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Queen’s home to hockey’s oldest rivalry

By Amrit AhluwaliaSports Editor (Queen’s Journal)

From the land where curling was born, the Church of Scotland established Queen’s College in Kingston in 1841, Queen Victoria’s royal charter in hand. Queen’s University’s history isn’t as arson-heavy as King’s College’s, or as broom-heavy as McGill’s, but our fair university has had a sizeable influence on the sport of hockey. The Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto recognizes five locales as hockey’s potential birthplace – Windsor, N.S., the Halifax-Dartmouth region, Deline, NWT, Montreal and Kingston. Six other areas have thrown their names into the mix of places claiming rightful ownership of hockey.
Because hockey doesn’t have any specific sport to plant its roots, given that it evolved from essentially any stick-and-ball-with-a-goal game, or any specific creator, such as basketball’s James Naismith, there can’t possibly be any one, specific birthplace.
As such, any discussion on hockey’s rightful owner must come down to the place which has had the most profound impact on the modern game’s evolution. That place is Kingston.
In 1843, a British army officer stationed in Kingston named Arthur H. Freeling wrote: “Began to skate this year, improved quickly and had great fun at hockey on the ice.” This was the earliest written reference to hockey being a sport played on ice, with skates.
This is refuted by residents of Deline, who point to a letter written by Sir John Franklin in 1825 that said, “The game of hockey played on the ice was the morning sport.” His letter makes no reference to skates, though.
Those who argue against Kingston being the birthplace of hockey will say that a game of shinny was played somewhere in their municipality on some windswept ice patch. But Kingston has had the most profound involvement with the game.
In 1886, using sticks from Nova Scotia, hockey teams from Queen’s University and the Royal Military College (RMC) faced off on the Kingston Harbour. This might not have been the earliest hockey game, but the Queen’s-RMC game was one of the most important games in hockey’s history. The two schools continue that rivalry to this day. In fact, they play for the Carr-Harris Cup every year in vintage jerseys to recognize the importance of their game 124 years ago.
McGill students will surely point to the Montreal Canadiens as the most important hockey team in the last 150 years. I would argue it is in fact the Queen’s Golden Gaels who created the most stir to spread hockey across the continent.
Queen’s University’s teams were prominent in the game’s development west of Montreal and south into the U.S. They brought the game to cities such as Washington, New York, Baltimore and Pittsburgh, where they regularly drew crowds of 4,000 to 5,000 people during the dawning days of the 20th century. The Gaels pay homage to this part of their history as well, as they take part in pre-season tournaments such as the one hosted by Pittsburgh’s Robert Morris University.
Although Queen’s hasn’t won an OUA title in quite some time, our name is still on the trophy. The university donated the Queen’s Cup to the OUA in 1903.
Finally, while a university team, the Gaels made serious headways into the provincial and national championship ranks through the years. They were the first successful challengers for the Allan Cup, presented to the best amateur hockey team in the country, in 1910. In 1926 The Gaels also brought home the George T. Richardson Memorial Trophy, named after a former Queen’s player, as the best Junior A team in the country. Finally, they competed in (but lost) three Stanley Cup challenges – more challenges than any other university team in the country. They had to forfeit a fourth due to the timing of medical school exams.
Kingston might not be the place where the first hockey game took place. But as the birthplace of Don Cherry and Doug Gilmour, the location of the game’s oldest rivalry and the home of Queen’s University, Kingston lays the greatest claim to owning the world’s greatest game.

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