Sunday, June 07, 2009

Victorians Unhappy with the Price of Hockey in Toronto

On Saturday night I went searching for an old book of mine and I stumbled across one I didn't even know I owned: "Hockey Night in Canada" by Foster Hewitt. I'm guessing it was either a gift or I pilfered it from my parents during one of their moves.

Bound in orange cloth and published by the Ryerson Press in 1953, the book tracks the first century of hockey in Canada (1855 to 1952) with an emphasis on the Toronto Maple Leafs.

I read the first couple of chapters this weekend and it turns out hockey was actually rather late in coming to Toronto. The roots and rules of the game were established in Kingston, Montreal and Halifax in the 1850s, about 20 years before hockey made any headway in the big smoke.

When hockey did arrive in Toronto it was so popular that it was difficult to get a ticket. At one early game, according to Hewitt, the eastern gallery at the Granite Curling Rink was so packed with hockey fans that the floors sagged.

In a wonderful piece of foreshadowing, the demand for hockey tickets in Toronto was such that the Granite club started charging whatever the market would bear. In 1893 (yeah, that date is right, I know I'm good for my fair share of typos but 1893 is what I'm going for here) high demand, high prices and limited access to hockey games prompted one fan to write the following letter of complaint to the Toronto Mail:

I wish to protest strongly against the action of the Granite Hockey Club in raising their ticket prices to such absurdly high figures for tonight's contest against Osgoode Hall. I call it the height of impertinence for them to ask people to pay seventy-five cents for the privilege of sitting in a cold rink during probably two and a half hours (in only one of which will play be going on). In Montreal and Ottawa, where they have good hockey, the admission fee is only twenty-five cents. A few more such exhibitions of avarice and the game will be depopularized in Toronto.

Talk about the more things change, the more they stay the same...who knew alleged avarice and hockey were entwined in Toronto as far back as the reign of Queen Victoria.

Unfortunately, Hewitt didn't include the name of the letter writer in his book so there's no way of knowing if it was penned by Berger, Simmons or Cox's great grandfather.


  1. the Surreal McCoy7:13 a.m.

    my gut tells me it was Grandpa Cox..

  2. I find that impossible. We all know that hockey owners only became greedy when MLSE entered the game.

  3. Anonymous3:22 p.m.

    I suspect that they all had the same grandparents. : )