Canada's Hockey Experience

Hockey’s hallowed shrine

The hallowed shrine to Canada’s sport — where every record, every artefact of relevance is stored — is the Hockey Hall of Fame.

However, the building that houses all the trophies, jerseys of legends and various trinkets wasn’t always at its Toronto location at 30 Yonge St.

Demand for a hall of fame began thanks to World War I veteran Captain James T. Sutherland, otherwise known as the “Father of Hockey.” The Kingston, Ont. native asked the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association to put together a committee of three to dig up the roots of Canada’s game on April 17, 1941.

Not surprisingly, his hometown was named in the mix, as a game between Queens University and Royal Military College was played at Dix’s Rink in the Kingston harbour.

Not two years later the National Hockey League and CAHA agreed to establish the Hockey Hall of Fame in the Limestone City and on Sept. 10, 1943 Kingston mayor Stuart Crawford was named the first HHOF president.

In 1945 the first class of inductees was named: players Dan Bain, Hobey Baker, Dubbie Bowie, Chuck Gardiner, Eddie Gerard, Frank McGee, Howie Morenz, Tommy Phillips, Harvey Pulford, Art Ross, Hod Stuart and Georges Vezina as well as builders Sutherland, Sir Montagu Allan and Lord Frederick Stanley.

Still without a home to call its own, and with Sutherland dying in 1955, the NHL pulled its support for Kingston as the home of the HHOF. The hall was moved to Toronto and in a ceremony all 42 players and builders were honoured with a scroll commemorating their inductions. In May 1, 1961 a new building was completed on the Canadian National Exhibition grounds.

By 1982, the HHOF had outgrown its digs at the CNE and a new spot was discovered in an old Bank of Montreal building at Yonge and Front streets. Developer BCE Place restored the 1885-built structure, a survivor of the 1904 Toronto fire.

On June 18, 1993 the Hockey Hall of Fame reopened its doors to the world with a touch of Victorian elegance, and an old bank vault retrofitted to store all the trophies.

The next big step for the HHOF was the opening of the D.K. (Doc) Seaman Hockey Resource Centre, complete with four ice pads and 18,000 square feet of space to store overflow from 30 Yonge St.

Which goes to show the history of hockey in Canada covers a lot of ground.

Sponsored by The Canadian Experience and Maple Leaf Sports + Entertainment, “Canada’s Hockey Experience: The Sport of a Country” is a unique, 20-week online series on the history of hockey.

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