On a chilly February day, Malcolm Chase, Class of 1896, and his classmate Arthur Foote led the newly formed Yale hockey club onto a Baltimore rink for the first intercollegiate hockey game in America. Their opponent, Johns Hopkins University, was comprised of 11 graduate and undergraduate students. Accounts of the Yale-Johns Hopkins game described the play as stubborn and hard-fought, a bitter contest ending in a 2-2 tie.
Back then, hockey was still called “shinny on ice” and played with a rubber ball. It would be some time before formal rules were developed and the game’s popularity would spread across the nation as new teams were formed.
Just over 110 years later, the two foes will meet again in Ingalls Rink this Saturday at 9:30 p.m. following the varsity game against UConn.
“We’re really excited about the game,” club hockey center Ned Mitchell ’07 said. “It’s a really fun opportunity because it brings Yale’s history into the club level which is something that doesn’t happen very often.”
The game will commemorate the first meeting of the two programs. Johns Hopkins does not field a varsity program, so they contacted Yale’s club team in order to set up the event.
“Our club hockey team was formed in 2003, so it’s a young team,” captain and wingman Alex Kleiner ’08 said. “This year is the first time we’ve been in a league and had a large schedule. This game represents the first time to really win something substantial.”
A Hopkins alumnus has donated a special prize to be presented to the winner of the game. Aptly called the “1896 Memorial Cup,” the team that comes out ahead will keep the cup for a full year until the two new rivals meet again next year in Baltimore as part of a rotating schedule just established this season.
Mitchell said the Bulldogs are looking forward to starting a tradition and says he expects a large crowd from both Yale and Hopkins for this initial matchup.
The club hockey team generally brings out a group of loyal fans, but the hope is that the additional intrigue of this game will attract new supporters who will stick around to catch a few periods.
“We’re excited about getting fans out,” defenseman Paul Dean ’08 said. “Usually it’s just friends who come out, but in general the people who do come have a good time and keep coming back.”
The Elis also expect some additional attention from the media. Johns Hopkins has a contract with ESPN, and it is possible that a clip of the game might get onto the cable television network or the pages of ESPN the Magazine. USA Hockey is also planning to run an article in one of its media outlets.
“This game should really inspire the team and get us motivated,” Kleiner said.
The 4-4 Bulldogs, who are 2-3 in their league, have not done much strategizing to prepare for the Blue Jays. Unfortunately, statistics for club hockey are not consistently published and the two teams have not faced any common opponents this season.
“We started off the season strong, but we’ve had some injuries,” Dean said. “It will be nice to get some people back this weekend.”
Though this is not the hockey of Malcolm Chase and Arthur Foote, the teams expect to play with the same energy and competitive spirit that brought them together in the 19th century.