Getting hot over hockey
In this corner, sporting a crisp McGill tie, a matching baseball cap and an encyclopedic grasp of sports trivia probably unrivaled in the city, is the University's sports information officer, Earl (the Pearl) Zukerman. His opponent: Nova Scotia historian Garth Vaughan. The two men will square off next Tuesday morning at 8:10 on CTV's Canada AM in a debate aimed at determining who has the bragging rights over inventing hockey--Montreal or Windsor.
Zukerman, of course, will be arguing in favour of Montreal. He says Canada's national game was created by a group of McGill students in 1875. Two years later, the McGill Redmen, one of hockey's oldest organized teams, made their debut. "The evidence is overwhelming," asserts Zukerman, the vice-president for the Quebec chapter of the Society for International Hockey Research. "There is plenty of information about it in old newspaper archives, for instance."
Vaughan takes a contrary view, saying that recently discovered diaries indicate that Nova Scotians were playing a form of hockey well before the Montrealers.
"In a sense he might not be completely wrong," concedes Zukerman. "It all depends on how you define hockey." Zukerman says older British and Irish sports such as hurling and shinny played a role in the creation of hockey, as did the First Nations' game of lacrosse. "The Nova Scotians might have been playing a form of shinny or hurling on ice. If you accept that as the first hockey game, then you have to say the sport was created in Europe, and not in Canada at all."
The game McGill students organized in 1875 set forth the basic structure of the sport as it's still played today, argues Zukerman. "If you look at things like the basic dimensions of the ice surface, the number of players each team puts on the ice, having goalies as part of the game--many of the sport's basic rules--it all goes back to that game in 1875."
Tune in Tuesday to root for the home team.