Maryland Hockey History Week: First College Game, First Artificial Ice, First Pro Team

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Johns Hopkins University hockey team, 1896/ Photo from Johns Hopkins University Sheridan Libraries

Few will believe that the first college hockey game happened in Maryland. Even more will cock an eyebrow when they’re told that Johns Hopkins University was involved in the first college game, especially since they’ve never had anything higher than a club team in ice hockey. Yet, on that fateful February 1st in 1896, Johns Hopkins played Yale University to a 2-2 draw. It should be noted that Yale disputes this, saying that the first game was February 14th and they beat Hopkins thanks to Malcolm Chase’s two goals– but what do you expect from those Yaleies?? Below, as you can see, was printed on February 3rd, 1896.

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Regardless, the first game was played at the North Avenue Ice Palace in Baltimore, in a place which is now a vacant parking lot between Charles and St. Paul Streets in Baltimore. The rink itself was a marvel of then-modern technology being the first artificial ice surface in the US. The rink opened December 26th, 1894 with the playing surface being 250 feet long and only 55 feet wide. This was also in a day where there were seven players on the ice, including the goalie. Below is a brief detail of how it was all set-up.

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During that time, while the pro game hadn’t hit that area as of yet, there were plenty of athletic clubs in the area who had teams that played regularly, almost what rec-league would be considered today– but with more skill. With areas like Washington, DC and New York getting into it during the early days, the sport grew very quickly in popularity. Baltimore-area stores for a time couldn’t keep equipment on the shelves due to the people wanting to try it out. Yet, with World War I happening, coupled with the depression– the sport lost it’s popularity in Baltimore, with the Johns Hopkins team shuttering down around 1898 due to a variety of issues with travel and the school support. The North Avenue Ice Palace closing down in 1932, despite not holding a hockey game since 1898 and then having the ice machinery taken out in 1899.

It wasn’t until Carlin’s Iceland was built in 1932 that Baltimore got another team they could take pride in, the Baltimore Orioles. The oriole name has been and still is held by a lot of Baltimore teams (mostly baseball) due to it being the state bird, as well as the bird having the wings that resemble Lord Baltimore’s Coat-of-Arms. The hockey Orioles were a member of the Tri-State League and the Eastern League, spanning a decade from 1932 until they closed up shop in 1942. Names like Vince Papike, Vern Buckles, Norm Calladine (when on to play with the Boston Bruins), and Fred Hunt were stars for these Orioles teams. The Orioles went on to win the 1939-40 Eastern League title, while also garnering a couple Mayor Cups, an in-season tournament between teams.

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The 1938 Baltimore Orioles hockey club/Photo from Baltimore Sun archives

The fans took to the Orioles, as well– many of them going too far at times. Many times, the police had to come in to break up the fights in the stands, which spilled onto the ice. Fans would also hurl objects onto the ice to calls and players they objected to, which caused the Baltimore players to love their fans, with the rest of the league despising them. Essentially– they were then what Philadelphia fans are today.

High school hockey also boomed during this time, with many of the local schools taking up the game and playing at Carlin’s. Only 3,000 seats were in the building, but with hockey and figure skating show being put on, the place was packed each and every time. However, the Orioles disbanded after the 1941-42 season due to World War II, while Carlin’s Iceland then housed the first incarnation of the Baltimore Clippers before it burned to the ground in 1952.

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