This Place in History: First International Hockey Game

Local News

BURLINGTON, Vt.

At ‘This Place in History’, we’re at the Burlington Waterfront with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.

“We are talking ice hockey. Right here, on the ice behind us, some of the first international hockey played in the United States. We have this incredible artifact that just recently came into the collection at the Vermont Historical Society. It is this beautiful little medal and we have the two guys here that are responsible for this coming into a public collection and so i’m hoping we can learn more about what this means to Vermont,” introduced Perkins.

“It was the medal given February 26th, 1886, and it was the first time ice hockey was played outside of Canada and in the United States, the first international ice hockey game, right here at what used to be the Central Vermont Wharf on the Lake,” explained Hugo Martínez Cazón. 

“There was a Winter Carnival in 1886 that was put on the Burlington Coasting Club. The Coasting Club put on an amazing event, like 40,000 people came. The hockey game came here from Montreal. This is a precursor to the Stanley Cup,” added Martínez Cazón.

“Did Vermonters know what hockey was or was this something completely new to them?” asked Perkins.

“It was absolutely new. Some of the local people that were here for the other sports knew how to skate and said tell us what the rules are and they put together a team called Van Ness House. The Van Ness was a hotel. They played the Montreal Crystals and the athletic clubs. They played a tournament of four teams. Vermont lost, but that didn’t matter. They had fun and it was a new sport and it came to Vermont because of that game,” answered Martínez Cazón.

“It was a really bad day for hockey to be played outside. The wind was blowing. They said spectators could barely see because the snow was blowing. So they played two very quick ten minute games and then they called it. They said okay, Montreal Hockey Club wins. The newspaper reports said the Van Ness House team, even though they had never played hockey before, gave it a good try; rah rah for the local boys,” explained Devin Colman.

“There would have been seven players on the ice for each team. Today, there are five, plus a goalie. It was probably a little more chaotic, more sticks and more limbs being thrown around. No helmets, basically skates and sticks, maybe some rudimentary elbow pads, but certainly not the full safety gear we associate with hockey today,” said Colman.

“One thing to point out on the medal, you’ll notice that the medal has a square puck. Until 1885, we’re not quite sure when the switchover happened, but until 1885, they used a square puck,” pointed out Martínez Cazón.

“Now Devin, there are plans in the works for a historic marker. Can you give us the details on that?” asked Perkins.

“The Division for Historic Preservation, which runs the state historical markers program has put together a site marker that will be placed on the Waterfront this Spring. It’s actually at the foundry now being cast. What’s really neat is that it talks about the game on both sides of the marker, one side in English and one side in French. It’s our first bilingual marker because we’re sure a lot of our Montreal visitors will want to see the spot and read the marker,” replied Colman.

At ‘This Place in History’!

For more from our ‘This Place in History’ series, click here.

To view a list of Vermont’s roadside historical markers, click here.

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