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First Recorded Hockey Game in Minnesota

by Roger Godin / Minnesota Wild

As the State of Hockey readies itself for the Stadium Series game on February 21 at TCF Stadium after having first experienced the big time outdoor feel back on January 17, 2014 when the Gophers beat Ohio State 1-0, let’s look back and see when another significant outdoor game was played. What might that be you ask?

Well, Wild fans, your friendly Wild curator is here to fill that void in your hockey history inventory.

Back on February 18, 1895 the Winnipeg Victorias, who a year later would capture the Stanley Cup, faced off against the University of Minnesota at Athletic Park (about where the Butler Building is now, just a stone’s throw from Target Field) in what was reported as the first international game in the United States. Unfortunately that was not true from a Minnesota perspective, that first game actually occurred in Burlington, Vermont in 1886, but historic nonetheless.

The Minneapolis Tribune, February 19, 1895 gives us the flavor of that day:

“Fully 300 citizens and students, co-eds well represented, turned out at Athletic Park yesterday afternoon to witness the hockey game between…Winnipeg…and the University of Minnesota team. The game, which proved to be an easy victory for the visitors, was exciting throughout, at times very much so, resulting in a score of 11 to 3…It was team playing against individual work, and as usual, the former had the best of it. The University boys, however, deserve great credit for the lively game they put up against heavy odds. The rink was in good condition and the day was perfect for the sport.”

So who were these “boys” who fought the invaders from Manitoba. They were captained by a Canadian import himself (an early Lou Nanne?), faculty member Dr. H. A. Parkyn, described by the rival Minneapolis Journal as “the only experienced player.” Joining him as forwards were Head, Albright, and Wilkerson while on defense, then known as cover point and point, were Russell and Walker while Van Campen was in goal. First names or even initials are lost to time. While inexperienced they played with vigor and intensity and typical of that is this description of play from the Tribune:

“But Head had a surprise in store. He finds the puck lying idle at the Varsity side of the field, and starts it towards the other end. “”Good thing, push it along.” was the cry of the crowd. He avoids everything in his way, gets clear across the field, succeeds in driving the puck by the goaltender, and the Varsity team has scored. The college yell from the grand stand greets this really brilliant play, and the half ends 6 to 1.”

That would be the Gopher’s highlight for the first half in an era when games were played in two 30 minute halves. Much of the Tribune’s game story, perhaps understandably, relates to the home team despite the one sidedness of the play. Thus Parkyn’s two goals in the second half are highlighted and the game account closes with “The game ended at 5:23 (it stated at 4:00), both sides offering three cheers for the other. Throughout the contest the best of feeling prevailed, and no one received serious hurts.”

The Victorias would go on to their Stanley Cup and place one of their players, forward Dan Bain, in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but both the Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press prophetically projected great things for the ice sport at the University. The former said it best: “The game of hockey is destined to be popular at the University and the time is not far distant when regular games between the institutions neighboring to Minneapolis will be played.”

Wisconsin and North Dakota were still somewhere in the distant future.

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