Two Swedish researchers compiling an encyclopedia of hockey history have made a few significant new discoveries, including what they’re calling the earliest known image of a hockey player — a well-dressed skater with a curved stick and flat-edged puck striding along England’s ice-covered Thames River in December 1796.
Sport historians Carl Giden and Patrick Houda have also unearthed an extremely rare book published in 1776 that includes the first detailed description of field hockey — ancestor of dozens of derivative sports, from NHL hockey to ringette to the underwater game of “octopush” — as well as another vintage illustration of a group of boys at play that’s considered the earliest of its kind.
The engraving of the Thames River skater came to the researchers’ attention after a U.S. collector purchased it from an antique shop in Maine. Though the image was printed in 1797, Giden and Houda believe the scene depicted took place in December 1796, when a spell of unusually cold weather swept across Britain and froze rivers and ponds throughout Greater London.
The picture’s background even contained a clue — a distinctive obelisk situated on the riverbank behind the skater — that allowed the Swedes to pinpoint the location of the scene as a bend of the Thames near the Kew Observatory west of downtown London.
A second boy seen lacing up his skates is believed to be sitting on the edge of Islesworth Ait, a large, teardrop-shaped island in the middle of the river.
During the first intermission of Toronto’s 5-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, the lanky Swede spoke at length to the media and took one last trip down memory lane in a week full of trips down memory lane.
Read some of that exchange, and check out more pictures from the banner-raising ceremony here.
The fatal blow George Johnson: Time after time it beat down on the Russian shore, this relentless blue-tinted yellow wave. In the end, justice, as that wave finally pulled Russian resistance underneath the surface, Ottawa Senators prospect Mika Zibanejad powering to the net and knifing an unstoppable backhander past heroic netminder Andrei Makarov 10:09 into overtime. Photo: Todd Korol/Reuters