The first hockey game was played in Summerland

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The first official hockey game took place on March 3, 1875 at the Victoria rink in Montreal.

Two Summerland landowners, Sir Edward Clouston and Henry Joseph, played in this first game.

Clouston became administrator of the Allan Cup (amateur hockey) while Joseph played a central role in the development of many early sports.

Joseph bought land in Summerland in 1903. He was Sir Thomas Shaughnessy’s property adviser, so he was closely involved in the founding of our town. His property was part of Millionaires’ Row in Prairie Valley. He also owned two properties in Victoria Gardens near our Legion building.

But before Summerland, Joseph was a star athlete in Montreal. He was an acclaimed runner and gymnast. Joseph played in the first official football game, McGill vs. Harvard in 1874. Harvard’s strategy was to contain the speedster, Joseph. Only one photograph exists of this first match and it shows Joseph on the ground with the ball.

In February 1875, Joseph and his lacrosse and football teammates launched a new game: ice lacrosse. A month later, many of those same athletes staged the first official hockey game. Both of these sports were based on the rules of field hockey, using nine players on each side.

The first official match was held at the Victoria Skating Rink, located inside Montreal’s Golden Square Mile, once Canada’s wealthiest neighborhood. Many of these early hockey players were millionaires. In the first game, a fight broke out. Hockey hasn’t changed too much in 147 years.

Not only did Joseph excel in football and hockey, but he demonstrated Canada’s national sport, lacrosse to Queen Victoria a year later in 1876. He had joined Dr. WG Beers and they demonstrated lacrosse in European countries.

Another sport in which Joseph excelled was tennis. In 1883 Joseph played in the United States Lawn Tennis Championship, now known as the US Open.

Directly across from the Victoria Rink was Canada’s elite Windsor Hotel. This hotel hosted meetings to create the National Hockey League and the Montreal Canadiens. At this time, Henry Joseph was the president of the Windsor Hotel Company.

Hockey historians claim that James Creighton is the founder of organized hockey. In 1936, historians asked 81-year-old Joseph about the origin of organized hockey. Joseph was a popular star athlete in the early days of track and field, gymnastics, lacrosse, football, ice hockey and tennis. These early games of football, lacrosse, ice lacrosse and hockey included all of Joseph’s teammates. In the interview, Joseph called James Creighton the “leading mind” in organized hockey. As for Joseph and Summerland, we kept his properties in Summerland for many years. He was one of Canada’s wealthiest citizens, but he appealed his Summerland tax assessment for his Prairie Valley property in 1926. He lost his appeal.

Henry Joseph died in Montreal in 1951 at the age of 96.

David Gregory is a Summerland historian.

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