Hockey players on Lower School Pond, 1916

By - Systems Librarian February 2nd, 2017


A photo of SPS hockey players on Lower School Pond – a game against Exeter that took place in February of 1916, won by SPS 10-3.

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From the Archives: Clearing the Ice

By - Systems Librarian February 10th, 2011

This photo was discovered in the St. Paul’s School Archives in a box among some of  the older hockey photos.  It shows two teams of horses pulling equipment, with workers guiding the process.  Someone has penciled in “Planer” and “Scraper” under the teams, and on the back of the photo is written “L S Pond. Clearing the ice.” also in pencil.  There is no date on the photo or any identifying details to help date this image, but horses were used to clear and shave the ice at St. Paul’s in this way at least into the 1950s when the first artificial hockey rink was built.

Richard B. McAdoo, SPS Form of 1938, wrote this recollection in his Autumn 1991 Alumni Horae article:

Early on, though, we were taught that the way to cope with a New England winter is to seize hold of the sport it has to offer. Chief among these for us was hockey. Once the roads had been cleared of snow, the teams of horses were guided onto the School Pond, where the ice was two or more feet thick, to plough the drifts off the hockey rinks. A team was then hitched to the ingenious blade —it was first developed here —which shaved a thin layer off the ice and left it smooth as glass for the afternoon’s games. Learning to skate was taken as much for granted as knowing how to multiply and divide.

With all the snow that has fallen so far this winter it is difficult to imagine having to clear all the roads around SPS and enough of Lower School Pond to hold at least six rinks using teams of horses instead of snow plows and snow blowers.  Think about those horses and the workers next time you are skimming across the ice, and all the hard work that has gone into maintaining this long-standing tradition at St. Paul’s School.

Update – April 27, 2012: Here’s a link to a related PDF article –  Alumni Horae, Spring, 1957: The Pond in Winter

From the Archives: Hockey on Lower School Pond

By - Systems Librarian January 26th, 2009

Lisa Laughy – Archives Assistant

SPS Students on Lower School Pond, Jan. 2009. Photo by Jana Brown.

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:

Hockey Rinks on Lower School Pond

“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.”

Hockey Team

“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 Game on Lower School Pond

“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.”