17. February 2009 · Comments Off on Michigan Hockey’s Firsts · Categories: Archive 2009

The MVictors guest post on mgoblog last week touched on two key firsts in Michigan football history: the inaugural game held in 1879 against Racine College, and the first touchdown scored in the Big House by Kip Taylor in 1927.

While on vacation I started digging into John U. Bacon’s Blue Ice, the story of Michigan hockey. Naturally he discusses the roots of the hockey program including its first game, held January 12, 1923 against Wisconsin:

Although Coach [Joseph] Barss had only five days to select and prepare his team before the inaugural content, “the individual play was sensational,” wrote a nameless reporter who, it must be said, knew so little about the game that he called the puck a ball.  “Michigan counted the first point,” he wrote, “when [Eddie] Kahn, by clever work, rushed the ball through the Badger defense for a goal.”

So we learned the date of that first varsity game and that Eddie Kahn netted the first goal.  In later pages Blue Ice talks through Kahn’s amazing life as a groundbreaking brain surgeon.

Like the first football game, this game went down to the wire:

But in the second period Wisconsin evened the score at 1-1.  The Badgers made it stick throughout the third period and the first five-minute overtime.  In the second overtime, the report wrote, “the Wolverines seemed held off when Robert Anderson, in a hard shot from the side, slipped the puck through the goal for the winning point.”

So Michigan earned a 2-1 victory in the first game back in 1923.  Note that hockey team actually outscored the Michigan football squad in their debut (the M men defeated Racine 1-0).

By the way, if you are a fan of history in general, you’ll love Blue Ice.   In the first 100 or so pages you’ll meet an amazing set of characters as Bacon weaves you through some incredible tales–not just some charming old stories about hockey.   The stories range from horrific tragedies (guys falling through the ice, Germans experimenting with poisonous gas, the town of Halifax, Nova Scotia being blown to bits, Hobey Baker bleeding to death), to wonderful triumphs (the birth of Michigan’s athletic campus, the courage of coach Barss, the vision of Fielding Yost, Charles Lindbergh flying over a few feet over the Huron River).    If you thought this book is collection of old hockey box scores or funny stories about a guy calling the puck a ball, you are mistaken.

Update: Speaking of stories, did you know that legend Gordie Howe helped Red land his first huge recruit, and had an influence on several other players coming to Ann Arbor?   Blue Ice takes you through it.  Now you can meet Howe prior to the 2/28 Ferris State game.   (HT: MSC)

blueice

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