Hockey History

Exploring the origins and historical events of hockey.

Posted on Behind the Boards (SIHR Blog). The era in ice hockey from around the turn of the twentieth century and up until the formation of the National Hockey League (NHL) in 1917 doesn’t have a formal name, but it is sometimes referred to as the “pre-NHL era.” Or, up until the Western Canada Hockey League (WCHL) disbanded in 1926, and all of the best players gathered in a singular league, in the NHL, as the “pre-consolidation era.”
I grew up a Leafs fan and still consider them to be my favourite team — although that means a lot less to me at age 57 than it did when I was 17 … or 7! It’s been a long time since I would say I’ve bled blue and white. It was probably in 1989 (I’d have been 25 at the time) when I made my peace with the fact that the Montreal Canadiens were actually the greatest franchise in hockey history. (Though I’ve yet to make similar peace with baseball and the New York Yankees, whom I still despise!)...
Posted on Behind the Boards (SIHR Blog). Anatoli Tarasov was the most vocal figure in Soviet hockey – so vocal, in fact, that hockey historians tends forget he wasn't actually the head coach of the Soviet national team during its dynasty years from 1963 to 1972. Tarasov was only the assistant or associate coach. The head coach was another, much more reserved man: Arkadi Chernyshov. However, even those who are aware of him are prone to think of Chernyshov as a mere figurehead who dealt with...
I can't help but notice how Brayden Point is becoming the new playoff-Mike Bossy! That guy is just money in big games the past two seasons. I thought Point was the real Conn Smythe winner last year (not that Hedman wasn't deserving). Point put up 14 goals, 33 points, and a +12 (and missed two games), while winning 57% of face-offs. He was a beast! (So was Kucherov, with 34 points.) In samples of more than 15 games, Point in 2020 had the highest playoff PPG from 2010 to now. So, anyway, I...
Just because this is a Stanley Cup story about teams from New York and Montreal, don’t go reading into it that I’m predicting the Islanders and Canadiens to reach the Final. (Then again, if it happens to be the two of them facing off against each other two weeks or so from now, remember where you read it!) No, this is really just an excuse by me to spin a story out of a recent query about Lester Patrick’s sons, Lynn Patrick and Murray (Muzz) Patrick, scratching their names onto the Stanley...
Well, the Maple Leafs lost. Again. There was still a long way to go, but there will be no Stanley Cup win in Toronto this year. Again. Just like there hasn’t been since 1967. Haven’t even reached the Finals since then. The Leafs haven’t even won a playoff series since 2004. So, Toronto goes on to Year #55 without a Stanley Cup title, which is the longest drought in NHL history, surpassing the 54 years from 1940 to 1994 that the New York Rangers went without. Still, when it comes to Stanley...
I figured I couldn’t call myself a hockey historian if I didn’t have something to say about Toronto and Montreal in the NHL playoffs. But — surprise, surprise! — we’re going back a little bit further here… I was 3 1/2 years old when Toronto beat Montreal to win the Stanley Cup in 1967. I don’t remember it. (My hockey memories don’t kick in until after I saw my first game, at Maple Leaf Gardens in December of 1970.) But I remember well when the two teams met in 1978 and 1979. The Leafs of...
I’d been pretty busy until recently, working on a new book for Firefly called Hockey Hall of Fame True Stories. They wanted something less stats-driven than most of their recent books … and they wanted it fast! So, in early March, I started writing and I delivered a lengthy manuscript at the end of April. It was quite the crunch. Not enough time for other things until now. Although I’ve taken the title from the movie Airplane!, and the content makes me think of Jerry Seinfeld’s new book Is...
Posted on Behind the Boards (SIHR Blog). Organized ice hockey had relatively deep roots in New England, with Concord in New Hampshire appearing as somewhat of an early cradle, where St. Paul’s School under direction of coach Malcolm Kenneth Gordon ran an intramural program from the late 1880s/early 1890s, eventually producing such talent as the famed skating virtuoso Hobey Baker during the first decade of the 1900s.
Presented in association with the Society for International Hockey Research (SIHR). Wilf Cude (1906-1968): gifted NHL goaltender, dedicated hockey coach, conscientious sports talent scout, small businessman, husband and parent. A hockey book with all the statistics and information any hockey enthusiast might want, it's a story of success, failure, strength, skill, determination, negotiation, love and luck. This offers a lively and spirited literary immersion into our Canadian and North...
Presented in association with the Society for International Hockey Research (SIHR). The Odd Fellow's Heart makes the argument that one unknown person, Jimmy Stewart, was the continuing factor that turned hockey from the upper-class gentlemanly pastime into a sport watched and played by millions worldwide. Jimmy was instrumental in starting the first working-class game, introducing the Montreal Crystals to the Montreal Carnival. He was instrumental in the organization of the first hockey...
Posted on Behind the Boards (SIHR Blog). Organized senior amateur league hockey in the Ottawa Valley, around the Ottawa River, had taken form already around the immediate turn of the twentieth century, in the form of the Ottawa Valley Hockey League (OVHL) – starting in 1898–99 – and the Lower Ottawa Hockey Association (LOHA), starting out in 1901–02. But for the 1902–03 season the two leagues would get a joint challenge prize to play for in form of the Citizen Shield. The Citizen Shield was...
How can coaches teach Soviet-style possession hockey? Why were the '70s Montreal Canadiens & the '80s New York Islander such juggernauts? What can today's players learn from Wayne Gretzky & the high-flying Edmonton Oilers? HT: Retrospective, Part 1 is a loving tribute to the great teams and players of the 1970s and 1980s. The author uses detailed video analysis to break down and diagram the genius of hockey grandmasters Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, Gil Perreault, Slava Fetisov, Wayne Gretzky...
Posted on Behind the Boards (SIHR Blog). The first installations of the Ottawa City Hockey League appeared during the 1890s, where it was first an amateur league with both senior and junior teams, and later a junior league only. Among the inaugural clubs during the 1890–91 season were the Ottawa Hockey Club, Ottawa Gladstones, Ottawa College and Dey’s Rink Pirates. In the latter half of the decade some of the more well known teams were the Ottawa Aberdeens, Ottawa Maples and Ottawa College.
Presented in association with the Society for International Hockey Research (SIHR). Thirty-two men enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame were also soldiers in the First World War. Not just hockey heroes, five of these men were awarded gallantry decorations. Four paid the ultimate price for answering the call of duty: they were killed in action.
Posted on Behind the Boards (SIHR Blog). In March 1953, Stan Obodiac handed Anatoli Tarasov a book by Lloyd Percival. It's not clear whether the book was How to Play Better Hockey or The Hockey Handbook and how much of it Tarasov was able to translate. What we do know is that six months later, Tarasov implemented a new training routine with the Soviet national team:
Posted on Behind the Boards (SIHR Blog). In his biography Lloyd Percival: Coach and Visionary, Gary Mossman reports the following: The late Canadian sportswriter, Jim Coleman, frequently related a story told to him by Lethbridge Maple Leaf hockey player Stan Obodiac, who was of Ukrainian decent, spoke fluent Russian and sent regular dispatches back to the Lethbridge Herald while the Lethbridge team was in Europe for the 1951 World Hockey Championships. According to Coleman, Obodiac described...
One year to the day of the declaration of a global pandemic, I’m using the somewhat flimsy pretext of an overlooked anniversary (of sorts) from last week as an excuse for running this story today. Really, it’s just another old incident I may have figured out something new about… This past Sunday, March 7, marked the 115th anniversary of Fred Brophy of the Montreal AAA hockey team scoring a goal on Nathan Frye of the Montreal Victorias. What makes this goal noteworthy is that Brophy himself...
Hockey’s Wildest Season is an examination of the thoroughly crazy 1969-70 NHL season—one that featured amazingly close playoff races in both the East and West divisions that were not decided until the final Sunday of the regular season. It also looks at all aspects of that season: the decline of the traditional NHL powerhouses (Montreal and Toronto) and the emergence of the former have-not clubs (Boston, Chicago and New York); the awful Ted Green-Wayne Maki stick-swinging incident in the...
On February 24, 1952, the Edmonton Mercurys completed an undefeated run through the Winter Olympics in Oslo, Norway, to win the gold medal in hockey. Canada had previously won Olympic hockey gold in 1920, 1924, 1928, and 1932, and after settling for a surprising silver behind a Great Britain team loaded with Canadian-born players in 1936, won gold again in 1948 when the Olympics resumed after World War II. With the Soviet Union entering the Olympic scene in 1956, Canadian men wouldn’t win...
Posted on Behind the Boards (SIHR Blog). John William McGrath was born on March 10, 1891 in St. John’s, Newfoundland to parents James Francis McGrath and Catherine McCarthy. His father was a fisherman as well as a civil servant and political figure in Placentia and St. Mary’s, Newfoundland. James Francis McGrath was a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly from 1885 to 1894 as a Liberal. John McGrath himself showed early interest in journalistic and political matters when...
The Life and Teams of Johnny F. Bassett: Maverick Entrepreneur of North American Sports is the biography of one of the most influential sportsmen of the twentieth century. Dozens of interviews with Bassett’s contemporaries and archival research provide the basis for this work which began as a PhD dissertation in American Studies and was successfully defended at Penn State-Harrisburg in 2020. Interview subjects include Bassett’s friends and family, but also his sports rivals and political...
Posted on Behind the Boards (SIHR Blog). Around the turn of the twentieth century, during the 1900–01 season, 24-year old James Joseph “Jimmy” Enright assembled a group of local teenage Ottawa boys to form a junior hockey team which would initially go under the name “Enright’s Boarders”. The youngsters trained and played at the Victoria Ice Rink – on Nepean Street near the corner of Bank Street in Ottawa – of which Jimmy Enright was an owner and manager. Their opponents initially were other...
Presented in association with the Society for International Hockey Research (SIHR). The story of how a Canadian-born dentist and Houghton entrepreneur changed hockey by openly paying players to come to Michigan’s Copper Country to play hockey. In the early days of hockey it was a game for amateurs, however there were rumors that some players were secretly paid. It was not until 1903 that Jack “Doc” Gibson and James R. Dee decided to recruit the best players from Canada and pay them to play...
Posted on Behind the Boards (SIHR Blog). In 1945, Nikolai Romanov became chairman of the All-Union Committee for Physical Culture and Sports, the governmental body overseeing sports in the Soviet Union. Anatoli Tarasov would later characterize him in the following manner: Granted, he scolded me more often than he praised me, but all his remarks were certainly fair and sensible: they helped to grow and to see a horizon behind the horizon. And beyond. More than others, he understood that it is...
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