On Sports: Johns Hopkins Ice Hockey Club Carries On 100-Year Tradition Parag Nene ------------------------------- Special to The Gazette When the subject of ice hockey is raised in sporting parlors, it's doubtful that the name Johns Hopkins springs into anyone's mind. But before pucks went high-tech, and professional players went out on strike, competitive intercollegiate ice hockey in the United States got its start right here. The first competitive hockey match played in the United States was a contest between Hopkins and Yale in Baltimore on Feb. 1, 1896. It was a stubborn and hard fought duel that ended in a 2-2 tie. Long before hockey was considered a mainstay in American professional sports, it was a game enjoyed by relatively few enthusiasts in Canada during the 1870s. It was called shinny on ice, and the players used curved sticks to slap a rubber ball. Over the next decade its popularity grew as formal rules and teams were established. In 1893 Lord Stanley, the governor general of Canada, donated, to the best amateur team, the Stanley Cup--now North America's oldest professional sports trophy. By the early 1890s interest in hockey had spread to Canada's southern neighbor, and amateur squads were springing up in the eastern cities. During this time, Baltimore featured several scrimmage teams, including the Baltimore Athletic Club, the Maryland Bicycle Club, the Ariel Rowing Club and the Johns Hopkins University team. The university's 1895-96 team was a mix of 11 dedicated graduate students and undergrads, representing all university divisions, a common practice back then.The university was small, and since graduate students outnumbered the undergrads 3 to 1, this university-wide camaraderie was born out of necessity. Samuel Alfred Mitchell, an astronomy graduate student, was team captain and played second defense. G. B. Scholl, a second-year undergraduate, played goal in addition to serving as the team manager and treasurer. The 1896 Hopkins student was just as academically committed as his 1996 counterpart, and the hockey players lamented the rigorous, early practice hours. The team members practiced at the now dismantled Northwestern Rink at the corner of Charles Street and North Avenue. The players could be seen at the rink at 7 a.m. two or three days a week, and after attending classes and studying, they would return at 10:30 p.m. for another 90 minutes of practice. Besides the rigorous practice schedule, the students also had a beef with what they perceived as a negative attitude on the part of the press. "Another thing which should be changed before another season is the attitude of the press towards the Hopkins team," read the 1896 yearbook, Hullabaloo. "Let us see that Hopkins receives fair treatment by the press, both when playing against local teams and teams from a distance." Over the next three seasons, Hopkins went on to compete against several local club teams and squared off with other eastern colleges, including Yale, Northampton, the University of Maryland and the University of Pennsylvania on its way to finishing with a 9-16-8 win-loss-tie record. The team disbanded at the end of the 1897-98 academic year, citing transportation problems, disagreements between the rink management and the teams, and the lack of student support as the main causes. Indeed, the absence of student enthusiasm was a particularly sore point according to the 1898 Hullabaloo. "[It was not] very encouraging to the team to have to use opera glasses to find the Hopkins 'rooters,' for the number of rooters was often so small that they were almost invisible to the naked eye. There is no excuse for this lack of interest among the undergraduates." There was a 90-year hiatus before competitive ice hockey would pick up again at Hopkins. But today, hockey players at Hopkins satisfy their interest in the sport by playing for the university's club team. Peyton Ferrier, a junior studying economics, heads the squad. "The team in its current incarnation came about in 1987," Ferrier says. "We compete in the Mason-Dixon League which consists of other club teams in the mid-Atlantic region." True to Hopkins athletic tradition, the team performs quite well even though it is not supported by vigorous recruiting. Last year the Blue Jays won the league's Southern Division and lost in the finals to Bucknell. It is fitting that on Feb. 1, the 100th anniversary of the sport, Hopkins plays the team that Ferrier refers to as their "arch-rivals," when they face off against UMBC at Mt. Pleasant Ice Arena at the corner of Northern Parkway and Helen Road. Ferrier says he hopes to see a lot of Hopkins fans at the rink. After all, there's no place for opera glasses when the ice shavings begin to fly.
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