Women’s Hockey Begins

Previous: Canadian and U.S. Expansion

Women started skating in men’s games in the 1880s and the first all-women’s game took place in February 1891 in Ottawa. Women’s teams began popping up throughout Canada in the 1890s. In 1900, the first known women’s hockey league was founded in Quebec. A separate league that was founded in Ontario included Queen’s University and the University of Toronto among other women’s club teams.

The first accounts of women’s hockey in the U.S. occurred before the turn of the century. Mount Holyoke College in western Massachusetts fielded a team in 1896. A newspaper reporter also covered a game between two women’s teams in Philadelphia in 1899. While these are important milestones in women’s hockey history, women didn’t find their foothold in the sport for another two decades. A U.S. intercity women’s league began in 1920 on the East Coast but folded two years later.

Mount Holyoke women's hockey team skating in 1896.
The first women’s hockey team in the U.S. was formed in 1896 at Mount Holyoke College in western Massachusetts.

Women’s hockey had more success in Canada beginning in 1920 when the Universities of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba began playing in the Western Canadian Intervarsity Athletic Union. Other universities followed suit in addition to clubs outside the collegiate system. Tournaments were held and champions crowned throughout the 1920s in Canada. The 1925 University of Toronto hockey team won the Toronto Ladies Hockey League and followed it up with the Ladies Ontario Hockey Association title. By the late 1930s, women’s hockey in Canada fell on hard times and – like a lot of sports at the time – folded at the beginning of World War II. It would make an appearance again two decades later. But it would take nearly five decades after World War II before the women’s game would truly rise again at the university and amateur level – throughout the U.S., Canada and the world.

Next: 1900s – Harvard and Yale Dominate the East Coast