I’m a Montreal Canadien’s fan from waaaaay back! There I’ve said it! I’ve had to keep it hidden for over thirty years, seeing as I live in Flames territory…Calgary Flames that is. I mean I love the Flames but mostly it’s because there is a healthy rivalry between the two cities of Edmonton and Calgary and I enjoy talking smack with my neighbours to the north everytime the Flames beat the Oilers. Don’t worry, they reciprocate every chance they can get too! That said, my heart has always been with the Montreal Canadiens!
Now for my American friends…I’m talking hockey here. Not football, and not basketball which I’ve been told you have a certain affinity for. I never realized how passionately y’all take your football until I tried wearing an Arkansas Razorback T-shirt in Tulsa Oklahoma (Cowboy territory). My, my! It’s a mistake you only make once and never ever repeat! It’s sort of the same premise here in Alberta if someone shows up in an Edmonton Oiler jersey to a Calgary Flames game. We might boo him as he walks by us or some joker will slosh beer down his neck but that’s about it. We’re still Canadians after all and basically polite. Goodness, I have never experienced “shunning” until that Razorback incident there in Tulsa. I actually feared I might be tarred and feathered! (Just kidding…sort of.)
Now here in Canada, our passion is hockey. In the mid 1800’s ice hockey was first played in either Windsor, Nova Scotia; Kingston, Ontario or Montreal, Quebec depending on who you believe and how you read the evidence. What is not disputed is that the first known rules for hockey were published in the Montreal Gazette in 1877 and in 1888 the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada was formed, with four teams in Montreal, one in Ottawa and one in Quebec City. Now when I look at those stats as a polite Canadian, I’d just let the city of Windsor take the title of the “Birthplace of Hockey” and let it go because let’s face it, the other cities sort of muscled Windsor out of the hockey spotlight after that.
In 1889 or 1892 the first women’s hockey game was played in Ontario. I can’t understand why statisticians don’t know the exact year…maybe it was because men historians were reluctant to report on women’s hockey then and give any credence to the fact that women may have had a decisive and worthy contribution to Canada’s national game. (Have I opened a can of worms here or what?) You go girls!!
In 1893, a gentleman by the name of Frederick Arthur, Lord Stanley of Preston and Governor General of Canada, donated a trophy to be called the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup. It has since more commonly been referred to as the Stanley Cup and the first winning team was from Montreal.
In 1900 a goal net was first introduced to the game. I have absolutely no idea what they used before goal nets, I’m assuming they put two tin cans or something on the ice to determine a “crease” area, but no doubt there must have been great disputes over what constituted a valid goal being scored before goal nets. Probably the first goal scoring dispute led to the first “dropping of gloves” and bench clearing brawl. Okay, I’m speculating here…but I’m probably right.
In 1910 the Montreal Canadiens played their first game after joining a new league called the National Hockey Association. Teams in Western Canada formed the Pacific Coast Hockey Association in 1911 and the league introduced blue lines to divide the ice into three zones. Goaltenders were permitted to fall to the ice to make saves and forward passing was now allowed in the neutral zone. Again, it’s hard for me to fathom how they played the game without goalies being allowed to drop to the ice to make saves or players making forward passes. Again I can only speculate that if the lack of goal nets didn’t start the first fight, then I’m pretty sure this must have!
In 1917 the Seattle Metropolitans became the first American-based team to win the Stanley Cup, after the Cup’s trustees ruled that teams outside Canada could compete for the trophy. Four NHA teams reorganized to form the National Hockey League and a new team, the Toronto Arenas, won the first NHL championship, going on to defeat Vancouver of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) for the 1918 Stanley Cup. The Arenas would change their name to the Maple Leafs in 1927.
In 1920 an ice hockey tournament was played for the first time at the VII Summer Olympics at the ice palace of Antwerp, Belgium. All games were played with seven players on each side, with the rover position being used. The gold medalists were the Winnipeg Falcons, representing Canada and the silver went to the United States and Czechoslovakia took the bronze. Note: (The rover position was abandoned in Canada in 1912 so the number of players on the ice was reduced from seven to six per team). In 1924, ice hockey debuted at the Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France and Canada won the gold medal.
In 1929 the first offside rule was introduced. (See my previous comments about fighting).
In 1937, the first rule to deal with icing was introduced. (See above).
Beginning in 1942 and for the next 25 years the NHL was comprised of the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers and Chicago Black Hawks, or as we like to refer to them: “the Original Six”.
In 1946 referees began using hand signals to indicate penalties and other rulings. (I’m just going to let that go.)
Hockey Night in Canada made its first television debut in 1952 and in 1955 Maurice “Rocket” Richard was suspended for the remainder of the season and the playoffs after punching a linesman during a fight. (see above). The suspension sparked the “Richard Riot” in Montreal and from then on NHL officials were required to wear striped sweaters for the first time. (Similar to marking them with a bullseye target I suspect….oh, I’ve opened another can of worms!)
In 1955 my parents immigrated to Canada from Denmark and my father immediately became hooked on watching Hockey Night in Canada with the great Foster Hewitt giving play-by-play commentary. Having only six teams to choose from and being a new citizen of Canada, my father pledged his hockey allegiance to the Maple Leafs. In 1967 Canada marked its 100th anniversary of Confederation, Montreal hosted Expo’67 World’s Fair and the National Hockey League doubled in size adding franchises in Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Oakland, St. Louis and Philadelphia. This is also the year that I started to show some interest in hockey but I decided to be contrary, so I started to cheer for the Leaf’s closest rivals then: the Montreal Canadiens. (My father never forgives me!)
Tomorrow, I will continue this little hockey commentary – It’s a Canadien Game – Part 2.