Historic Hockey: A History Lesson on Ice

In 2023, the 53rd Annual Historic Hockey Series was held at Springer Market Square on February 25th. Spectators watched how the game was played and the rules that were used in 1886 in Kingston's first organized game between Queen's and RMC. The three traditional teams took part from Queen's University, RMC and RCHA Petawawa.

At this years event, the team comprised of active military personnel from the 2nd Regiment RCHA Petawawa were the series champions.  RCHA won the opening game over RMC by a 5-0 score and followed that up with a 2-0 victory over Queen's.  In the final game of the round robin series, known as the "traditional" game between the two original opponents of Queen's and RMC from 1886, Queen's was victorious by a score of 1-0 - the identical score and outcome from the 1886 game!

The series MVP and winner of the Len Coyle Award went to Master Bombadier Pinard.  The top player from RMC was Aiden Robb-Craig and Aidan MacDonnell was tabbed as the MVP from Queen's.

Special thanks, as always, goes out to the RCHA Club for hosting the pre-game and post-game ceremonies. Another key contributor to the 2023 event was Colonel Sonny Hatton, Base Commander at CFB Kingston.  Colonel Hatton was a former player for RCHA and he instrumental as a liason with the City of Kingston to pave the way for the games to happen.  Both the City of Kingston staff and Downtown Kingston also deserve huge credit for their efforts in supporting and promoting this Kingston winter hockey tradition.   

The Historic Hockey Series is a re-enactment of the first organized games played on the Kingston harbour in the 1880s. Presented and organized each year by the Original Hockey Hall of Fame, it is a three-team round-robin series featuring Queen's University, Royal Military College of Canada, and the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, 2nd Regiment, from Petawawa, Ontario. The latter represents the British garrison soldiers who played "shinty" on the harbour as early as 1843.

The RCHA Brigade Association provides the championship trophy and this unique series offers a brief glimpse of how hockey got started and how the great frozen game has evolved. It's truly a history lesson on ice!

We hope to see you rinkside at next year's games!                                           

Historic Hockey Facts

Square Puck

Square pucks, made of wood or rubber, were used in hockey's earliest games. The original puck used in the first organized games in Kingston on March 10, 1886 (on display at the Original Hockey Hall of Fame), was made from a cut down lacrosse ball. It looks like a lump of coal, is made from soft rubber, and bounces far more than a modern hockey puck.

First and Only Goal

Queen's University's Lennox Irving scored the first and only goal in the initial RMC-Queen's game played on the Kingston harbour ice in 1886. 

The Cannon Roars

A nine-pound cannon, manned by the gun crew from 2RCHA Petawawa, Ontario, is part of what makes Historic Hockey so unique and special. The gun crew, resplendent in dress uniforms, fires a special charge each time 2RCHA scores.

Old Time Goal Posts

When the games were played on the Kingston harbour, wooden posts were frozen into the ice, six feet apart. The top of each four-foot post is marked by a flag, usually in the colours of the home team. Goals with nets were introduced in 1899, but the first patented net with crossbar did not arrive until 12 years later.

Goal Judge Flags

There was no red light to signal goals in the early days of hockey. Goal umpires, wearing white smocks, stand behind the goal posts, dodge pucks and wave a white flag to signal a goal.

The Referee's Bell

A hand bell, rather than a whistle, is used by the referee to stop play in Historic Hockey. Whistles had a habit of freezing on the outdoor harbour, so the referee rings his bell to signal a stoppage in play.


The Story of Historic Hockey

The Historic Hockey Series got its start in 1969, spearheaded by a great community promoter, the late Phil Quattrocchi. It became part of the Kingston Winter Carnival.

A few hundred spectators would gather in front of the Shoal Tower on the frozen Kingston basin to watch Queen's and RMC play a re-enactment game from the 1880s. The players, seven per side, were garbed in toques, turtle-necked sweaters, white knickerbockers and carried short field-hockey-type sticks. In that first match Queen's won 1-0 and the RMC team was actually represented by soldiers from 2RCHA in Petawawa.

The following year, in 1970, the Hockey Hall of Fame became involved and the RMC cadets participated, making it a three-team round robin tournament. The gunners from 2RCHA prevailed that year. In 2005, the series was moved from the harbour to the artificial ice surface at Springer Market Square. 

Where did the idea for Historic Hockey come from? Following the Second World War, a group of Kingston hockey players recreated the first shinny hockey game played by British garrison soldiers in the 1840s. They donned military-type uniforms, supplied by a costume company, and played a short game near the Shoal Tower. It was captured on film by Associated Screen News for a movie called Hockey Cavalcade that was shown across Canada.