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Birthplace of Ice Hockey
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Avonian Hockey Club Sleigh Drive – 1895
by Garth Vaughan

Avon Hockey Club Sleigh Drive Avon Hockey Club Sleigh Drive

Before there were cars, trucks or buses in the early 1900s, Windsor’s hockey teams moved about by horse and sleigh, and sometimes by train, to play in nearby towns. This photo, taken in 1895, records the Avonian Hockey Team in front of the magnificent old stone and brick Federal Post Office on Gerrish Street. Team supporters of various ages are shown alongside, standing in the snow. Windsor’s streets were still unpaved then and much snow had to be left to cover the dirt. Quite often, snow had to be shovelled onto areas that were becoming bare so that sleigh runners would slide smoothly along. The three white horses with muffs to prevent their ears from freezing, would have been from one of Windsor’s several "Livery Stables". Horses and sleighs were rented out for both pleasure and work. Estey Cochrane had one such stable on Gerrish Street where the Rose Cafe’ now stands, and his white horses were also used by the Fire Department, located at the site of the present Dooley’s Pool Room, to haul engines when required. Harnesses were kept in the Fire Station, supported in space by ropes and pulleys, ready to be lowered quickly onto the horses, as they were led from the stables and backed into position in front of the waiting Fire Trucks. This is a three horse team and the harness and whiffle tree arrangement is beautifully obvious – a "three-horse-powered" sleigh if ever there was one! On this occassion however, the team was not out on an emergency fire call, but ready to deliver the Avonians Hockey Team to a game, perhaps in Hantsport or Wolfville, as that is the way it was done back then. Mr. Charles Dill of Curry’s Corner had a similar team and often took younger hockey teams to play challengers in Falmouth, Hantsport, Canning or Wolfville. Hay and wool blankets kept the players warm during the journey. While the game went on, the horses were fed, watered and rested in preparation for the long ride back home. Games were not always played indoors, but usually on outdoor rinks or ponds, as indoor rinks in most places only began to appear after the turn of the century. Players from both teams had to shovel and scrape and sweep the ice clear of snow before the game could begin, and, of course, were required to stop the game periodically to clear falling snow depending on the weather conditions at the time. Since there were no electric lights for such purposes then, the games had to be played in daylight hours. Windsor was one of the first places in the country to have a covered rink for Skating and Ice Hockey. It was built on Fort Edward in 1870 and burned in the Great Windsor Fire of 1897 as did the Post Office and buildings shown next to it in this precious photo. On close examination, one can see the cast shadow of a power pole crossing the street. The Windsor Electric Light and Power Company was formed and installed incandescent lights on power poles for early evening lighting of select streets in September 1890. This was the first such lighting in Nova Scotia. Just like "Ice Hockey", street lighting by electricity was another "FIRST" for Windsor.

 

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All text contained in the birthplaceofhockey.com website © by Garth Vaughan 2001. All rights reserved. All images contained in the birthplaceofhockey.com website © Windsor Hockey Heritage Society Archives 2001. All rights reserved. No part of the contents of this site may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system without written permission from Garth Vaughan, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review.
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