Cross Check!: Barney Holden and the Birth of Professional Hockey in North America

Cross Check!: Barney Holden and the Birth of Professional Hockey in North America


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593302115
Publisher: Aventine Press
Publication date: 09/28/2004
Pages: 128
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.30(d)


Long before there was an Eddie Shore, or a Bobby Hull, or a Wayne Gretzky, or even (God help us) the Hanson Brothers of Slap Shot fame, there were the Victorian era hockey pioneers from the mostly Canadian provinces. They played for little or no money, with little or no protective equipment and subsequently had little or no front teeth. They played not in the big Canadian cities, but in the turn-of-the century mining towns of Rat Portage, Haileybury, Cobalt, and Houghton. They played at a time when substitutions were not allowed, and the only way to leave the ice was to be carried off. As a result, the opposition sought out the best players from the other team for a quick extermination. That was the origin of goon hockey. Surprisingly, a number of these players survived to play for a decade, or even two, as leagues in Canada and the United States formed, failed, re-formed, and finally metamorphosed into the National Hockey League. But little has been written about these old-timers. A few of the ancient superstars have popped up in a handful of hockey books, but the ink devoted to these guys is pretty sparse. But almost nothing has bee written about the other fellows who paved the way and helped make the game what it is today. So as a result, I chose to write about this particular period in sports history by focusing on my grandfather, Bernard "Barney" Holden. Not only was he one of the very first professional hockey players in history, but he scored the first goal, in the first game, of the very first professional hockey league on December 9, 1904 in the Pittsburg Duquesne Gardens. While he was certainly a star in his day, he wasn't a super-star, and you won't find him in the Hockey Hall-of-Fame. He was a defenseman...a hitter, and one rough, tough son-of-a-gun who gave as good as he got. And somewhere on the ice rinks between Michigan, Manitoba, Quebec, and Saskatchewan, he left his blood and most of his front teeth.

In compiling the record of Barney's career, I relied on the newspaper clippings from his now 100 year old scrapbook, on family stories passed along to me by my father, uncle, and cousins, as well as statistics, blurbs, tidbits, anecdotes, and hard data shared with me by a number of very helpful hockey historians in the U.S. and Canada. I have tried to present the reader with a glimpse of hockey life during the Victorian era, when the British Union Jack still flew over the Canadian provinces, and of the young men who became the first hockey stars in North America.

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