'Missing Link' in Canadian hockey found
Can you imagine the absolute chaos of a hockey game with 40 or 50 people on each team? This is quite a fascinating story about an 1839 reference to hockey, the second oldest ever found. The oldest, so far, was discovered in 2003 in a 1825 letter written by famed explorer Sir John Franklin describing his men playing hockey near their wintering settlement in Deline, N.W.T.
This latest discovery however is the earliest known description of black Canadians playing the game and reveals the unfortunate racist tendencies of the time. Col. Richard Levigne describes "ludicrous" scene of members of a "negro" military unit lacing on skates and apparently giving the game a go.
"A ludicrous scene, too, was afforded by the instruction of a black corps in skating: from the peculiar formation of a negro's foot, and the length of his heel, they were constantly falling forward; it was impossible to keep them on their skates, and down they came in whole sections," Levigne writes.
Interesting to note that the Calgary Herald and other papers that picked up this story omitted this reference. I admit it is something to be ashamed of.
As millions of Canadians sharpen their skates and otherwise prepare for a new season of the country's favourite game, hockey historians are celebrating the discovery of a document hailed as a missing link in the early evolution of the sport.
Two Swedish researchers have unearthed the second-oldest written reference ever found to hockey being played on ice, a vintage description of an 1839 game contested on a frozen river in southern Ontario near Niagara Falls.
The discovery by European historians of new Canadian evidence of hockey's roots highlights the growing global interest in the sport's origins, which have been hotly debated for years as scholars try to trace the convergence, beginning about 200 years ago, of ice skating and various stick-and-ball games in Europe and North America.
The latest find comes from a British army officer's memoir of his years in what was then the colony of Upper Canada, where soldiers from England were known to pass the long winter months skating, sledding and otherwise embracing the sporting virtues of Canada's bone-chilling climate.
"During the winter, the skating on Chippewa Creek was excellent and added not a little to our amusement," writes Col. Richard Levigne, referring to the present-day Welland River on the Niagara Peninsula between lakes Erie and Ontario.
"Large parties contested games of hockey on ice, some forty or fifty being ranged on each side."