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History on Ice

Sports historians are all in agreement that the first intercollegiate hockey game in the United States matched a team from Yale with one from Johns Hopkins. The authorities concur that the premier contest took place in February 1896. But, more than a century after the two schools took to the ice in Baltimore, the precise date that marks the collegiate inauguration of the sport in this country remains, surprisingly enough, a matter of contention.

To be sure, Oxford and Cambridge were the first colleges anywhere in the world to face off against each other; their match took place in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in 1885. The introduction of hockey to Yale and the U.S. can be traced to Malcolm G. Chace, Class of 1896, a champion tennis player in the Sheffield Scientific School. He and classmate Arthur Foote had gone to Canada to play in a tennis tournament, and while they were there, they discovered a new sport. Chace and Foote became fans of the popular game that had been introduced by British soldiers stationed in Nova Scotia, and the two men decided to bring hockey to the U.S., where it soon replaced the game of ice polo.


The first Yale article about an intercollegiate match appeared in the Alumni Weekly in February 1896.

In the winter of 1895–96, a Yale hockey club began to form. The first article in a Yale publication on an intercollegiate match appeared in the Alumni Weekly in February 1896. On February 5, the report notes that “a few members of the University went down to Baltimore to play matches with Johns Hopkins and the Baltimore Athletic Club.” This concurs with the account by Johns Hopkins that the first match was played on February 1.

The game was described as a stubborn and hard-fought duel, and an evenly matched one at that. It ended in a 2–2 tie.

Two weeks later, on February 14, the two teams again faced off at Johns Hopkins. But this time, the result was a 2–1 Yale victory.

The contest was, of course, the second U.S. intercollegiate hockey match, but sports fans then and now regard ties as inconsequential, and so Captain Chace’s winning game is credited by Walter Camp and by most sports encyclopedias as the first. The Yale Daily News reported on it at some length and noted the large and enthusiastic Baltimore audience. Yale went on to play a series of matches in the spring against the St. Nicholas Rink Team in New York City: first losing 6–1, then winning 5–1, and finally losing the tie-breaker 2–0. In May the News reported that Yale would join a hockey league of principal Eastern colleges and athletic clubs.

In those formative years prior to the establishment of the first professional hockey teams in 1903, Yale played a variety of opponents, but until 1900 Harvard was not among them. The Game on Ice debuted at the St. Nicholas Rink on February 26, 1900. Admission to the black-tie affair was by invitation only, and the arena was filled with nearly 2,000 spectators, including many ladies and alumni of both colleges. The New York Times headline, “Yale Hockey Team Wins,” described the “lowering of the Crimson Colors” in a rough game on very fast ice. It was “pandemonium,” said the Times, and among the “frenzied cheers” of the spectators “rang the picturesque frogs chorus of Yale” and “the quaint cheer Har-vard! Har-vard! Har-vard!” The score was tied three times, and Yale’s 5–4 victory was not assured until the final whistle blew. Yale’s glory was topped off in March when under Captain James S. Campbell, the team won the intercollegiate series by defeating Columbia 6–4.

In 1998, just over a century after he laced up his skates for Yale, Malcolm G. Chace was memorialized when the head coaching job was named in his honor. The coaching position is funded by a gift from his grandson, Malcolm G. Chace ’56. It is currently occupied by Tim Taylor, who has led the Bulldogs for the past 23 campaigns and, in the process, has recorded more wins than any coach in Yale’s hockey history.  the end


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