19th century hockey: Flying pucks and lots of “sand”

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by Jay Gabler | March 10, 2009

The Holt Archives of American Hockey at the University of New Hampshire has just digitized and made publicly available the complete text of what may be the earliest published guidebook to the sport of hockey as we know it: the 1898 Spalding Ice Hockey and Ice Polo Guide, loaned to UNH by the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth. A few of the highlights:

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“Three winters ago Chicago, Minneapolis, and Detroit were about the only scenes of the game’s activity, but last winter wherever ice could be found, out of doors or inside, East and West, ice hockey was being played.”

“Only in the most northerly part of the United States are the winters severe enough to make ice hockey practicable out of doors…In other parts of our country the lakes and rivers are seldom frozen hard enough for skating or ice sports for any length of time, and this has caused a number of artificial-ice rinks to be constructed in our big cities, where most of the ice hockey matches are played.”

“The requisites are few—a clear sheet of hard ice, invigorating atmosphere and a number of quick, sure skaters, who, when aided and abetted by an enthusiastic company of supporters, will furnish as interesting an evening’s entertainment as any sport lover could desire.”

“As ice hockey is a very severe game and one that calls for constant exertion, on the part of the forwards in particular, players must be athletes of exceptional endurance and have any amount of grit and ‘sand.'”

“The main object of an expert player, and very difficult of accomplishment, is to ‘lift’ the puck, making it travel over the heads of his opponents a distance of twenty or thirty yards perhaps when necessary before striking the ice.”

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