MARCH 8: Ice-breaking, hockey-loving women

isobel1Above: the figure in white is believed to be Isobel Stanley from about 1890.

ON THIS DATE in 1889, thirteen-year-old Isobel Stanley organized and played in the first recorded all-female hockey game. She was the daughter of Lord Frederick Arthur Stanley, famed for donating the 35-pound silver cup that has been presented to the National Hockey League champion every year since 1926.

Isobel and her brothers fell in love with hockey as youngsters and talked their dad into creating the Stanley Cup, arguably the most famous of all professional sports trophies, in 1892. From 1892 to 1925, the Stanley Cup was presented annually to the best amateur hockey team in Canada.

On March 8, 1889, Isobel’s four-woman Government House team played and defeated the Rideau Skating Club team in what some consider the first all-female hockey game ever played. More likely, it was merely the first publicized all-female hockey game — the Ottawa Evening Journal published a brief account of the game.

On marriage, Isobel Stanley took the last name Gathorne-Hardy. In 2000, Canada introduced the Isobel Gathorne-Hardy Award, presented every year to a female athlete who embodies the values of leadership and sportsmanship.

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