James G. A. Creighton – Montreal

J.G.A. Creighton, C.M.G., K.C.

Canada’s ‘Father of Organized Hockey’ – Nova Scotia’s ‘First Hockey Export’

Montreal Stages First Indoor Public Performance Game – 1875

James George Aylwin Creighton was born (1850) and raised in Halifax as the game of Ice Hockey was evolving. He was educated at the Halifax Grammar School and Dalhousie University where he graduated with an Arts degree. The great “JGA” as he was known to sporting friends, moved to Montreal in 1872 to work in his chosen field as an engineer and became Nova Scotia’s first hockey export! There, he joined the “Montreal Amateur Athletic Association” (“M triple A”) as a football player.

An accomplished figure skater, he also joined the “Victoria Skating Club” where he was appointed as a judge of competitions. He taught his new Montreal friends at both clubs to play Nova Scotia’s new winter game of Ice Hockey. The game was still being referred to by two names, Ice Hurley and Ice Hockey. Likewise, the sticks with which the ice game was played were also being referred to by two names, ‘hurley’ and ‘hockey’.

Creighton had his friends back in Halifax send a bunch of sticks to him in Montreal for use by the first Montreal players. Creighton’s influence as a judge for figure skating gave him access to the Victoria Rink for Ice Hockey practice for both teams. They gave Montreal spectators their first public performance of the game on March 3, 1875. Because goals or scores were then referred to as ‘games’, Creighton captained the winning MAAA team with a score of “two games to one” (2-1).

The game was played according to ‘Halifax Hockey Club Rules’, using a wooden puck as had been commonplace in Nova Scotia for decades. Nova Scotia’s world-famous Starr ‘Hockey Skates’, made by the Starr Manufacturing Company Ltd. of Dartmouth Nova Scotia, patented in 1866, were the only self-fastening skates available in the world at the time. Hand-made hockey sticks, carved by Nova Scotia’s native Mi’kmaq craftsmen had been sent up by Creighton’s friends from Nova Scotia especially for Montreal’s first games.

Several of the players on these teams were students at McGill University. In 1877, J.G.A. Creighton decided to return to further his education and enrolled at McGill Law School. The same year that McGill formed an Ice Hockey team of its own! Even though he had become a student at McGill, he continued playing with the MAAA hockey team.

Also in 1877,”Montreal Rules” were published by the Metropolitan Club of Montreal, a men’s athletic association, under the guidance of their secretary, J.G.A. Creighton. They were fashioned after “Halifax Hockey Club Rules”, and the newly codified English Rules of Field Hockey.

Folowing 1877, the students playing for McGill would do much to popularize the game in subsequent years.

Elmer Fergusson vs Captain James Sutherland

In 1937, Montreal’s noted sports journalist, Elmer Fergusson, was upset by recent reports by Captain James Sutherland of Kingston claiming that Ice Hockey began in Kingston. Fergusson wanted to refute this claim. Fergusson knew that hand-carved sticks used in the first Kingston game had come from the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia. He sought Nova Scotia Sports Journalist James Power’s advice about the matter because he recognized his expertise as a chronicler of sports events in Nova Scotia. Power was able to relate to him the origin of sticks, wooden pucks, the earliest known rules of the game and stories of early outdoor games in Nova Scotia. Fergusson was the first to name Power ‘The Dean of Canadian Sports Writers’. Sutherland later repudiated his Kingston claim.