SIHR’s Behind the Boards

The Sunday Game that wasn’t

SIHR’s Behind the Boards


The Sunday Game that wasn’t

John Lokka
Posted January 14, 2020

Viewed 386 times

St. Nicholas Rink

   On Sunday, December 10, 1911, Columbia University’s hockey team gathered at the St. Nicholas Rink to engage in a practice game with the 7th Regiment. On any other day and between any other teams, this would be an insignificant event. In the middle of the Progressive Era (~1900-1920), this broiled into a largely ignored high society faux pas.

   New York’s 7th Regiment and Columbia University represented high society in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. By 1910, 7th Regiment ranks swelled with upper echelon New York City social elites. The regiment privately funded a Gilded Age (~1870~1900) marvel on Park Avenue that they called an armory. The regiment’s ranks also contained many Columbia University graduates and students.

   In 1910, Columbia University’s tuition started at $192/year. Considering the average American salary of $574/year, Columbia was a significant investment. This investment resulted in access to social elites, excellent literary education, and a key intercollegiate sports body (basketball and rowing). During the Progressive Era, the University Committee on Athletics ruled Columbia’s sports. And, its most vocal representative was Professor Herbert Gardiner Lord.

   An ordained Presbyterian minister, Prof. Lord championed morality issues while at Columbia. In addition to public speaking against gambling, he was involved in Columbia’s football ban. Obviously, he staunchly believed in observing the Sabbath. His crusade was aided by New York Penal Law §2145, which banned public sports on Sunday. Both Lord and law would be challenged on December 10, 1911.

    On December 9, the Columbia Daily Spectator announced a noon practice game scheduled for Sunday. This game was going to be “a good test for the team.” The New York Times article from December 10th noted “this is the first time that a Columbia team has ever held a game on Sunday.” As much as playing public sports was banned by law, it was also banned by the Committee on Athletics.

    Prof. Lord and the Times recounted similar stories of the event. A board of trustees member called upon Lord to stop a Sunday practice game at St. Nicholas Rink. Lord immediately went to the rink to investigate. With only a few Columbia men on the ice, Lord admitted there was “no proper practice game in progress.” Still, he argued for severe censure due to the flagrant “violation of what is fit and proper.” Lord ended his Daily Spectator communication with “No such practice [on Sundays], whatever the sport, even of the crew, ever has been the custom, nor is even likely to be. It seems that a proper consideration of the standing of the University before the community, should prevent both manager and captain from arranging [Sunday] games.”

   Captain Rufus James Trimble led practice with the three varsity players who appeared. Trimble was forced to issue public apologies in the Daily Spectator. On December 12, the New York Times briefly summarized the event expecting a larger debate on Sunday practice and exhibitions. However, any mention of Sunday sports or the event itself was absent from the following committee meeting notes.

    New York Penal Law §2145 changed in 1919. The Progressive Era ended in 1920. Prof. Lord retired in 1921. To be honest, the law targeted baseball. Columbia’s change happened because of football. Still, hockey challenged societal norms first.

Columbia Alumni News (Volume 3, No. 25, March 15, 1912, pp. 451-452), Call # CQ3 Al83, University Archives, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries.
Columbia Alumni News (Volume 3, No. 25, March 15, 1912, pp. 451-452), Call # CQ3 Al83, University Archives, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries.

Viewed 386 times

Go to top
Archives

The Sunday Game that wasn’t
Posted January 14, 2020

A Few Minutes with Larry Pleau
Posted November 13, 2019

2019 Fall Meeting in Quebec City Recap
Posted October 22, 2019

The Brooklyn Skating Club's Battle with Professionalism
Posted May 07, 2019

Mystery Player - Solved
Posted December 20, 2018

Celebrating a Half Century of Recognition
Posted July 02, 2018

Team Identification. Can You Help?
Posted June 23, 2018

What's new with the old NHL stats?
Posted April 01, 2018

Unidentified Hockey Team
Posted January 23, 2018

2017 Members Hockey Pool in Support of Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer
Posted September 12, 2017

Silver, Gold and “Ding”
Posted August 19, 2017

Stats Not So Golden for Seals
Posted July 15, 2017

The Inaugural Season
Posted June 15, 2017

The “First” Stanley Cup Rings?
Posted May 30, 2017

Who Really Has the Record of Most Coaching Wins for the Boston Bruins?
Posted May 16, 2017

Alfred "Ralph" Winsor
Posted May 03, 2017

Mystery Player on a Mystery Team
Posted March 27, 2017

Scarce On-ice Photo of the Philadelphia Quakers
Posted December 17, 2016

Percentage of US players in the NHL - 1920 to 2016
Posted December 04, 2016

Pre-NHL Stanley Cup Challenge List
Posted November 17, 2015

More