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1898 Spalding Ice Hockey & Ice Polo Guide

Printed in 1897, the 1898 Spalding Ice Hockey and Ice Polo Guide, is probably ice hockey’s earliest guidebook, predating any similar Canadian guidebook by two years. Now, thanks to a generous loan from the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, the guide is publicly available for the first time, digitized by the University of New Hampshire’s Charles E. Holt Archives in conjunction with the UNH Library’s Digital Collections Initiative.

The Canadian guide, published in 1899, went digital a few years ago on the National Library of Canada Web site. “We wanted to match that with the American counterpart. It is our little birthday gift to Hockey East,” says Steve Hardy, UNH professor of kinesiology and faculty adviser to the Holt Hockey Archives.

The guide includes rich descriptions of the then-emerging game of hockey (“all the rapidity and great variety of action to be seen in lacrosse and polo [on horseback] without the roughness of the former or danger of the latter”), rules, and team photos, statistics and standings. A review of amateur hockey around the country proclaims Baltimore to be the nation’s most enthusiastic hockey city, and advertisements at the end of the guide offer hockey sticks (75 cents), pucks (50 cents), skates ($5), and miscellaneous sports equipment ranging from cycling saddles to boxing gloves.

In addition to the Spalding Guide, the Holt Hockey Archives is the official repository of Hockey East, the American Hockey Coaches Association, and the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) records. The collection holds NCAA rules committee meeting minutes back to 1929, ballots for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, and “one of the best runs of hockey guidebooks anywhere,” says Hardy.

Questions about the digital version of the guide should be directed to Eleta Exline, Digital Collections Librarian (