On March 3, 1875, what is claimed to be the first recorded indoor ice hockey game took place at the Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal, Canada. Organized by James Creighton, who also captained one of the teams, the game was between two nine-member teams, using a wooden 'puck'. Members used skates and sticks used for outdoor hockey and shinny games in Nova Scotia, where Creighton was born and raised.
The Rink[edit | edit source]
The Victoria Skating Rink was a long (252 feet (77 m) x 113 feet (34 m)), two-story brick edifice with a 52 feet (16 m)-high pitched roof supported from within by curving wooden trusses, which arched over the entire width of the structure. Tall, round-arched windows punctuated its length and illuminated its interior, while evening skating was made possible by 500 gas-jet lighting fixtures set in coloured glass globes. At a later date, the lighting was converted to electric, making the building the first in Canada to be electrified.
The ice surface measured 204 feet (62 m) by 80 feet (24 m), dimensions very similar to today's National Hockey League (NHL) ice rinks. It was surrounded by a 10 feet (3.0 m)-wide platform, or promenade, which was elevated approximately 1 foot (30 cm) above the ice surface and upon which spectators could stand or skaters could rest. Later, a gallery was added with a royal box for visiting dignitaries.
At the time of its construction, the Rink's location at 49 Drummond Street (now renumbered to 1187), placed it in the centre of the English community in Montreal, in the vicinity of McGill University. The area is known today as the "Square Mile", the area of central Montreal populated then by rich English industrialists and the budding centre of commerce in Canada. One block east was Dominion Square, where annual outdoor winter sporting events were held and later the Montreal Winter Carnival was held. Across the street to the east, the Windsor Hotel, a long-time centre of social life and meeting place of several sports organizations, was built in 1875. Nearby is old Windsor Station, which was the eastern terminus of the Canadian Pacific Railway, built in 1889.
The game[edit | edit source]
In 1873, James Creighton, a member of the Victoria Skating Club and a figure skating judge, started organizing sessions of shinny at the rink, played informally between members of the Club and friends. The rules followed were developed from the informal rules of the outdoor game played in Nova Scotia where Creighton was born and raised, and adapted to the indoors setting and the rink's size.
The first game[edit | edit source]
On March 3, 1875, the Rink hosted what has been recognized as the first indoor organized ice hockey game, between members of the Club, organized by Creighton. The match lays claim to this distinction because of several factors which establish its link to modern ice hockey: it featured two teams (nine players per side), goaltenders, a referee, a puck, a pre-determined set of rules, including a pre-determined length of time (60 minutes) with a recorded score. Games prior to this had mostly been outdoors, with sticks and balls, with informal rules and informal team sizes. In order to limit injuries to spectators and damage to glass windows, the game was played with a wooden puck instead of a lacrosse ball, possibly the first time such an object was used. The two teams, members of the Club, included a number of McGill University students. Sticks and skates for this game were imported from Nova Scotia, including Mic-mac sticks and Starr skates. This first game was pre-announced to the general public in the pages of The (Montreal) Gazette newspaper:
Victoria Rink - A game of Hockey will be played at the Victoria Skating Rink this evening, between two nines chose from among the members. Good fun may be expected, as some of the players are reputed to be exceedingly expert at the game. Some fears have been expressed on the part of intending spectators that accidents were likely to occur through the ball flying about in too lively a manner, to the imminent danger of lookers on, but we understand that the game will be played with a flat circular piece of wood, thus preventing all danger of its leaving the surface of the ice. Subscribers will be admitted on presentation of their tickets.;Game report HOCKEY -- At the Rink last night a very large audience gathered to witness a novel contest on the ice. The game of hockey, though much in vogue on the ice in New England and other parts of the United States, is not much known here, and in consequence the game of last evening was looked forward to with great interest. Hockey is played usually with a ball, but last night, in order that no accident should happen, a flat block of wood was used, so that it should slide along the ice without rising, and thus going among the spectators to their discomfort. The game is like Lacrosse in one sense -- the block having to go through flags placed about 8 feet apart in the same manner as the rubber ball -- but in the main the old country game of shinty gives the best idea of hockey. The players last night were eighteen in number -- nine on each side -- and were as follows: -- Messrs. Torrance (captain), Meagher, Potter, Goff, Barnston, Gardner, Griffin, Jarvis and Whiting. Creighton (captain), Campbell, Campbell, Esdaile, Joseph, Henshaw, Chapman, Powell and Clouston. The match was an interesting and well-contested affair, the efforts of the players exciting much merriment as they wheeled and dodged each other, and notwithstanding the brilliant play of Captain Torrance's team Captain Creighton's men carried the day, winning two games to the single of the Torrance nine. The game was concluded about half-past nine, and the spectators then adjourned well satisfied with the evening's entertainment.By moving ice hockey game 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.
After-game fight[edit | edit source]
Not reported in the Gazette, but reported elsewhere was that there was fighting after the game. This fighting was not between the on-ice combatants, rather, it was between the hockey players and spectators and members of the Skating Club. Members of the Skating Club were opposed to the use of the skating rink for hockey as it took away hours from other skating activities and it damaged the ice quality. According to the Kingston, Ontario Daily British Whig "Shins and heads were battered, benches smashed and the lady spectators fled in confusion."
IIHF recognition[edit | edit source]
In 2002, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) announced that it would acknowledge the site of the Rink with "a commemorative plaque or other historical site marker to remind the passers-by of the existence of the Victoria Skating Rink, the birthplace of organized hockey." The commemoration has been marked in two ways. On May 22, 2008, a commemorative plaque was dedicated at Centre Bell, along with a plaque honouring James Creighton. Further, the IIHF created the Victoria Cup, a trophy named for the arena, for which—along with 1 million Swiss francs—one National Hockey League team and the champion of the European Champions Hockey League play off annually. The first Cup match was held in Berne, Switzerland on October 1, 2008 between the New York Rangers and the Metallurg Magnitogorsk.
An Alternate Claim[edit | edit source]
According to a historian's (Dr. John P. Martin of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia) report that Halifax, Nova Scotia newspapers reported on an indoor game taking place at the Halifax Skating Rink in 1863.  This would add to the debate on another first in the history of the game of ice hockey between the cities of Montreal and Halifax which also involved the first rules of the game, Halifax Rules vs Montreal Rules. The Society for International Hockey Research has dismissed the Halifax claims on being the birthplace of the game and named Montreal the birthplace of hockey back in 2002.