Houghton: The Birthplace of Professional Hockey (by William Sproule)

Presented in association with the Society for International Hockey Research (SIHR). The story of how a Canadian-born dentist and Houghton...
  1. Bill Sproule
    A New Hockey Book on Houghton, Michigan


    136 pages, 8” x 10”, softcover, $20 US

    a story for all hockeyists, puckeys, rooters, hockey enthusiasts, and historians

    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 for the Portage Lake (Houghton) hockey team. The team won the 1904 U.S. Championship and defeated a team from Montreal for what was billed as the World’s Championship. Following this successful season, Gibson and Dee began promoting the idea of a professional hockey league and in December 1904 play began in the International Hockey League (IHL). The league had five teams – Calumet, Pittsburgh, Portage Lake, Sault Ste. Marie Michigan, and Sault Ste. Marie Ontario, and although the league lasted only three seasons it was the start of professional hockey. The book explores the early hockey history in Canada and the United States, the Stanley Cup, early hockey in the Copper Country, the original International Hockey League, the teams and players in the league, and what happened after the league folded.

    One can order copies of the book on-line through the Michigan Tech bookstore. Welcome | Michigan Tech Campus Bookstore


    Chapter 1 – Early Hockey History
    Chapter 2 – Houghton and the Copper Country
    Chapter 3 – Gibson Comes to Houghton
    Chapter 4 – Professional Hockey Begins in Houghton
    Chapter 5 – The Original International Hockey League
    Chapter 6 – Three Seasons of Professional Hockey
    Chapter 7 – International Hockey League Players
    Chapter 8 – After the International Hockey League

    The book has recently been included on a list of notable U.P. books: January 27, 2021 | Tech Today | Michigan Tech

    From a Book Review by Victor Volkman, UPPAA President (Houghton – The Birthplace of Professional Hockey by William Sproule – UP Book Review):
    "Sproule’s book excels in detail in the second half of the book where he dissects every game of those early seasons 1904, 1905, and 1906 where Copper Country teams ruled the professional leagues. Statistics for all the International Hockey League teams are provided, including teams from Calumet, Portage Lake, Michigan Soo, Canadian Soo, and Pittsburgh. Player-level detail shows Top Goal Scorers, Top Goalies, and even Penalty-Minute Leaders.
    A detailed biographical section provides player portraits and bios of all Portage Lake players and Hockey Hall of Famers. A complete IHL player roster provides career details that you won’t find all together in any other book about early hockey history. Sproule also provides archival quality pictures of all the local area hockey venues including the evolution of Houghton’s Amphidrome, the Calumet Glaciadom, and Calumet Colosseum. Last, but not least, a history of the Stanley Cup and MacNaughton Cups provide historical backgrounds for these unique hockey award traditions. Sproule even covers rulebooks and rule changes from the original one-pager to more sophisticated rules which evolved surprisingly quickly."


    William J. (Bill) Sproule is a Professor Emeritus, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Michigan, where he taught transportation engineering, public transit, airport design, and hockey history. He is a member of several associations including the Historical Society of Michigan, the Houghton County Historical Society, and the Society for International Hockey Research. Bill is a co-author of the fifth edition of the airport textbook, Planning and Design of Airports, and author of Copper Country Streetcars.

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