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Halifax-Dartmouth; Hockey’s Home


Book to enlargeDartmouth lawyer Martin Jones provides the true facts concerning the origin of our favourite game in his book, Hockey’s Home: Halifax – Dartmouth – The Origin of Canada’s Game (Nimbus Publishing ISBN 1-55109-408-8).

Hockey great Paul Henderson writes in the foreword: “Martin Jones has provided a compelling case that ice hockey originated in Dartmouth and Halifax…Hockey’s Home is a great read that every hockey enthusiast will thoroughly enjoy.”

Martin provides evidence of the first games which were played on Lake Banook and the North West Arm. Significantly, the first modern hockey skate was also invented and produced two blocks from Lake Banook at the Starr Manufacturing Company in Dartmouth in the 1860’s. From 1863 to 1939, over 11 million skates were shipped around the world by Starr.


We will have autographed copies of Martin’s Jone’s book available at this year’s combine event.

Exerpts From Martin Jone’s Book 

Birthplace of Hockey

A newly-acquired image of a curling game on Lake Banook, Dartmouth, which was painted in 1867, contains the earliest known image of an actual game of ice hockey. Significantly, the local newspapers reported in February of 1867 that hockey matches were being played on the Dartmouth lakes between teams from the Garrison and Fleet.The accuracy of this image is supported by the fact that the local papers stated that a curling game and hockey games were to be played on the Dartmouth lakes and they subsequently reported these events. No mention was made that hurley was being played. It has been suggested that hockey is not depicted in the image because some of the players are holding their sticks with one hand. When you watch hockey being played today, it is common for players not carrying the puck to use one hand on the stick. This is very obvious during skills competitions as players hold their stick with one hand for maximum racing speed.There are two games in the image and that the player on the ice to the left of the curlers is in fact the goaltender for the hockey game being played immediately behind the curling match. Goaltenders were reported being used in games on Lake Banook as early as the 1840s. Ice to enlarge
  Curling on Lake Banook
Ice to enlarge
  Hockey on Lake Banook
Images courtesy: Art Gallery Nova Scotia


About Starr Manufacturing
Starr to enlarge Established as a nail factory in 1861, Dartmouth’s Starr Manufacturing Limited soon began making its famous Starr skates and selling millions of pairs around the world from 1863 to 1939. The plant also played an important role in the sale of the first hockey sticks and excelled in other areas such as the production of the golden gates to Halifax’s Point Pleasant Park.Before any debate on hockey’s origins, Starr ads proudly proclaimed in 1907: “Probably every prominent hockey player in Canada – for the past 40 years – has used Starr skates. Sixteen different styles, to suit all kinds of ice.” Clearly, hockey players were using Starr skates in 1867 as documented by newspaper reports at that time – eight years before Montreal supporters claim the game originated there in 1875!Soon after the invention of the Starr skate, newspapers began to report on the popularity of the new product. Referring to the crowds of skaters on the local ponds, The Halifax Reporter complained in 1867: “Could not the Common and City Prison Committees put their heads together and keep the two ponds on the Common cleared. There are a lot of hulking vagabonds in the City Prison who should be made to shovel the ponds and then confer a direct benefit on the citizens who support them in idleness and luxury.If the gentlemen on those committees wish they can thus confer a great favor on hundreds of our young folks as well as many grown up people for who does not love skating especially since Forbes and Bateman’s Patent Skates have been so extensively used.” Detailed descriptions of any sporting activity were rare but the Starr skate warranted a lengthy report in February of the same year: “The skating on the Arm last week for a few days was tolerably good and well patronized, as such cheap entertainments generally are… But the greatest of all good things is the ‘Acme Skate.’ No half hour getting your gimlet into a tough heel: no giving way of leather straps nor buckle-tongues breaking: no pinching of toes nor cramping of instep: no cold fingers nor wet —: in fact, Forbes deserves to rank with the Reformers of the 19th Century, for his reform saves what is commonly called the ‘pinching of the boot.'”In February of that year, Starr sent “a remarkably handsome collection of skates” to the Paris Exhibition and its business continued to expand.. In 1871, The Halifax Reporter noted: “The Starr Manufacturing Company’s establishment at Dartmouth, although working at its fullest capacity, is unable to supply the demand for the new celebrated Forbes’ Acme Skates. Orders are constantly received from all parts of the world. To meet this great demand the Company are extending their establishment by erecting a large three storey building.”

Starr’s influence on skating and hockey soon extended throughout the world, with millions of skates being sold during the next seventy-six years. On a recent visit to the childhood home of Captain Bob Bartlett in Brigus, Newfoundland, I found two pairs of the famous Starr skates on display in this National Historic Site. Perhaps these skates accompanied Bartlett and Peary on their famous expeditions to the North Pole which began in 1898.

Although the Starr plant was demolished in 2000, the lands present unlimited heritage opportunities with the original Shubenacadie Canal locks and inclined plane on site together with the underground water turbine which ran the factory. Significantly, Halifax Regional Council voted unanimously in March, 2003 to apply for National Historic Site status for the Starr property. It is hoped that a portion of the site will be used to construct a museum to showcase our tremendous hockey history.


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