As I was reviewing and posting some of the statistics I was perplexed why a team called Montreal Football Club would show up in some of the results. This team shows up in hockey’s early exhibition games and it also shows up once at the 1885 Winter Carnival Hockey Tournament.
So why would a club of football players play hockey?
To compete and to stay in shape! In fact the first ever ice hockey game that was played indoors in 1875 was organized by a rugby (football) player…
“An enterprising young engineer named James Creighton changed all that. Anxious that he and his rugby-playing friends had something to keep them in shape during winter, he started by bringing hockey in from the cold.” Montreal Gazette
Back in the 19th century sports was practiced differently than now. Athletic groups like the marquee Montreal Amateur Athletic Association fielded multiple clubs to participate in diverse sports like lacrosse, football, skating, and more. It was the MAAA that created the hockey and football powerhouses that dominated their respective sports.
The MAAA in the late 1800s was the premier grouping of ‘sportsmen’ who excelled at almost everything they played. The MAAA was known informally as the ‘Winged Wheelers’, the name being inspired by its bicycle club. It was only later in the first decade of the 1900s we see increased specialization in sports, especially with the rise of professionalism. Given the MAAA’s amateur purpose it would eventually wither under the pressure of such specialization and become irrelevant in elite hockey.