The Canadians bested the Americans for Olympic Gold in mens hockey, as well they should have since two key aspects of the game were introduced on March 3, 1875 in Montreal, Quebec.
That’s the day James Creighton and a group of his friends played a hockey game in front of 40 spectators at the Victoria Skating Rink. It was the first indoor hockey game open to the public.
Creighton and his buddies from McGill University had been practicing for weeks at the Victoria. Hockey to that point was a causal sport played outdoors with few rules regarding the size of the playing surface or the number of players on each side.
The limited size of the Victoria required Creighton to institute two key changes that remain a part of the game today.
First, Creighton implemented an off-sides rule that prohibited a offensive player with the puck from passing the puck to a player in front of him.
Second, and more importantly, Creighton introduced the puck itself, in this case a wooden disc 1 inch thick by 3 inches in diameter. Prior to the puck, hockey was played with a ball, which was difficult to control and prone to leaving the playing surface and striking a spectator.
Creighton went on to organize several indoor hockey games, and the sport became popular, first in Montreal, and later throughout Canada.
As a side note, the Montreal Gazette reported that that first indoor hockey game ended in a fight, thus beginning a long tradition of hockey fisticuffs. Clink on the photo of the newspaper article to read about it.
Did you know?
- In 1877, Creighton published the first set of hockey rules, which became known as the Montreal Rules.
- Until 1994, lacrosse – not hockey – was the national sport of Canada. That year the Canada parliament officially made hockey the national sport, relegating lacrosse to the official summer game.
- March 3 was an important date for Creighton. Not only was it the day he organized the first indoor hockey game, on March 3, 1882, he was appointed the law clerk of the Canadian Senate, a position he would hold for 48 years until his death at age 80.