Lisa Laughy – Archives Assistant
One of the benefits of colder temperatures is thicker ice on Lower School Pond. Workers have carefully cleared the surface of the pond behind Ohrstrom Library and have set up nets and backboards for playing ice hockey. St. Paul’s School has a long and honored relationship with the sport, especially considering that SPS is credited as being the birthplace of hockey in the United States. Those first hockey games played in the early 1880s took place on the same pond as today, and that connection is maintained each winter when SPS students put skates to the ice on Lower School Pond.
There are a great number of images in the SPS Archives that document the history of hockey at the school. SPS Archivist David Levesque has assembled a select display of Archive materials in the lower level case located outside the Writing Lab. Take a moment to view the display next time you are in Ohrstrom.
Below are a few examples of images featured in the Sesquicentennial online exhibit:
“Seven rinks and two practice rinks are seen on the Lower School Pond. The first ice hockey game in the United States was played at St. Paul’s on the Lower School Pond. The game was imported from nearby Quebec. The Athletic Association made the rules in 1884: eleven players on a side and goal posts to be ten feet apart. The puck was then called the “block.” Sportswriters called St. Paul’s “the cradle of American hockey” under the guidance and coaching of Malcolm K. Gordon of the Form of 1887 and faculty 1889-1917.”
“An early hockey team poses on the ice with coach Malcolm Kenneth Gordon, Form of 1887, and a Master 1889-1917. Sportswriters called St. Paul’s “the cradle of American hockey” under the guidance and coaching of Malcolm Gordon, who coached such famed hockey players as Hobey Baker, who attended SPS from 1903-1910.”
“Hockey as we know it was first played in the United States right here on Lower School Pond. It was imported from Canada in the 1880s when the Rev. James P. Conover (Master 1882-1915) visited Montreal. As he wrote in a letter, “I got sticks, pucks (wooden tubes covered with leather) and rules from Canada myself. We flooded the field just below the dam with a few inches of water so we had safe and early skating, and when it snowed we flooded over the snow…this worked beautifully till the ice got so thick it thawed out from the ground and floated, so we put teams on the pond…at first you may remember we marked the boundaries by beams laid on the ice…it must have been somewhere about 1885. Malcolm Gordon was another of the early hockey enthusiasts.” At first it had been an informal scrimmage on the ice, gradually settling into a more organized contest with eleven men to a side. In 1896 the Canadian version of the game, with seven men on each side, was adopted. That same year the school team played for the first time on the fabled St. Nicholas rink in New York against a group of alumni. The alumni won 3-1. But the encounter was a spectacular event, and the school was off upon a long career of hockey playing, which was to make it known in the sports world and to fill many of the places on the top college teams with skaters trained upon the Millville ice.”