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Happy Birthday, Hockey!


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On this day 139 years ago, the first recorded organized game of hockey was played at the Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal. The game was played under a set of rules that were drawn up by a collection of students from McGill University, including James G. A. Creighton, who is believed to have been influential in the early days of organized hockey.

It was only the beginning of a new era and this event still came 42 years before the official formation of the NHL. But, for the first time, hockey moved indoors and became more organized than it ever had been before.

The Montreal Gazette recorded pre-game and post-game stories to mark the historic occasion and after the game, according to the paper “the spectators then adjourned well satisfied with the evening’s entertainment.”

Today, the McGill University website celebrates the birth of organized hockey.

From McGill:

The contest was divided into two halves and played with nine men per side. The players on one side were Charles E. Torrance (captain), Daniel Meagher, Thomas J. Potter, Edwin H. Gough, William M.S. Barnston, George W. Gardner, W.O. Griffin, Francis Jarvis and a fellow named Whiting. The other team was composed of James G.A. Creighton (captain), Robert Esdaile, Henry Joseph, Frederick C. Henshaw, William B. Chapman, Robert H.W. Powell and Edward S. Clouston, along with brothers Lorne and George Campbell.

By moving ice hockey 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 key innovation was the substitution of a square, wooden disk (puck), which offered the players far more control than they had over a lacrosse ball. In 1877, the first organized team, the McGill University Hockey Club, was formed and in 1886, the first national association, the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada, was founded.

Happy Birthday, hockey.

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