This year, Canada is celebrating its 150th anniversary of confederation. Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast will join family, friends and neighbours to honour their great country in meaningful ways. Throughout this historic year, Kingston will be showcasing its contributions to the nation by sharing stories like Kingston and Canada’s Favourite Game.
Although a similar game called “rickets” was played in Halifax as early as the beginning of the nineteenth century, and Montreal is considered the centre of hockey’s development, Kingston is considered by some to be Canada’s “hockey hub” and it has played a pivotal role in the development and lore of Canada’s favourite game.
One cold afternoon, in the winter of 1886, a square rubber puck, cut down from an old lacrosse ball, was dropped onto the ice of Lake Ontario. Armed with crooked sticks, teams comprised of students from Queen’s University and cadets from the Royal Military College (RMC) faced-off in the first inter-university hockey game ever played and the first match in what would become Canada’s oldest hockey rivalry.
At first, Kingstonians did not know what to make of this rough winter sport, a form of “shinny in disguise.” As one British Whig article reported, “at intervals, before the game, people were heard to ask, ‘What is hockey?’ Few essayed an answer.” In the following years, however, the local love of the sport grew.
In 1890, the popularity of hockey in Kingston accelerated when Queen’s University built Kingston’s first covered rinks, the Queen’s University Hockey and Curling Rinks. In 1891, the Ontario Hockey (Union) Association was formed and two local teams were created of city-born players – the “Kingstons” and the “Athletics.”
The historic rivalry between Queen’s and RMC is reenacted each year, often on the ice in Kingston Harbour, with period-correct uniforms and rules to commemorate Kingston’s first game of hockey and to celebrate Kingston’s contribution to the beloved sport.
This year, the teams will face-off on the ice at the Rogers K-Rock Centre at 7:30 p.m. on February 2.
In addition to producing some of Canada’s greatest hockey players, Kingston is also home to the International Hockey Hall of Fame and Museum, established by the National Hockey League and the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association on September 10, 1943. It is the “Original Hockey Hall of Fame” and the oldest sports hall of fame in Canada. Kingston’s International Hockey Hall of Fame and Museum is located in the INVISTA Centre, Kingston’s state-of-the-art arena with four NHL-sized rinks.
Dedicated to the history of hockey in Canada and with an emphasis on Kingston’s contributions, the International Hockey Hall of Fame and Museum houses some of the rarest hockey artifacts of the sport, including the oldest hockey puck in the world used in the 1886 game in Kingston, the oldest hockey jersey from 1894, and Canada’s gold medal for hockey from the Chamonix, France 1924 Winter Olympic Games – the first of many.
The Original Hockey Hall of Fame is a testament to Kingston’s, and Canada’s, continued love of the sport and is a reminder to Kingston’s significant contribution to hockey’s legacy.
Find out more about Sesquicentennial initiatives at CityofKingston.ca/Kingston150.