NHL – The first floor hockey game, in 1875, ended in a skirmish between players and non-players

So, as we celebrate the 142nd anniversary of the first indoor hockey game, it’s refreshing to note that sometimes things really do stay the same, things like earthiness and the battle for ice time.

And so it was that evening at the Patinoire Victoria in Montreal on March 3, 1875, that two teams of nine players who were from the skating club that called the rink, made history even if it never happened. didn’t end exactly as they had planned.

The game, organized by Halifax native James GA Creighton, considered one of the fathers of hockey in Canada, came to a premature end when other members of the skating club, exasperated by the length of the game and the fact that a group of men skating trying to hit a wooden disc into a goal was hampering their ability to skate freely, entangled with the players.

Newspaper reports at the time stated that a boy got into the players during the scrum and suffered a head injury which ended things with the Creighton side winning 2-1 . (At that time, a goal was considered a “game” and reports at the time stated that Creighton and his eight buddies beat the other team “two games to one”. They planned to play one more game. , but recreational skaters had other ideas.)

The Montreal Evening Witness newspaper reported that the match ended at 9:30 p.m. and spectators seemed pleased with the spectacle.

But a few days later, articles in newspapers in Ottawa and Kingston, Ont., gave a more negative assessment of the game’s ending, suggesting that in the skirmish between recreational skaters and hockey players, “The shins and the head were beaten, the pews shattered and the lady spectators fled in confusion.”

It sounds like a report from a Philadelphia Flyers game in the 1970s.

“There was a bit of violence,” acknowledged hockey historian Jean-Patrice Martel, who is president of the Society For International Hockey Research, a group that has conducted an in-depth investigation into the circumstances surrounding the Victoria event. Skating Rink and who is also the co-author of a book on the roots of the game called “On the Origin of Hockey”.

(The book, by the way, takes its title from Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” because Darwin himself played a bit of hockey as a child in the early 1800s, Martel tells us.)

Regardless of the outcome and, frankly, regardless of the disruption that ended the historic tilt that night at the two-story brick edifice in downtown Montreal, the match would spark the love affair of a country with indoor hockey that has continued undeterred for nearly a century and a half. The rink had been open for a few years at the time and was popular with Montreal’s wealthy English-speaking community. Sometimes a band would play while patrons skated around the rink, which operated from January to March.

“At the time, people were trying all sorts of things,” explains Martel. “They were looking for ways to entertain themselves.”

Ice football was tried. And baseball. And the butt, which received good reviews.

But that night was hockey. And because there were no boards to protect spectators and there was concern that the hard ball that had been used for the outdoor versions of the game would fly off the ice and cause injury, he was decided to use a wooden disc instead.

According to The Birthplace Of Hockey website, Creighton was one of Nova Scotia’s first hockey exports, learning to play a fledgling version of the sport in the Halifax area before moving to Montreal. Creighton reportedly asked friends in the East to send him sticks, which ended up being used in that first game 142 years ago.

Later, Creighton would move to Ottawa and work as a law clerk for the Senate of Canada for 48 years, continuing to play the sport he introduced to Montreal. At one point he played alongside the Governor General of Canada, Lord Stanley, who later donated the most famous trophy in all of sport.

After his death, Creighton was buried for many years with his wife in an unmarked grave in Ottawa. But in the fall of 2009, then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper, an avid hockey fan himself, presided over a special ceremony honoring Creighton’s contributions to his country’s favorite pastime.

There is now a plaque and headstone marking Creighton’s final resting place in Canada’s capital.

The Canadian government and the International Ice Hockey Federation also helped produce plaques honoring both Creighton and that first night of floor hockey in Montreal, although Martel noted for a time that it seemed no one knew exactly where the plates were going and once they were rediscovered they still had to be installed.

Well, it’s been 142 years, what’s another year or two between friends of the game?

Catherine J. Martinez