The first official hockey game took place on March 3, 1875 in the Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal.
Two Summerland land owners, Sir Edward Clouston and Henry Joseph, played in that first game.
Clouston went on to become a trustee for the Allan Cup (amateur hockey) while Joseph, was a central figure in developing many early sports.
Joseph bought land in Summerland in 1903. He was Sir Thomas Shaughnessy’s real estate advisor, so he was closely connected to the founding of our town. His property was part of the Millionaires’ Row in Prairie Valley. He also owned two properties at 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 versus Harvard in 1874. The Harvard strategy was to contain the speedster, Joseph. Only one photograph exists of this first game and it shows Joseph on the ground with the football.
In February 1875, Joseph and his lacrosse and football teammates started a new game: ice lacrosse. A month later, many of these same athletes organized the first official hockey game. Both of these sports were based on field hockey rules, using nine players per side.
The first official game was in the Victoria Skating Rink, located inside Montreal’s Golden Square Mile, once the richest area in Canada. Many of those first 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, he demonstrated Canada’s national sport, lacrosse in front of Queen Victoria one year later in 1876. He had joined Dr. W.G. Beers and they demonstrated lacrosse to countries of Europe.
Another sport Joseph excelled in was tennis. In 1883, Joseph played in the United States Lawn Tennis Championship, now known as the U.S. Open.
Directly across the street from the Victoria Skating Rink was Canada’s elite Windsor Hotel. This hotel hosted meetings to create the National Hockey League and the Montreal Canadians. At that time, Henry Joseph was the president of the Windsor Hotel Company.
Hockey historians claim that James Creighton was the founder of organized hockey. In 1936, historians interviewed 81-year-old Joseph as to the origin of organized hockey. Joseph was a popular, star athlete in the earliest days of track, gymnastics, lacrosse, football, ice lacrosse hockey and tennis. Those first games of football, lacrosse ice lacrosse and hockey all contained Joseph’s teammates. In the interview, Joseph stated that James Creighton was the “leading spirit” in organized hockey. As for Joseph and Summerland, e kept his properties in Summerland for many years. He was one of Canada’s richest citizens, yet 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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