Friday, 7 May 2010

Hockey In 1935

Hockey history is probably the biggest reason why I love this game so much. Diving deep into historical pieces allows one to appreciate the old sweaters and uniforms the teams wore, the old equipment that is now saved for museums, and the stories from those times that transcended that era. Thanks to Popular Science's online archives, we are lucky enough to take a glimpse into hockey back in 1935. Honestly, I found it fascinating.

Popular Science published five pages in their February 1935 edition of the magazine explaining the nuances of hockey. In it, they had some fairly amazing facts about the game back in 1935, and how different today's game is from that forgotten era.

The first page of the article has a wonderful picture of a goal-mouth battle between the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Black Hawks. Author Edwin Teale declared the sport of ice hockey as being in "the position of national winter sport of American fans", and its popularity was gained through what hockey is known for: "the fastest, roughest, hardest-hitting game on the sport calendar". Teale also speaks of the difference between Canadians, who apparently don't mind the cold to watch hockey, and Americans, who prefer the indoor game.

This carries into the second page where Teale writes about how fans can remain warm while the ice remains frozen. Namely, he describes in detail how the "ice griddle" of pipes work in the concrete floor within Madison Square Garden to create an one-inch thick layer of ice for the players. What is more surprising is that the ice-making equipment cost MSG a total of $70,000 in 1935! That kind of money was unheard of back then!

As Teale described, the battle between the refrigeration plant and the radiators in the stands to keep the fans warm was tedious before the investment. During one game, the ice was so slushy that skates cut through the ice and struck the concrete floor, ruining the skates. $180 worth of skates were damaged, and, at $15 per skate, was a costly loss for a dozen pairs of skates.

Of course, goaltender Roy Worters of the New York Americans - described as "[t]he guard at the net" by Teale - is plastered all over the page in his gorgeous sweater, and you can't miss the Ottawa Senators player in the top-right corner. Beautiful stripes! Just as a note, that Senators player picture had to have been taken during the 1933-34 season as the Senators had moved to St. Louis to become the Eagles for the 1934-35.

The third page contains some very interesting information. According to the information that Teale has, 17,647 hockey players were registered in Canada in 1935. The approximate population of Canada in 1935 was 10,845,000. That means approximately three people played hockey for every two thousand people in Canada at that time. That's not bad for a developing country.

Teale goes over a few standard rules, but the "one sports writer" who described hockey as "a combination of forked lightning, old-fashioned shinny, and second-degree murder" made me chuckle. Especially when you consider the picture above of an Ottawa Senators player up-ending a Boston Bruins player.

I found it interesting that the average weight of an NHL player in 1935 was 155-pounds, and that the 210-pounds that "Ching" Johnson weighed was "an exception". Also interesting to me is that a player's career lasted five years on average, and that his legs would be the first thing to go.

What caught my attention, though, were the dollar figures that NHL franchises were worth back at the start of the NHL. In 1924, "a franchise for one of the big cities cost about $3,000. By 1929, it had increased to $75,000. And, today, it stands at a hundred times its original figure, approximately $300,000". Considering that an expansion fee today is approximately $300-400 million, it appears that owning stock in an NHL franchise will never lose you money.

After some interesting injury information, there's a portion of the article dedicated to some headgear worn in the early NHL. Ching Johnson apparently sported "an aluminum protector to hold a broken jaw in place". And two Montreal Canadiens - Armand Mondou and Johnny Gagnon - wore "queer black headgear suggesting derby hats shoved down over their ears". Mondou is the first man in NHL history to be awarded a penalty shot, and it appears that he may be the first man who didn't play between the pipes to don headgear in an NHL game.

The fourth page of the article explains how the NHL added what seems like a very dumb rule in 1934 about how all players must wear skates. For a league that was started a decade earlier, you would think that these sorts of things would have worked themselves out by then, right?

Teale discusses some of the longer games seen in the first decade of the NHL, and explains how nets were altered to prevent the pucks from rebounding back out of the net where referees might miss the goal. He also speaks highly of Warren Roach, a shopkeeper who sharpened skates across from Madison Square Garden. Roach could sharpen up to 150 pairs of skates per day, and there's a fabulous picture in the lower-right of the page that shows him at work.

The history of the game, along with some information on the Intercollegiate Quadrangular Hockey League, is discussed, and we get to see that the Hobey Baker Award given to the champion of the four IQHL teams is nearly as old as the Stanley Cup!

The final strip of the article discusses how the ice is removed for the many events that occur at Madison Square Garden. There is some credit given to George C. Funk as the man who was largely responsible for the modern rinks in most large American cities. James E. McNally, MSG's superintendent, is credited as the man who developed the system to remove the ice and dry the concrete below in amazing speed for additional events happening at Madison Square Garden. McNally basically invented a primitive zamboni to aid in the drying of the concrete.

This article is one of the coolest "historical" articles I've read simply due to how thorough Mr. Teale was in his examination of the game. Take the time to read through some of the info from those pages. I'll bet you'll learn something that you didn't know. And that's why I love hockey history.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

Robert Ullman said...

Amazing find! I'm actually working on a short comic about Lester Patrick's one-game stint in goal for the Rangers back in 1928, and the photo reference alone in this article is invaluable!