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University of Minnesota Golden Gophers Hockey

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Source: Donald M. Clark Unpublished Notes
(Portions of this article previously published in Ross Bernsteins: "Gopher Hockey by the Hockey Gopher")

Minnesota, with its thousands of lakes and ponds, was an ideal place for the newly formed game of ice hockey to prosper. Shinny, and organized game, had been played in the state since the Civil War. Ice polo had been popular in St. Paul and Minneapolis since the early 1880’s. It was a matter of time before the University of Minnesota would display an interest in the sport. Such concern manifested itself when the first University of Minnesota team, unsanctioned by the college, was organized in January of 1895 by Dr.  H. A. Parkyn, who had played the game in Toronto.

It appears that Johns Hopkins University of Baltimore may have been the first college in the United States to play hockey, having tied the Baltimore Athletic Club at the dedication of the newly built North Avenue Rink in Baltimore on December 26, 1894.  The University of Minnesota may have been the second college in the nation to play the game. Although students from Yale and other eastern colleges visited Canada during Christmas vacation of 1894, Yale did not play the game until January of 1896 when they met Johns Hopkins. Columbia started hockey competition during the winter on 1896, while Brown and Harvard continued to play ice-polo through the season of 1896-1897.

Prior to meeting the Winnipeg Seven, the newly formed Minnesota team played three games against the Minneapolis Hockey Club, with the collegians winning two and losing one game.

The game against Winnipeg was played at the Athletic Park in downtown Minneapolis, located at Sixth Street and First Avenue North, just north of the famous West Hotel.  The park was located on the present site of the renowned Butler Square Building, next to the current Target Center Arena. The park was the home of the professional Minneapolis Millers Baseball Club until they moved to Nicollet Park at Nicollet Avenue and Lake Street on June 19, 1896.  Athletic Park was opened in 1891.  For those interested in baseball lore, Athletic Park measured 275 feet in left field, and 250 feet in right field.  It was a home-run hitter’s delight.

Minneapolis Ariel, February 16, 1895.  Page 5:

“The University of Minnesota hockey team will play a game for the championship of Minneapolis against the Minneapolis Hockey Club at their rink, at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Eleventh Street South.  The game is preparatory to the game to be played Monday afternoon by Winnipeg and the University of Minnesota.  Winnipeg is champion of the world.* Winnipeg has returned from a rough trip through eastern Canada and has defeated without too much trouble Montréal, Toronto, Victoria, Ottawa, Québec, and the Limestone’s.  The University started practice two or three weeks ago and played against a Minneapolis team, being defeated 4-1. A week and one half ago that they defeated the same team 6-4.  Tonight they play the tie off for the championship.  Dr. H.A. Parkyn has been coaching the boys every afternoon.  He has a couple of stars in Willis Walker and Russell.  Walker plays point and Russell cover-point, with Van Campen in goal. Parkyn and Albert are center forwards. Dr. Parkyn’s long experience with the Victoria team of Toronto, one of the best, makes him a fine player.  Thompson and Head, the other two forwards, are old ice polo players and skate fast and pass well. Van Campen, quarterback on last year's football team, plays goal well.  Many tickets have been sold for tonight’s and also Monday's game. Tickets are $.25, ladies come free. The excitement of these games is intense, and surpasses that at a football game.”

St. Paul Pioneer Press February 19, 1895.  Page 6:

“The first international hockey game between Winnipeg and the University of Minnesota was played yesterday, and won by the visitors 11-3. The day was perfect and 300 spectators occupied the grandstand, coeds of the University being well represented.  Features of the game was the team play of the Canadians, and individual play of Parkyn, Walker, and Head for the University. Hockey promises to become as popular a sport at the University as football, baseball, and rowing.” 

The first attempt to organize varsity ice hockey at the University of Minnesota took place in November of 1900 when a committee composed of George Northrup, Paul Joslyn, and A.R. Gibbons was appointed to draw up a constitution for the club and look into other problems concerning playing the game at the University.  A committee of S. Collins, T.B. Richards, and R. Tibbetts conferred with the Athletic Board regarding the flooding of Northrop Field.  It was decided not to flood Northrop Field, and instead to play at Como Lake in St. Paul several miles distant.  No scheduled games were played during the season of 1900-1901, and it was not until late in the season of 1903 that the University of Minnesota played any games on a formal basis.  Only two contests were played that season, both resulting in wins for the U of M.  Minneapolis Central High School was defeated 4-0 and the Saint Paul Virginias 4-3.  Team members were: John S. Abbott, Frank Teasdale, Gordon Wood, Fred Elston, Frank Cutter, R.S. Blitz, W.A. Ross, Arthur Toplin, and Captain Thayer Boss.

St. Paul Globe February 1, in 1900:

“Chicago, Illinois-to play ice hockey, universities and colleges in the west need covered buildings. A.A. Stagg of the University of Chicago says the game would be popular with covered buildings. If Chicago had facilities they would like to meet eastern colleges.”

The season of 1903 proved to be the last of ice hockey on a formal basis at the University of Minnesota for a period of nearly 2 decades.  In 1910 efforts were made to revive the sport and to interest the Universities of Chicago and Wisconsin in the sport, so as to furnish Big Ten Intercollegiate Conference competition.  This move met with failure.


University of Minnesota Daily, January 13, 1914:

“As its meeting Wednesday afternoon the Board of control voted $25 to outfit a hockey team. It was just enough to outfit one man, not seven, with sticks and pucks. In this the board, with all due respect for its other admirable qualities, shows the most parsimony in the matter of financing minor sports that it has shown over the past years.  This is not so evident in the matter of hockey as it is in track.  If the University ever expects to develop its minor sports program, it will have to exchange its attitude somewhat.”

In 1915-1916 a series of games was played by a team representing the University of Minnesota against Minneapolis and St. Paul High Schools and St. Thomas College.  However, the team was not recognized by the University of Minnesota Athletic Board at this time and the games played were classed 
as “pick-up” contests. About this time the fraternities began taking an intense interest in hockey.  While in the season of 1914-1915 only two fraternities, namely Delta Tau, and Sigma Alpha Epsilon, had iced teams.  By the following season 16 fraternities were playing the game.  Professor O.S. Zelner worked untiringly to organize the teams and the league.  These games were played on outdoor ice on Northrop Field with the finals and playoffs often being played at the indoor Hippodrome ice at the State Fairgrounds in St. Paul. Some of them better frat players of this era were the Bros brothers (Chet and Ben), Jenswold, and Lapiere. By 1920 the number of frat and intra-mural teams playing was over 20 in number.  It is interesting to note at this time the women students at the University became interested in hockey and organized teams and a league.  Some of the frat players such as Bernard and the Chester Bros acted as coaches for the women's teams. 

During the 1920-1921 season of few games were played as a varsity sport.  Hamline and St. Thomas were defeated.  St. Thomas, considered a state champion, was defeated by Minnesota 3-1 in a game played at the Coliseum Rink on Lexington Avenue near University Avenue in St. Paul. Warm weather canceled several of the scheduled games. Beaupre Eldridge of St. Paul, a student at the time, was very instrumental in organizing the team and promoting the sport at the University during this period. Team members for the 1920-1921 season were: Pond, Dwyer, Langford, Strange, Worreal, Byers, Watson, DeForest, Beard, Higgens, Swenson, Graham, Taylor, Chet Bros, and Eldredge.