Longest hockey game in Cape Breton history was played in 1908
It was the longest hockey game in Cape Breton’s history.
Last March 26, the hockey story all over the news had nothing to do with the fact no Canadian teams were going to the playoffs.
Rather it was about a game for the Nova Scotia girls Peewee AA championship. The TASA Ducks of Tantallon met the Pictou County Selects at St. Margaret’s Centre in Halifax. After regulation play the teams were tied at one and lacking rules regarding shootout score settling, the eleven and twelve year olds continued on for seven more fifteen-minute periods.
As the periods drew on and the breaks got longer it became evident the game had to end, goal or not. Five hours and ten periods later the referees ended the game and Hockey Nova Scotia called the two teams co-champions, a sensible and deserving decision.
Hockey buffs and historians began to call this the longest hockey game in Nova Scotia history, perhaps even beyond the boards and boundaries of the province’s ice rinks. If the hardy young girls had skated another twenty-six minutes they would have surpassed the longest NHL game in history that happened almost 80 years to the day.
The playoff game, first of five for the Stanley Cup, took place on March 24, 1936, and was an epic battle between the Montreal Maroons and the Red Wings of Detroit ending scoreless after sixty minutes. At 116 minutes into overtime, Detroit’s Hector Kilrea tore down the chopped to pieces Montreal Forum ice trying desperately to control the puck as it dodged the ruts, before steering it over to Winnipeg grain office clerk, Modere “Mud” Bruneteau, who swung at it, sending it past net minder Lorne Chabot for the lone and deciding goal. No NHL game has gone longer since.
But what about before 1936? Were there longer games then?
In March 1908, old hockey rivals Sydney and Glace Bay squared off at the Alexandra Rink in Glace Bay. Seven man hockey was played then, there were no extra players catching a breather on the bench and periods went 20 minutes straight. The rink was packed to the rafters with fans, many of them coal miners, because it was Saturday night and pay-day to boot.
There were three teams in the league that winter with North Sydney making the third. The teams all vied for the Cruise Trophy, named after well-known Cape Breton Sportsman, A.W. Cruise. He and local businessman Mr. MacAdam operated both the Alexandra Rink and the King’s Theatre in Glace Bay.
The Glace Bay team consisted of goalie Big Dan MacNeil, a prominent physician and former Dalhousie football player, Billy Parsons, one time Maritime Lightweight boxing champ, banker Bill Hay, Reggie Brehaut, Billie Wilkie, Joe Debison and Jack MacLeod. Percy Ball minded the twine for Sydney with Bert Publicover, George McSweeny, Harvey Richardson, Dr. Gordon Richmond, Jimmy Kendall and Jack McKenna passing the puck.
Goal judges George Doyle
“Seven man hockey was played then, there were no extra players catching a breather on the bench and periods went 20 minutes straight. The rink was packed to the rafters with fans, many of them coal miners, because it was Saturday night and pay-day to boot.”
and Stuart McCawley stood on the ice behind the net and raised a hockey stick or broom whenever a goal was scored. After 60 minutes neither judge had been called to action. Overtime was in order.
After a short break the two teams commenced their icy duel again. Parry and thrust they did with only short breaks between periods till the clock showed 12:30. They had been at it a solid four hours. So were some in the stands with the occasional Saturday night fisticuffs breaking out. By then the Zamboni-less ice had begun to go to mush and by all accounts the goal judges were near frozen to death.
Town solicitor and partner in the Glace Bay team W.R. Tobin suggested since it was now Sunday the game be stopped to be continued later in the week. The team managers agreed and referee Frank ‘Tanker’ MacMullin, who died overseas in the First World War, called the game. It had lasted two hours and fifty minutes.
For 28 years Cape Breton had the longest game of hockey on record. The 1936 Montreal-Detroit game lasted six minutes longer and hasn’t been surpassed since except for Guinness record challenges that don’t count.
As for the Sydney-Glace Bay game, it never did get finished. They called it a tie.
This is Alexandra Rink, Glace Bay, circa 1920. Thanks to Barry Verbeski from the Glace Bay Historical Society for this.