Hockey: A People's History - Book
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Victoria Skating Rink, Library and Archives Canada

March 3, 1875, was an eventful night. In London, Gilbert and Sullivan premiered Trial by Jury, their first comic opera success. In Paris, Georges Bizet debuted the tragic opera Carmen � his last success, for he would die later that year. And in Montreal, the Victoria Rink hosted what the Gazette called "a very large crowd" of forty people, who braved a cold night (the day's high had been a frigid nine degrees Fahrenheit) to see what would become a kind of Canadian opera, with heroes and villains, with triumph and tragedy, and an in-built beauty to every performance: no scripted endings. Under the light cast by the Victoria Rink's gas lamps, these intrepid Montrealers, likely warmed by flasks of brandy and kept out of harm's way by standing on a platform eight inches above the ice it surrounded, watched James Creighton and his seventeen friends take to the ice. Wearing rugby club jerseys, shorts, long woollen stockings, and no protective padding, the players were all from the Victoria Rink and the Montreal Football Club. They wore Starr skates and used Mic-Mac sticks, and shortly after 8:00 p.m., the first ever indoor hockey game began. An hour later, James Creighton had captained his team to a 2�1 victory.

The next day's Gazette featured the world's first report on the indoor game: "The game is like lacrosse in one sense � the block [of wood] having to go through flags placed about 8 feet apart in the same manner as the rubber ball � but in the main the old country game of shinty gives the best idea of hockey." The following day, Kingston's British Whig Standard was the first newspaper to wag a finger at the violence already endemic to the game: "A disgraceful sight took place at Montreal in the Victoria Rink over a game of hockey. Shins and heads were battered, benches smashed, and the lady spectators fled in confusion." The Gazette failed to mention this brawl, which was not between the teams, but between the players and Victoria Skating Club members, who had seen enough of this new game and wanted their ice back. The newspapers paid attention to James Creighton's indoor game most likely because of the pedigree of the players � English Montrealers all: Torrance, Meagher, Potter, Goff, Barnston, Gardner, Giffin, Jarvis, Whiting, Campbell, Campbell, Esdaile, Joseph, Henshaw, Chapman, Powell, Clouston, and, of course, Creighton.

The world's first indoor hockey game was the beginning of the sport's rapid development in Montreal, where James Creighton was studying law at McGill, playing more indoor games at the Victoria Rink, and helping to develop the Montreal Rules, which were published in 1877. After earning his law degree, Creighton moved to Ottawa, where he became law clerk and Master in Chancery to the Senate and a member of the Rideau Rebels, an Ottawa ice-hockey team, one that was begun by the Stanley brothers, whose father had fallen in love with the game. He, too, would change everything.

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