Canadian and U.S. Expansion

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The Ontario Hockey Association was formed in November 1890 and began as an idea from Arthur Stanley. There were thirteen original members, including private schools and universities such as the Royal School of Infantry and the law school Osgoode Hall. Elsewhere within Ontario, the University of Toronto created a hockey team in 1891 and joined the Toronto Junior Hockey league in its inaugural year in 1893. Other school-based members of the league included an elite private school, Upper Canada College, along with Trinity College and Victoria University.

Hockey made its way south of the border on the East Coast when the state of Vermont hosted a winter carnival in February 1886 that included hockey in its lineup. This Burlington tournament included two Montreal teams that travelled down to showcase the sport as well as a local team, Van Ness House. While this tournament didn’t include any colleges, it’s important in that it was the first international tournament in hockey history. The Montreal Amateur Association Hockey Club defeated the Crystal Hockey Club of Montreal and Van Ness Hockey Club to capture the tournament’s gold medal. Van Ness failed to win a game but the team had only practiced this new sport several times before the tournament began. While the team didn’t win a game, it did make history. The game between the Montreal Hockey Club and Van Ness Hockey Club on February 26, 1886, was the first international game in hockey history. And by all accounts, it was the first official hockey game played by a U.S. team.

Burlington Winter Carnival tournament in 1886 included two Montreal teams and a local team named Van Ness Hockey Club
Burlington Winter Carnival tournament highlights from a March 5, 1886 issue of the Burlington Weekly Free Press

Hockey first crept into the Midwest United States in February 1895 when the University of Minnesota hosted the Victorias from Winnipeg at Athletic Park in Minneapolis. The St. Paul Pioneer Press at the time called it the first hockey game ever played in the United States. Perhaps they accidentally omitted the word “collegiate” since this very likely was the first hockey game played by a college team in the United States. The Gophers record books omit this February 18, 1895, game since it wasn’t an official university-sanctioned event. But ultimately the Gophers students on the ice represented the University against the Canadian opponents. Five hundred spectators were on hand to witness the Victorias’ talent and experience overpower the Gophers 7-3.

In the summer of 1894, a collegiate tennis tournament between Canadians and Americans took place in Niagara Falls. While they were there, players from both countries realized they played a different game on the ice during the winter with Canadians playing hockey and Americans playing their ice polo. The Canadians asked the Americans to tour Canada the upcoming winter to showcase the two sports with matches between the two countries. Yale University’s Malcolm Chance captained the American team and with assistance from his friend from Yale, Arthur Foote, they fielded a team of players from Brown University, Harvard University and Columbia University. The games took place at the end of the year and were scheduled in multiple cities throughout Canada. Hockey and ice polo were both played in front of Canadian crowds. Some games even featured one sport in the first half and the other sport in the second. Ice polo differed from hockey in several areas. For instance, it was played with a ball, did not have an offside rule, had smaller nets, and did not have face-offs but instead rushes towards the ball. Of the four split-sport games, the Americans won and tied two ice polo halves, while the Canadians easily won all four hockey halves. Once back in the States, Malcolm Chance and Arthur Foote put together a hockey team at Yale.

The city of Baltimore, Maryland, claims to have hosted the first intercollegiate hockey game in the United States. Chance’s team from Yale squared off against Johns Hopkins University on February 1, 1896, with the game ending in a 2-2 tie.

Team photo of the 1895-96 Johns Hopkins hockey team - the first team to play an intercollegiate hockey game in the United States against Yale.
1895-96 Johns Hopkins hockey team photo from the 1896 Johns Hopkins Hullabaloo Yearbook

The next year in the same city, the Baltimore Hockey League was formed in January 1897 with four teams participating; two of them being the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins. By the late 1890s, hockey leagues started popping up in cold weather states throughout the U.S.

On December 23, 1898, the Intercollegiate Hockey Association of America (IHAA) formed. The four original members were Yale, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania (Penn) and Brown. Princeton University joined in 1900. Harvard created a hockey team in 1898 but didn’t officially join the league until four years later. Harvard played Brown at Boston’s Franklin Field on January 19, 1898. Brown won the first game in what Harvard claims today as the oldest continuing hockey series in the country between two teams. In the 1920s, seventeen Midwestern schools formed the Northern Intercollegiate Hockey Association. Included in the league were Minnesota, University of Michigan, Marquette University, University of Wisconsin, Eveleth Junior College, and North Dakota Agricultural College (later renamed North Dakota State University), among others. With separate regional collegiate leagues, boasts as U.S. National Champions were debated.

Yale Daily News Introduction of Intercollegiate Hockey Association of America
Introduction of the Intercollegiate Hockey Association of America in a Jan. 13, 1899 issue of the Yale Daily News

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