Category: Montreal Winter Carnival

Carnivals, Challenges, and Cups – Beginnings of Ice Hockey League Play

Ice Hockey’s origins is up for wide debate. As a raw concept, playing a game where an object is being knocked around with sticks are known to date back to pre-Christian times and in non-Christian lands.

The indigenous people of North America played lacrosse while in Europe, these games included the Irish game of hurling, the Scottish game of shinty , the Welsh game of bando, the English game of bandie, and other versions of field hockey. In Russia, they took the concept and translated it to winter play in what is known in English as bandy. In England, evidence of games of “hockey on ice” (the name replaced “bandie ball”), played with a “bung” (a plug of cork or oak used as a stopper on a barrel) date back to the 1700s. The first organized game of ice field hockey was played in 1875 in London.

Hockey as a term has been used for about 500 years. In 1573, the town of Galway in Ireland banned a sport called “‘hokie’—the hurling of a little ball with sticks or staves”.

Yet, Ice Hockey is a distinct creation that comes from the New World.

British soldiers and immigrants to Canada and the United States brought their stick-and-ball games with them and played them on the ice and snow of winter. In 1825, John Franklin wrote “The game of hockey played on the ice was the morning sport” on Great Bear Lake during one of his Arctic expeditions. A mid-1830s watercolour portrays New Brunswick lieutenant governor Archibald Campbell and his family with British soldiers on skates playing a stick-on-ice sport.

1830 - A 19th-century watercolour of group of skaters gliding serenely on a frozen river, bundled ladies in sleighs amid the striding military men.
A 1830s watercolour of group of skaters gliding serenely on a frozen river, bundled ladies in sleighs amid the striding military men.

Ice Hockey got its organized start in Canada, at the city of Montreal in the francophone province of Quebec. There is evidence that ice hockey’s heritage in league play begins as far back as 1883 when the first organized tournament took place at the Montreal Winter Carnival.

The first chapter in the story of Ice Hockey Leagues begins in Montreal, at a Winter Carnival. The structure of play was through a series of teams challenging each other in a game to determine a winner, and then the winner of said challenges won the first trophy of Ice Hockey – the Carnival Cup!

Montreal Winter Carnival, 1883

In 1883, the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association (MAAA) and McGill University were both asked to participate in the Carnival by organizing for the first time ever an ice hockey tournament. MAAA did not field a team, but McGill University fielded its own team, and two more teams were invited to play in a three-team tournament.  They played partly outdoors on the Saint Lawrence River.

The first carnival tournament was held from January 26 to January 27. The Montreal Victorias, McGill University, and Quebec Hockey Club contested for a Tournament trophy called the Carnival Cup. McGill University was the winner of the challenge Tournament.

 

Cumulative Championships to 1883 Montreal Winter Carnival Tournament
Team # of Premier Championships Premier Championship Points
McGill University 1 (1883) 2 (+2)

 

The first MWC Tournament was a very modest affair, lasting only two days with each of the three teams playing one single game, but it became the beginning of the hockey league lineage that stretches to the modern day!

Starting in 1883 with only three teams playing three games over two days, the humble beginnings of the MWC Hockey Tournament lead to the creation of the first persistent league. Four Montreal-based teams plus one team from Ottawa played in the MWC and also formed the AHAC in 1887. It is because of this direct linkage the MWC Hockey Tournament is considered to be the direct predecessor to the AHAC for historical and statistical purposes.

Montreal Winter Carnival, 1884

In 1884, the first ever hockey tournament that debuted at the 1883 Montreal Winter Carnival returned for a second year. MAAA again did not field a team, but McGill University, Montreal Victorias, Ottawa Hockey Club, Montreal Crystals, and Montreal Wanderers were invited to play in a five-team tournament at the McGill University hockey rink.

The 1884 tournament (played from February 4 to February 11) saw several games lost due to rain. The outdoor rink was unplayable on February 6 and the Crystals and Wanderers had issues with forfeiting their games. The Montreal Victorias was the winner of the challenge Tournament.

 

Cumulative Championships to 1884 Montreal Winter Carnival Tournament
Team # of Premier Championships Premier Championship Points
Montreal Victorias 1 (1884) 4 (+4)
McGill University 1 (1883) 2

 

Starting in 1883 with only three teams playing three games over two days, the humble beginnings of the MWC Hockey Tournament lead to the creation of the first persistent league. Four Montreal-based teams plus one team from Ottawa played in the MWC and also formed the AHAC in 1887. It is because of this direct linkage the MWC Hockey Tournament is considered to be the direct predecessor to the AHAC for historical and statistical purposes.

Montreal Winter Carnival, 1885

In 1885, the first ever hockey tournament that debuted at the 1883 Montreal Winter Carnival returned for a third year. MAAA iced a hockey team that was the class of the tournament. In addition to MAAA’s Montreal Hockey Club, other teams that competed was McGill University, Montreal Crystals, Montreal Football Club, and Ottawa Hockey Club. The five-team tournament took place at the Crystals hockey rink.

The 1885 tournament (played from January 27 to January 31) saw The Montreal Hockey Club win the challenge Tournament.

Championships to 1885 Montreal Winter Carnival Tournament
Team # of Premier Championships Premier Championship Points
Montreal Hockey Club 1 (1885) 4 (+4)
Montreal Victorias 1 (1884) 4
McGill University 1 (1883) 2

Starting in 1883 with only three teams playing three games over two days, the humble beginnings of the MWC Hockey Tournament lead to the creation of the first persistent league. Four Montreal-based teams plus one team from Ottawa played in the MWC and also formed the AHAC in 1887. It is because of this direct linkage the MWC Hockey Tournament is considered to be the direct predecessor to the AHAC for historical and statistical purposes.

Montreal Winter Carnival, 1886 (Cancelled)

In 1886, the first ever hockey tournament that debuted at the 1883 Montreal Winter Carnival had to be cancelled. A smallpox epidemic was affecting Montreal particularly hard. An invitation to participate in a tournament played out of Montreal allowed some of the teams to fashion some kind of championship beside the Carnival Cup.

1886 saw no Carnival Cup winner, but did see The Montreal Hockey Club win a smaller tournament held in Burlington, Vermont.

Championships to 1886 Burlington Winter Carnival Tournament
Team # of Premier Championships Premier Championship Points
Montreal Hockey Club 2 (1885-86) 5 (+1)
Montreal Victorias 1 (1884) 4
McGill University 1 (1883) 2

The MWC Tournament had to be cancelled but three of the four teams from 1885 were invited to participate in a first-ever international tournament in Burlington, Vermont. The Montreal Hockey Club and Montreal Crystals accepted while Ottawa Hockey Club could not attend. The Burlington Winter Carnival Tournament was played on February 26 on Lake Champlain. The two Canadian teams and an American team made up of local hospitality staff (Van Ness House) who had never played hockey held a round-robin tournament that resulted in the Montreal Hockey Club winning.

Starting in 1883 with only three teams playing three games over two days, the humble beginnings of the MWC Hockey Tournament lead to the creation of the first persistent league. Four Montreal-based teams plus one team from Ottawa played in the MWC and also formed the AHAC in 1887. It is because of this direct linkage the MWC Hockey Tournament is considered to be the direct predecessor to the AHAC for historical and statistical purposes.

Montreal Winter Carnival, 1887

In February 1887, the Montreal Winter Carnival returned for a fourth year after not being played the previous year. In addition to MAAA’s Montreal Hockey Club, other teams that competed was McGill University, Montreal Crystals, and Montreal Victorias. The four-team tournament took place at the Crystals hockey rink.

In February, the Montreal teams of the newly formed AHAC (Amateur Hockey Association of Canada) participated in the Montreal Winter Carnival hockey tournament. The tournament, which was scheduled to play outdoors on an ice rink at the Ice Palace, was disrupted by two days of storms, and was not completed until February 25. During this time, no AHAC challenges were played.

The 1887 tournament (played from February 21 to February 25) saw The Montreal Hockey Club win the challenge Tournament.

Championships to 1887 Montreal Winter Carnival Tournament
Team # of MWC Championships MWC Championship Points
Montreal Hockey Club 3 (1885-87) 8 (+3)
Montreal Victorias 1 (1884) 4
McGill University 1 (1883) 2

Starting in 1883 with only three teams playing three games over two days, the humble beginnings of the MWC Hockey Tournament lead to the creation of the first persistent league. Four Montreal-based teams plus one team from Ottawa played in the MWC and also formed the AHAC in 1887. It is because of this direct linkage the MWC Hockey Tournament is considered to be the direct predecessor to the AHAC for historical and statistical purposes.

Montreal Winter Carnival, 1888 (Cancelled)

In 1888, the first ever hockey tournament that debuted at the 1883 Montreal Winter Carnival was cancelled. The teams that normally participated in this tournament undertook a brave experiment by playing a balanced schedule in the new ice hockey league known as the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada (AHAC).

1888 saw no Carnival Cup winner.

 

Championships to 1887 Montreal Winter Carnival Tournament
Team # of MWC Championships MWC Championship Points
Montreal Hockey Club 3 (1885-87) 8
Montreal Victorias 1 (1884) 4
McGill University 1 (1883) 2

 

In the previous year, the 1887 MWC Tournament was played partway through the AHAC season so teams participated in both league and tournament action. 1888 saw all AHAC teams play a balanced league schedule for the first time ever. The full schedule ended up leaving no time for the teams to play in the MWC Tournament.

Starting in 1883 with only three teams playing three games over two days, the humble beginnings of the MWC Hockey Tournament lead to the creation of the first persistent league. Four Montreal-based teams plus one team from Ottawa played in the MWC and also formed the AHAC in 1887. It is because of this direct linkage the MWC Hockey Tournament is considered to be the direct predecessor to the AHAC for historical and statistical purposes.

Montreal Winter Carnival, 1889

In February 1889, the Montreal Winter Carnival returned for its sixth and final year after not being played the previous year. In addition to MAAA’s Montreal Hockey Club, other teams that competed was McGill University, Montreal Crystals, and Montreal Victorias. The four-team tournament took place at the Victoria hockey rink. The 1889 Montreal Winter Carnival Hockey Tournament would be its last but featured the first game of ice hockey witnessed by Lord Stanley, Governor General of Canada, who would later donate the Stanley Cup in 1893

The 1889 tournament (played from February 4 to February 18) saw The Montreal Victorias win the challenge Tournament.

 

IceHockeyLeagues.com Higher-League (MWC) Championship Points span to 1883-89
Team # of MWC Championships MWC Championship Points
Montreal Hockey Club 3 (1885-87) 8
Montreal Victorias 2 (1884,89) 7 (+3)
McGill University 1 (1883) 2

 

Starting in 1883 with only three teams playing three games over two days, the humble beginnings of the MWC Hockey Tournament lead to the creation of the first persistent league. Four Montreal-based teams plus one team from Ottawa played in the MWC and also formed the AHAC in 1887. It is because of this direct linkage the MWC Hockey Tournament is considered to be the direct predecessor to the AHAC for historical and statistical purposes.

The Legacy of the Montreal Winter Carnival

The Montreal Winter Carnival Hockey Tournament would see Canada’s (and the World’s) elite hockey clubs play for supremacy between 1883 and 1889. The MWC Tournament was the first ever organized ice hockey tournament that lead to the creation of the first ice hockey league, making the MWC Tournament the direct predecessor to the AHAC for historical and statistical purposes.

The Tournament helped establish Ice Hockey through the following important events:

  • First organized inter-city ice hockey competition, establishing Montreal as the premier ice hockey city in 1883.
  • First international ice hockey tournament when Tournament was moved to Vermont, USA for one year in 1886.
  • The top tournament teams went on to form first ice hockey league in 1887.
  • Canada’s Governor General Lord Stanley was inspired by watching MWC Tournament play in 1889 to the point that he considered donating a Championship Cup to Canada’s top hockey teams. He would later donate the Stanley Cup in 1893, ten years after the Tournament was established.

Montreal Winter Carnival Hockey Tournament Summary:

Year Montreal Winter Carnival Hockey Tournament Location Champion # of Teams
1883 St. Lawrence River McGill University 3
1884 McGill University’s Rink Montreal Victorias 5
1885 Montreal Crystals’ Rink Montreal Hockey Club 5
1886 Cancelled due to smallpox epidemic* Montreal Hockey Club
3
1887 Various Rinks Montreal Hockey Club 4
1888 Cancelled due to AHAC none nil
1889 Montreal Victorias’ Rink Montreal Victorias 4

 * Tournament played in Vermont, USA.

 

Montreal Winter Carnival Hockey Tournament Cumulative Standings:

Team TGP TW TL TT TGF TGA TW/TP
Montreal Victorias 11 7 3 1 18 7 2/4
Montreal Hockey Club 7 5 1 1 8 2 2/3
McGill University 11 5 5 1 10 23 1/5
Ottawa Hockey Club 7 3 3 1 8 5 0/2
Montreal Crystals 8 2 6 0 10 13 0/4
Quebec Hockey Club 2 0 0 2 2 2 0/1
Montreal Wanderers 3 0 3 0 0 1 0/1
Montreal Football Club 1 0 1 0 0 3 0/1

TW = Tournaments Won / TP = Tournaments Played

 

Montreal Winter Carnival Hockey Tournament Cumulative Championship Points

Championships to 1889 Montreal Winter Carnival Tournament (Final)
Team # of MWC Championships MWC Championship Points
Montreal Hockey Club 3 (1885-87) 8
Montreal Victorias 2 (1884,89) 7
McGill University 1 (1883) 2