Final days of a hockey legacy

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Event takes one last look at Jock Harty’s storied past

Queen’s figure skating club president Jessica Hickey, Intramural co-ordinator Duane Parliament and co-captain of the varsity skating team Rachel Coens stand outside Jock Harty arena, which is scheduled to be torn down this spring.
Queen’s figure skating club president Jessica Hickey, Intramural co-ordinator Duane Parliament and co-captain of the varsity skating team Rachel Coens stand outside Jock Harty arena, which is scheduled to be torn down this spring.
Photo: 
Jock Harty has seen its share of competition between Canadian universities. This photo shows a 1960s hockey game between Queen’s and the University of Toronto.
Jock Harty has seen its share of competition between Canadian universities. This photo shows a 1960s hockey game between Queen’s and the University of Toronto.
Credit: 
Photo courtesy of Queen’s Archives
Jock Harty Arena as it once was, upon opening in 1922 on Arch Street.
Jock Harty Arena as it once was, upon opening in 1922 on Arch Street.
Credit: 
Photo courtesy of Queen’s Archives

On April 14, after 85 years and three incarnations, countless triumphs and sorrows, one provincial hockey championship and a literal trial by fire, Jock Harty Arena will see its last hockey game.

On April 14, the athletics department will host Rock the Jock, on last chance to enjoy the arena featuring a game between the women’s hockey team and an alumni team and public skating.

Bill Fitsell, renowned hockey historian and long-time Gaels supporter, said it’s important to remember and celebrate the pivotal role the arena—and the man it was named for—played in the development of hockey in Kingston.

“It commemorates a distinguished Queen’s player and coach in the early days of hockey in Kingston and the fact that the Jock Harty Arena was more than a campus rink; it was a community rink for most of its life.”

Until the Memorial Centre was built in 1951, the Jock was the only rink in the community, making Queen’s one of the first universities in the country to have an arena campus.

John Harty, nicknamed “Jock,” was born in Kingston in 1874. He went to college in Quebec before returning to his hometown to attend medical school at Queen’s and bringing with him Montreal’s fast-paced version of hockey.

He graduated in 1897 with his doctorate but never practiced medicine.

“He really loved the game more than his profession,” Fitsell said.

Harty went on to become the president of the Canadian Locomotive Company, originally located on Ontario Street. He died of the Spanish Flu on Feb. 23, 1919 in London.

The first Jock Harty Arena was completed in 1922 and was located on Arch Street where Humphrey Hall now stands.

Two years later, it was damaged by a fire but was rebuilt in the same location with the addition of an artificial ice pad by December 1924.

Fitsell said the decades following the second incarnation of the building were the arena’s most formative.

“I think the most important moments or contributions would be in the 1930s and 40s,” he said. “That’s when it was the only artificial ice arena in Kingston and the only one between Oshawa and Montreal.”

The present Jock Harty Arena on Union Street was opened in 1971 with an inaugural address given by Maple Leaf great Syl Apps.

Fitsell said the banners hung on the walls, won by the women’s hockey team, are evidence of the role Queen’s played in the spread of the women’s game in Ontario.

“They used to call them the Golden Gals in the 70s.”

Cookie Cartwright witnessed first-hand how quickly women’s hockey spread in Kingston and throughout Canada. A former player and coach of the Golden Gaels, Cartwright said players today don’t always appreciate how good they have it.

“The ice was better in the old Jock Harty, but the lights are better, the dressing rooms are better; a lot of things are better.”

From 1967 to 1969, she said, the men’s and women’s teams rode by bus to the church league rink, the Harold Harvey Arena, to practice.

Cartwright played for seven years, from 1959 to 1965, before the five-year eligibility rule came into practice, taking advantage of the opportunity to stay as long as possible.

“I went to law school so I could keep playing hockey,” she said.

The change of the team’s status from exhibition to intercollegiate provided further incentive for Cartwright to stay.

“When it became intercollegiate I had to hang around; I wanted to hang around.”

Several years after graduation, Cartwright herself switched titles, going from player to coach and leading the team from 1970 to 1975. She met with success almost immediately.

“They hadn’t won a game for three years and the first year I coached we made it to the playoffs and lost in overtime.”

Despite the years, she said players’ reactions to losing haven’t changed much.

“My captain came over, and I thought she was going to kick the boards down she was so upset.”

Up to that point, the Gaels had trouble recruiting enough players to make up a team.

“We used to get kids who’d never played,” she said. “In those days, if you showed up for the team, you played.”

The sport didn’t take off as a women’s game until the 1970s.

“It just wasn’t widespread. There were little pockets all over the province, all over the country.”

Cartwright said watching Sue Wright play in the first half of the decade was the best part of her hockey career.

“Sue Wright was the greatest player ever. … She would still make the national team members look sick.”

The next decade proved to be one of the most exciting in Queen’s men’s hockey history.

Led by coach and former player Fred O’Donnell, the 1980-81 Golden Gaels won Queen’s only provincial championship in the present OUA league.

“When we won the provincial championship, it had been 67 years since Queen’s had won its last provincial championship,” O’Donnell said.

The team went on to the national championships in Calgary where they beat the undefeated Concordia 3-2 but lost in the last minute to Saskatchewan 5-4.

The team boasted two All-Canadians in Ronnie Davidson and John MacIntyre, who won the Jenkins Trophy that year.

O’Donnell also had a weapon that fans of the current Gaels team will appreciate.

“I guess the biggest surprise of the year would have been our goaltender.”

Fourth-year player Andy Chisholm posted a goals-against average of 1.91 in the playoffs that year.

O’Donnell said it was the second or third year Queen’s had put together a strong team, and fan following was growing.

“We did have a lot of fan support. I can remember lots of games when we filled the Jock Harty. With the playoffs in particular you couldn’t get in there.”

O’Donnell came back to Queen’s after stints with the Hartford Whalers and the Boston Bruins and spent seven years coaching the Gaels. He said time spent with good people is what he remembers most fondly.

“The highlight? Maybe not hockey. Maybe when I run into some of the players at alumni gatherings and see how they’ve grown and what they’ve become. Maybe that’s the highlight. It’s not all hockey.” While Dr. Jerry Wagar admires the Gaels of 1981 for their successes, the year 1948 still comes most quickly to mind when he thinks of the glory days of Queen’s hockey. 1948 was Wagar’s first year playing hockey for Queen’s. It was also the year he was made captain.

After graduating from McMaster University, the Toronto Senior A team tried to convince Wagar to play for them, but he chose to come to Kingston. That year, Queen’s played the team in exhibition play and afterwards Jack Stafford, Toronto’s coach, approached the Queen’s rookie.

“He did come in and tell me I had played very well and that I had been appointed captain of the Queen’s University hockey team,” Wagar said.

It was also in 1948 that Queen’s had the opportunity to play the Chicago Blackhawks, who were visiting Kingston for a few days.

“Of course we got thrashed, but it was a big thing in our lives to play the Chicago Blackhawks,” he said.

That same year, Queen’s beat the Canadian national team 2-0, causing them to strengthen their lineup by calling up players from Toronto before heading to the world championships.

“We beat them 2-0 and I guess they decided after that they needed to reinforce the team,” Wagar said.

He said the quality of intercollegiate hockey relative to both amateur and professional leagues at the time was much higher then than it is now.

“Some of the players then in the intercollegiate hockey would jump right into the NHL. That’s the level we played.”

Wagar wore the Tricolour for five years and came back to coach for six alongside former Queen’s coach Chris McDonald. He also spent several years playing football.

He said in those says, he said, both Jock Harty Arena and Richardson Stadium would sell out for game day.

“I wish it could be like it was.”

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