would also play this great game, and there’d be a chair for a fourth remarkable Irish-Canadian “defensman” by the name of Geraldine Heaney.
Upon her retirement in 2002, Geraldine Heaney had been the only player to have competed in all seven of the IIHF Woman’s National Championships from 1990 to 2001, and held the record for having played the most games with Canada’s national women’s team. And from that inaugural event in 1990, where she scored Canada’s championship winning goal, to her last series in 2001 – Canada won every single year!
Heaney, the all time women’s leading scorer on defense, at the time of her retirement ranked second only to the American forward Cammi Granato in career assists at the Women’s Worlds. In 1992 she won the tournament’s best defensemen, and was an All Star. She won again as best defense in 1994, and All Star in 1999. She won a silver medal at the first women’s Olympic competition in 1998, and capped off her international career helping Canada win the coveted gold medal in 2002.
And so it is with great pleasure that it can now be reported in 2013 that The Hockey Hall of Fame will finally welcome Geraldine Heaney into the fold. One can almost hear the Irish voices of those past inductees and current fans everywhere chanting “Cead mile failte romhat!” – a hundred thousand welcomes to you. It’s been a long time coming Gerry – perhaps two centuries – but your “horlinge of the litill puck” has now been properly recognized!
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