I was recently pleased to be able to advise the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia that their
newly-acquired image of a curling game on Lake Banook, Dartmouth, which was painted in
1867, contains the earliest known image of an actual game of ice hockey. Significantly,
the local newspapers reported in February of 1867 that hockey matches were being played
on the Dartmouth lakes between teams from the Garrison and Fleet.
The accuracy of this image is supported by the fact that the local papers stated
that a curling game and hockey games were to be played on the Dartmouth lakes and
they subsequently reported these events. No mention was made that hurley was being played.
It has been suggested that hockey is not depicted in the image because some of the
players are holding their sticks with one hand. When you watch hockey being played today,
it is common for players not carrying the puck to use one hand on the stick.
This is very obvious during skills competitions as players hold their stick
with one hand for maximum racing speed.
Having played many hockey games on Lake Banook,
it is my belief that there are two games in the image and that the player
on the ice to the left of the curlers is in fact the goaltender for
the hockey game being played immediately behind the curling match.
Goaltenders were reported being used in games on Lake Banook as early as the 1840s.
Curling on Lake Banook   Hockey on Lake Banook
After a survey of its readers in late 2004, the
Hockey News has reported
that their fans chose Halifax (including Dartmouth) as "hockey's hallowed birthplace".
The poll was significant because its readers represent the true hardcore fans of
the game of ice hockey and it confirms a tremendous comeback with respect to Halifax's
position in the debate. Only a few years earlier,
Halifax and Dartmouth were largely ignored by the media. The scores:
1. Halifax, N.S.
3. Windsor, N.S.
4. Kingston, Ont.
"Sorry, Virginia, that ain't hockey!"
The Canadian media has recently suggested that a painting from Virginia c. 1833 by John Toole
contains a depiction of an early hockey game. Unfortunately, the media has once again failed
to understand the early development of ice hockey. This image shows a group of men engaged in
a game of hurley - a lacrosse-like game that is still played in Ireland***. (It is interesting that
the painter was from Ireland). Chambers's Information for the People (1848) provides a vivid
description of the game of hurley:
"A person is chosen to throw up the ball...when the whole party, withdrawing their hurleys,
stand with them elevated to receive and strike it in its descent....The ball must not be taken
from the ground by hand; and the tact and skill shown in taking it on the point of the hurley;
and running with it half the length of the field, and, when too closely pressed, striking it
towards the goal, is a matter of astonishment....then the tossing and straining are at their
height...while the ball is returned by some strong arm again, flying above their heads, towards
the other goal."
Hurley in Virginia
Unfortunately, the town of Windsor, N.S., has used a fictional quotation of a hurley game being
played on the ice, without any indication that skates were used, as the primary basis for their
birthplace of hockey claim. Significantly, there was no indication that ice hockey originated
in their town in old newspapers, paintings, diaries, etc. until the province of Nova Scotia
amazingly erected a highway sign proclaiming Windsor as hockey's birthplace in the 1980s.
CBC television perpetuated the myth by broadcasting their Hockey Day in Canada from Windsor
During the broadcast, a debate was held whether hockey was born in Windsor, Montreal
or Kingston, without any reference to the true home of hockey in Canada - Dartmouth and Halifax.
A group of Windsor supporters is currently seeking government funding for a birthplace of
hockey museum that would attract thousands to their fictional hockey world - a tragedy for
our national game. There is only one logical place in Canada for a tribute to our hockey
history - Dartmouth - Hockey's Home.
*** I have always believed that the early images from Europe of a game on ice resembled a form
of golfing. I have been advised by the National Gallery of Art in Washington that it is
their belief that this image shows a Dutch game called kolven which has been described as
an early type of golf game that was played on ice.