Dartmouth and Halifax - Hockey History Timeline

"Hockey is Canada's national game and its greatest contribution to world sport."
The Canadian Encyclopedia


Mi'kmaw history notes that the Mi'kmaq played a game on ice on Tuft's Cove, Dartmouth, with eight men on each team and a wooden puck.


Poem appears in Halifax's Acadian Magazine: "Now at ricket with hurlies some dozens of boys/Chase the ball o'er ice, with a deafening noise." Subsequent newspaper reports confirm that rickets was the name given to hockey. Hurleys were a term used for hockey sticks based on their resemblance to hurley sticks - hurley was a game played which was similar to lacrosse where a ball was carried in the air on stick and passed from player to player in the air.


Halifax townsfolk and the military enjoy a spirit-stirring game of wicket, another term for hockey, on the ice of the North West Arm. Silhouette artist Hankes of Halifax cuts a portrait of young Henry Piers holding a hockey stick.


Local newspapers report the Dartmouth Lakes as "good for a game of ricket (hockey)...a great match today, if the weather be fine." - The reference to a match confirms that games were in fact being played.


Dartmouth's Mrs. Gould describes the sport of hockey in her diary from the 1890s - popular during her childhood, circa 1840. Noted as having a photographic memory, she wrote: "The Dartmouth Lakes and the small ponds were the only resorts of skaters and ricket players - the game now known as hockey...William Foster...always stood ricket guard (goaltender) with his creepers on, as he was not a skater." Gould's memoirs confirm that goaltenders were used and the players wore skates during their games on Lake Banook.


Thomas Chandler Haliburton notes in his fictional work The Attaché references "hurley on the long pond on the ice..." Hurley was a lacrosse-like game played in the air. No mention of skates, teams or hockey (ricket or wicket). During our long winters, numerous games were played on the ice including polo and cricket which were reported in the Halifax newspapers during winter months. Unfortunately, the town of Windsor has used the Haliburton quote as the sole basis for their claim as Hockey's birthplace. There are no newspaper reports, paintings, diary notes or other evidence to support this claim. Dr. Bruce Fergusson noted this quotation in his article from the 1960s confirming Halifax as the birthplace of hockey and referred to the quote to simply show other games were played in Nova Scotia in the winter.


Mrs. Robert Gray, who grew up next to Lake Banook, Dartmouth, observes hockey games being played on Lake Banook. She reported these games to Dartmouth historian Dr. John P. Martin in the early 1900s.


Halifax newspapers report the North West Arm "covered with skaters with their hurleys (hockey sticks)".


Newspapers report that, on Dartmouth's lakes, young men play rickets (hockey) with "skates strapped on, and hurly in hand."


Noted Dartmouth historian, Dr. John P. Martin, wrote that the newspapers reported the first indoor hockey games being played in the new Halifax rink - one of the first two indoor rinks built in Canada. Winter newspaper poem proclaims: "Off we shoot, and poise and wheel: And swiftly turn upon scoring heel."


Dartmouth's Starr Manufacturing begins selling the first modern skate in the world - millions of Forbes Acme skates and subsequent models are sold during the next 75 years around the world. Halifax/Dartmouth newspaper reports "boys...are playing hockey on the ice and occasionally mimicking the mistakes of such among their betters as are not quite at home upon skates."


The Halifax Reporter writes that the centre of Dartmouth's Oathill Lake was occupied by "officers of the Garrison and the Fleet in a match game called hockey, i.e. ricket." The ice on Lake Banook was rough and they moved to nearby Oathill Lake for the first time. This is the first reported game of hockey in the world which references two teams - the Garrison being the troops from the Halifax Citadel and the Fleet being the navy team. Some suggest that games were played here without rules, teams, scores, etc. Did the army and navy play a game without rules, scoring, etc? Why would they discuss a rematch if it was a primitive game without rules, scores, etc.? It is interesting to note that a military band entertained the spectators and hot beer was provided for all.

Visiting from England, H.B. Laurence paints a curling game on Dartmouth's Lake Banook. In the background, he clearly paints hockey players in a hockey match. Significantly, newspaper reports of the time note that hockey matches are to be played on the Dartmouth lakes.


Mi'kmaq in the Halifax and Dartmouth area begin selling hockey sticks to supply local demand - soon sold at the market in Halifax.


On the North West Arm, a "boisterous and lively" game of rickets (hockey) is played till night fall.

Halifax's J.G.A. Creighton suggests that Montreal friends take up the game of ice hockey, which they play using Dartmouth-made hockey sticks and using "Halifax Rules". ( It is most likely that a majority of them were wearing Dartmouth's Starr skates.)


Dartmouth's Starr skates win award at the 1876 American Exhibition in Philadelphia.


The Encyclopedia Britannica notes that the Starr Acme skate "is generally acknowledged the best."


Eaton's carries the Starr skates in its Toronto store.


Photo shows the sons of Lord Stanley and other players of the Rideau Hall Rebels with their Mic-Mac sticks from Dartmouth's Starr Manufacturing.


Teams consisting of only Black players play hockey games in Dartmouth and Halifax. Various female teams also compete in a local league.


Starr Manufacturing donates the Starr trophy to the Halifax Hockey Association League. This beautiful trophy, larger than Lord Stanley's trophy donated in 1893 was eventually won by the town of Kentville. After the league folded, Windsor apparently acquired the trophy from the Mayor of Kentville. The Starr trophy should be returned its Dartmouth home.


The first hockey nets are used in a game between the Halifax Crescents and the Wanderers.


Eaton's Catalogue begins selling Starr skates. "These have been the leading skates of Canada for many years, and we have decided to carry a full line for the coming season."


Halifax Crescents challenge for the Stanley Cup.


Six of seven members of world champion Montreal team wear Starr skates.


Brochure for new Dartmouth Hockey League notes "while the City of Toronto was yet a forest, Dartmouth was playing lively hockey matches against the Indians on the lakes." Toronto was settled in 1793.


Starr manufacturing advertisement proclaims: "Probably every prominent hockey player in Canada - for the past forty years - has used Starr skates." Significantly, this ad appeared before any debate about hockey's origins and confirms that hockey was being played in Dartmouth in 1867 - the same year players were painted enjoying the game on Lake Banook.


Dartmouth and Halifax continue to impact hockey history. NHL hockey star Sidney Crosby grew up in a suburb of Dartmouth, now part of Halifax Regional Municipality, and played midget hockey for the Dartmouth Subways.


The Society for International Hockey Research (S.I.H.R. - The Society for Ignoring Halifax's Records?), a self-appointed body of amateur hockey historians whose executive has largely been dominated by Ontario and Quebec members, named Montreal as the birthplace of hockey in 2002 without the benefit of Hockey's Home. The International Ice Hockey Federation adopted their report. Unfortunately, the S.I.H.R. has continued to describe the tremendous hockey history of Dartmouth and Halifax in terms such as "prehistoric" and a "primitive stick game".

A review of the hockey time line clearly confirms that the game of ice hockey originated in Dartmouth and Halifax - the same "primitive" game that Creighton took to Montreal and is currently being played throughout the world. The recent outdoor hockey game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Edmonton Oilers was a tremendous tribute to the first games played on Dartmouth's lakes as hockey returned to its roots - a spirited game of hockey played outdoors.

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