"No One Was Killed Outright": L.A.'s Surprising Ice Hockey History | The Informer | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly

"No One Was Killed Outright": L.A.'s Surprising Ice Hockey History

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Fri, Jan 24, 2014 at 6:37 AM
click to enlarge Red Oakley, captain Hollywood Atheltic Club hockey team, 1925 - LOS ANGELES PUBLIC LIBRARY PHOTO COLLECTION
  • Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection
  • Red Oakley, captain Hollywood Atheltic Club hockey team, 1925

This Saturday the Kings and Ducks meet in the first hockey game at Dodger Stadium and the first regular season NHL outdoor game played West of the Mississippi River. A momentous event, but despite the belief the sport is a relative newcomer to our climes, old-time hockey was played in Los Angeles. Yes, there was hockey here long before Kings won the Stanley Cup and even before Wayne Gretzky arrived. Folks, the Zamboni was invented in Paramount.

The first hockey game in Los Angeles was held on February 1, 1917 at the Ice Palace, which was located at 1041 N. Broadway. The contest pitted the Los Angeles Athletic Club vs. The University Club. LAAC's team of ex-pat Canadians won 7-0. In his game report for the Los Angeles Times, Warde Fowler noted: "No one was killed outright."

Amateur and club hockey soon moved to the Palais de Glace, on Melrose near Vermont. College hockey quickly became popular, with USC, UCLA and Loyola fielding teams by the mid-1920s and Occidental soon joining them. April of 1926 saw the first visit by a National Hockey League team when the New York Americans played a series of games against an L.A. all-star squad.

The following year, the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Pirates came west to play games against local teams before meeting each other at the Winter Garden. The game gave Angelenos their first look at an NHL match-up, albeit an exhibition game. The Blackhawks returned for games in 1930, joined by the Boston Bruins. While visits by NHL teams were highlights, the regular attractions at Winter Garden, on Melrose at Van Ness, were college games and the minor league California Hockey League. [This paragraph was changed after publication; see editor's note at the bottom of the piece.]

In 1938, the Pan-Pacific Auditorium hosted its first hockey game and became the regular home ice for top local level match-ups. That same year, the Tropical Ice Gardens opened in Westwood. Initially open air, by 1941 a roof was constructed and, two years later, a series of war relief charity games were held between the Montreal Canadiens and a Canadian Navy team at what was by then called Westwood Ice Bowl.
click to enlarge Bob Hall, Los Angeles Monarchs, 1948 - OTTO ROTHSCHILD, LOS ANGELES PUBLIC LIBRARY PHOTO COLLECTION
  • Otto Rothschild, Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection
  • Bob Hall, Los Angeles Monarchs, 1948

By 1946, the Pan-Pacific operator was one of three groups that bid to bring an NHL franchise to Los Angeles, but travel costs to the West Coast were considered prohibitive by hockey owners, a view shared with baseball owners. Rebuffed, minor league hockey took up the slack with two Pacific Coast Hockey League teams playing at the Pan, the Los Angeles Monarchs and the Hollywood Wolves. The Monarchs brought the city its first hockey championship when they won the PCHL title in 1947. Hockey drew well in L.A., but the southern division of the league collapsed around the Monarchs in 1950 and the league refused to allow the team to join the northern division, citing travel costs.

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