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Ice Polo in Haverhill Massachusetts 1885

james laverance

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Here's an interesting anecdote in relation to the game of "Ice Polo” (A popular nickname for Ice Hockey in the 19th century)

"In 1885, the Haverhill Laborer, a working-class 
newspaper, recounted the opening of the ice polo season, a rough-and-
tumble match played on the city’s skating rink on the Little River. League 
play commenced with a 9:00 p.m. battle between Haverhill’s two home-
town teams: the Stars and the Globes. The Laborer reported: 
Every seat was occupied and standing room was not plentiful. 
The fair sex were out in great numbers, ready to give their 
applause and allegiance...the feud between the Montagues 
and the Capulets, of the Houses of York and Lancaster… all 
pale into insignificance in comparison with the rivalry between 
the respective friends of Haverhill’s two league polo clubs. … 
The audience was about evenly divided, so far as applause was 
concerned, and each skillful play brought forth a roar of ap-
plause which caused the Chinese lanterns around the rink to 
What compelled a throng of Haverhill residents to stand or sit by a fro-
zen river on a cold Wednesday night in February? The next morning’s work 
bell would ring early, and the average Haverhill worker faced ten to twelve 
hours of toil. Why weren’t tired workers at home resting? City rivalries 
aside, polo was an exciting and violent game. The Laborer remarked that 
the game was “too rough, in fact, for those who prefer polo to the ring, 
and several exhibitions of temper were shown by individual players.” The 
Haverhill match was less than four minutes old before Wardman of the Globes tossed Bolan of the Stars to the rink, and a fight ensued. Shortly 
after that, the Globes scored their first goal, and their fans responded with 
cheers and the blowing of horns.
Why did Haverhill’s residents find ice polo more appealing than Vic-
torian parlor games? The account in the Haverhill Laborer gives clues. It 
is peppered with allusions to exciting rushes toward goal, to men falling 
on the rink, to vicious fouls committed by the players, of flashy goal-tend-
ing, free-flowing wagers, and wild cheering. Raw violence threatened the 
audience: a street clerk from Merrimac complained that his horn was taken 
from him, and errant balls struck a woman and her daughter. The article 
made it clear that the overflow crowds surging the river banks were drawn 
by the allure of rough passions, the likes of which Scribner’s Magazine 
had cautioned against."

by Robert Weir - Westfield State University

www.westfield.ma.edu › mhj › pdfs
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Roller polo rules for 1885 and 1886.  Image is provided by Henleys Official Polo Guide from 1885.


https://books.google.ca/books?id=D9tLAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA52&lpg=PA52&dq=spalding+cage+goal&source=bl&ots=qf3ALrNeUH&sig=b8_HYEx37pGtV4TNnBCJXkv2aEA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjJi4WIm6vOAhUEw4MKHRGnBNgQ6AEICjAA#v=onepage&q=spalding cage goal&f=false


These rules also applied to Ice polo as well when the first indoor organized Ice-Hockey game played in the US...


"THE HISTORY of organized ice hockey in Milwaukee began in January 1887 when the Schlitz Park Polo club gave an exhibition game on the Schlitz Park Skating Rink and announced that it was “prepared to play games with other clubs and is open for challenges.” The game of ice polo was popular in New England and the -upper Midwest in the 1880s and was the forerunner of ice hockey as we know it today.Players competed on a larger rink and utilized a ball rather than a puck and short sticks similar to those used in field hockey, following game standards established by Canadian teams in the 1870s."


An excerpt from an old Milwaukee newspaper from 1888...


"The Panorama skating rink will be open tonight. The ice in Schlitz park rink is in excellent condition."


Then it shows that organized "Ice Polo" had been played in the Jackson Street Rink in St.Paul Minnesota in 1887 also forming a league that same year.Making it one of the first organized Ice Hockey leagues in the States the same year the AHAC(Pre-NHL) formed...


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