Today history: McGill hockey team played first game on Jan. 31, 1877

Posted on Friday, January 31, 2014
McGill’s men’s hockey team is generally recognized as the first organized hockey team in the world. Taken in 1881, four years after the squad played its first game, this photo of the “McGill senior hockey team” is the first known photograph of hockey players in uniform.

McGill’s men’s hockey team is generally recognized as the first organized hockey team in the world. Taken in 1881, four years after the squad played its first game, this photo of the “McGill senior hockey team” is the first known photograph of hockey players in uniform.

By Earl Zukerman

The McGill men’s hockey team, which won their first-ever national championship in 2011-12, will celebrate the 137th anniversary of their first game when they host the Windsor Lancers, in the first of back-to-back home game at McConnell Arena on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.

Students from the Montreal-based university were instrumental in the origins and development of hockey. They founded the world’s first organized hockey club and played their first game on Jan. 31, 1877, according to an article published in the Feb. 1, 1877 edition of the now defunct McGill University Gazette.

That first contest was a challenge game played between McGill and the “Victorias” – an amalgamation of members of Montreal’s old Victoria Skating Rink, bolstered with players from the Montreal Lacrosse Club and the Montreal Football Club. The historic game, which ended in a 2-1 victory for McGill, was played at the Victoria Rink, bordered by Drummond Street, Boulevard de Maisonneuve and Dorchester Street (now Boulevard René Levesque). An indoor parking garage and National car rental agency is currently in that location.

Members of the first organized McGill club included Archibald D. Taylor (president), Henry “Harry” Abbott (captain), Robert J.B. Howard (secretary & treasurer), Frederick W. Torrance, Lorne Campbell (goalie), William W. Redpath, George R. Caverhill and Rankine Dawson.

That 1877 McGill team was officially founded two years after the first game of organized hockey was played – a contest that involved a number of McGill students – on March 3, 1875 at the Victoria rink. The 1877 game between McGill and the “Victorias” was played under rules (see below) published in The (Montreal) Gazette on Feb. 27, 1877.

Click here for the 135th Anniversary video.

1877 RULES OF ICE HOCKEY

(Ed. Note: the word “Bully” refers to a face-off and the word “game” generally refers to a “goal”).

1. The game shall be commenced and renewed by a Bully in the centre of the ground. Goals shall be changed after each game.

2. When a player hits the ball, any one of the same side who at such moment of hitting is nearer to the opponents’ goal line is out of play, and may not touch the ball himself, or in any way whatever prevent any other player from doing so, until the ball has been played. A player must always be on his own side of the ball.

3. The ball may be stopped, but not carried or knocked on by any part of the body. No player shall raise his stick above his shoulder. Charging from behind, tripping, collaring, kicking or shinning shall not be allowed.

4. When the ball is hit behind the goal line by the attacking side, it shall be brought out straight 15 yards, and started again by a Bully; but, if hit behind by any one of the side whose goal line it is, a player of the opposite side shall hit it out from within one yard of the nearest corner, no player of the attacking side at that time shall be within 20 yards of the goal line, and the defenders, with the exception of the goal-keeper, must be behind their goal line.

5. When the ball goes off at the side, a player of the opposite side to that which hit it out shall roll it out from the point on the boundary line at which it went off at right angles with the boundary line, and it shall not be in play until it has touched the ice, and the player rolling it in shall not play it until it has been played by another player, every player being then behind the ball.

6. On the infringement of any of the above rules, the ball shall be brought back and a Bully shall take place.

7. All disputes shall be settled by the Umpires, or in the event of their disagreement, by the Referee.

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