Hockey is a combative game. So the tenaciousness of those taking part in the ongoing fight over where Canada’s best-loved sport actually began should come as no surprise. The latest salvo came from Martin Jones, a lawyer from Dartmouth, N.S., who last November published Hockey’s Home: Halifax-Dartmouth—The Origin of Canada’s Game. Jones argues that the first contest was played on Lake Banook in Dartmouth in the early 1800s—and soon spread across the harbour to Halifax. “I’ve found more than 100 pieces of factual evidence pointing to this conclusion,” says Jones, who used newspaper articles, recorded eyewitness accounts,
old drawings and the works of other historians to build his case. “If some other area in Canada can present factual evidence to the contrary, I’ll be the first to congratulate them.” Howard Dill, a pumpkin farmer from Windsor, N.S., 60 km northwest of Dartmouth, might be up for Jones’s challenge. Dill and some local historians say that the 19th-century writings of Sam Slick creator Thomas Chandler Haliburton prove the game—a version of Irish hurley, played on ice by Maritimers—got its start on a pond on Dill’s land back in the early 1800s. “Everybody else,” says Dill, “is just trying to highstick and elbow Windsor out of the way.” To further complicate matters, last summer the Society for International Hockey Re-
search issued an 18-page document refuting the Windsor claim on the grounds that Haliburton’s book wasn’t credible evidence. The historical panel, however, doesn’t know where the game started, although it did note that Montreal was where the first indoor hockey game was played in 1875.
But as the new book by Jones shows, that report is hardly the last word on the subject. Dill, meanwhile, steadfastly refuses to take down the sign proclaiming his farm the “Cradle of Hockey.” Adds Jones: “The amazing thing is that we’re still fighting about it after all this time.”
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