141 years ago, Montreal held the first ever organized indoor hockey game

On March 3, 1875, 18 men gathered at the Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal to play hockey for the first time — and a national pastime was born.

This day in Montreal: McGill University students faced off in 1875

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      On this day in 1875, a national pastime was born.

      At least, that's when the first organized game of indoor ice hockey was held in Montreal. 

      Organized by a group of McGill University students, the game was held at the old Victoria Skating Rink and consisted of two teams of nine male players.

      It was played right downtown — the rink was between Maisonneuve Boulevard and René Lévesque Street (then Dorchester Street, near Drummond Street).

      Before hockey was moved indoors, casual outdoor games of shinny could end up with dozens of players on each team, as there were no guidelines regarding the number of players. 

      Playing inside meant they had to limit each team to nine players.

      An ad for the game placed in the Montreal Gazette shows that the people who played hockey thought it was fun from the start.

      Because of the vagueness of what hockey is, it's hard to come up with a first... The game wasn't invented overnight.- Earl  Zukerman , McGill University

      After the game, a recap was posted and a legendary game was conceived. The main organizer for the game is said to have been James Creighton, a Halifax native who moved to Montreal and went on to study law at McGill University.

      According to Earl Zukerman, a spokesperson for McGill athletics, it is possible that Creighton had drafted rules for the sport as early as 1873, after he and some friends decided to play lacrosse on skates.

      "He was a sportsman," Zukerman said.

      "He got involved in different sporting clubs in Montreal, so one of those clubs was playing hockey. He got together with a couple of guys in that hockey group and they sort of drafted the rules."

      Zukerman cautioned there's no proof of this, but said it's likely to be true.

      Heated debate over hockey's birthplace

      There is much debate on the original birthplace of hockey in the history and sports communities.

      The verdict is split three ways between Montreal, Kingston and regions of Nova Scotia.

      "Because of the vagueness of what hockey is, it's hard to come up with a first," said Zukerman.

      "The game wasn't invented overnight."

      Zukerman added that hockey is an amalgamation of games including lacrosse, invented by First Nations, shinty, a Scottish game, shinny and field hockey, from England, and the Irish game hurling.


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