For those who relish hockey history, the CBC News’ Randy Boswell wrote an intriguing piece this morning about the recently solved mystery of who played the NHL’s first game and who scored the NHL’s first goal. There has always been confusion of that first game, although the date is not in question. However, on the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 19, 1917, two hockey games were played and there has never been any incontrovertible truth of which game was played first, and therefore, who scored that inaugural goal.
Boswell writes that everyone knows that one of the games was played in Ottawa between the Ottawa Hockey Club and the Montreal Canadiens, which was supposed to be played at 8:30 p.m. ET. However, it is the other game between the host Montreal Wanderers and the Toronto Hockey Club that was in question. New evidence verified by the Society for International Hockey Research (SIHR) was found last month in an overlooked Montreal newspaper that clarified where the first NHL puck dropped first. While most Montreal newspapers didn’t report the start time of the Wanderers-Toronto Hockey Club, a recently digitized French newspaper Le Canada ran an advertisement for the game that clearly states the game time at 8:15 ET. What added to the confusion was that the Ottawa-Canadiens game, slated for an 8:30 start time, was rumored to have been delayed by 15 minutes due to a contract dispute, further pushing it back.
So, it turns out Montreal is the birthplace of the NHL as its game started first, while Montreal Wanderers’ defenseman Dave Ritchie scored the NHL’s first goal almost 100 years ago. The game took place less than a month after the NHL formally constituted at a team owners meeting on Nov. 26, 1917, in Montreal. The revelation takes place during the NHL’s year-long 100th-anniversary season.
According to the story, this ends a debate in which many people felt that Ottawa was where the NHL was inaugurated. Many believed that Montreal Canadiens’ Joe Malone was the first to score that inaugural goal as he scored in the first six and a half minutes of play in Ottawa. However, Ritchie scored his goal in the first minute of the game in Montreal.
The story adds one more interesting fact about that Wanderers’ game. The goaltender, Bert Lindsay, who now is considered to be the first NHL goaltender to earn an NHL victory, was the father of future NHL legend Ted Lindsay, who’s name adorns the trophy given to the league’s most outstanding player. Also, the Wanderers’ player coach Art Ross, who was named after the trophy given to the top point-getter, scored his first and only NHL goal in the game.