The Driest ContinentHistorical Overview

It was not for the glory that followed. Nor even for the money. For the English-born son of a prominent Melbourne clergyman and Shakespearean scholar, it was more the challenge of engineering the first ice arenas in the driest continent on earth. Refrigeration was one of the great engineering achievements of the 19th century, and that was nowhere more heartfelt than in the Australian climate. As it happened, Melbourne was already at the forefront of ice technology. It had been pioneered nearby at Geelong and, typical of Australian priorities, it was soon commercialised to cool large quantities of beer.

I

It started in Melbourne over one hundred years ago, yet the very beginnings of Australian ice sports traversed continents. They were as closely related to the celluloid of the first motion pictures and their vaudeville forerunners, as they were to the ice itself. They were as close to one of Australia’s foremost commercial magnates, to State Premiers, and to international impresarios, as they were to engineers and to one of the world’s oldest architectural practices. As close to athletes as they were to some of the most significant founders of the church, theatre, art and literary worlds of Melbourne, indeed, of Australia. They shared in common the same birthright as Australian Rules football. They were cradled by the same schools. The first rinks were among the very best in the world, yet they were quite literally as Melbourne as Myer, David Jones and Buckley & Nunn. The first National skating champion was the founder’s second son. The eldest, born in 1889 near South Yarra, was Melbourne Grammar football and athletics champion and one of the first ice hockey players for Victoria. He became an engineer like his father, and then resigned his Army Reserve commission to become a digger on the front line, an ANZAC on the Western Front.

II

He regained his stars but he was killed on the boggy, shell-torn and poisoned Messines Ridge, fighting for Belgium’s freedom. The conditions made that battle a byword for suffering, and few landscapes are more redolent of war. Over 850,000 died there. His name is carved in Menin Gate stone at the eastern exit of the town of Ieper (Ypres): REID, Lt. Andrew Lambert, 51st Battalion, 9th June 1917, Age 27. Son of Henry Newman Reid and Lucy Reid, of 9 Blackfriars St, Sydney. Native of Melbourne. The youngest son born at Brighton in Melbourne, was an air mechanic in the first Australian air force to enter the Western Front, a qualified accountant, a founder of the NSW Ice Hockey Association, and a formidable speed skater. The only daughter was National skating champion in 1935 and the first skating coach of Australian International skating champion, Pat Gregory. The first Australian ice hockey team competed against Americans and it was as multi-national as St Kilda today; as well connected as only the ‘old money’ of the Melbourne Establishment allowed; and as politically influential as the Victorian Parliament. Or rather the Federal Parliament, as it was at that time.

III

The captain of the first Australian teams was an English-born son of a notable Canadian artist who was raised near where modern ice hockey began, then lived all his long life in Melbourne where he died in 1948 at the age of 76. The first generation of Australian ice champions included the first Australian Winter Olympian, the first Australian Olympic and World Championship ice hockey teams; the country’s first International figure skating Gold medallist; and the first professional skating instructors, who taught many future world and Olympic champions, both here and overseas. Most famous of all was Felix Kaspar, an Austrian who was World Skating Champion in 1937 and 1938 and who had been interned in Australia during the war as an enemy alien. Other champions of the first rinks included speed skater Colin Hickey, International ice show stars and skating champions such as Pat Gregory, Jack Lee, Reg Park, the Molony and Burley ice dynasties, and expatriot skating pair, Albert Enders and Sadie Cambridge. Many became local and International coaches and judges.

IV

In 2008 — the year the celebrations of the centenary of Australian ice hockey and the International Federation coincided — the Mighty Roos ice hockey team won gold on home soil at the world championships in Newcastle, NSW. Like a scene from some fairytale, they were promoted to Division I for the first time in history in the centenary year, enabling Australia to compete with the elite ice hockey nations of the world, and perhaps at the Olympics once again. Yet, it was a very long line of Australian international champions and builders who preceded them. The foundation of ice sports here was as Australian as some great-great-uncle whom you somehow discover ran away with Cook and, at the age of 25, witnessed the planting of the British flag in New South Wales in 1788. For that was the founder’s heritage. In fact, the ice hockey tradition in Australia is so richly steeped in eminence, the booming years of Marvellous Melbourne, and the earliest emergence of the sport internationally, that one wonders how on earth its story was ever able to be lost for one whole century, like dust between the cracks of history.

FoundationsOverview

H NEWMAN REID
(1862 - 1947)

Refrigeration and consulting engineer; founder of ice hockey in Australia 1906–8; founder Melbourne Ice Skating & Refrigeration Co in 1904 or earlier; and head of the Adelaide and Melbourne Glaciaria Syndicates (1903–6). Henry Newman Reid, pioneer of national ice sports and founder of ice sports in Australia, was the leader of an entrepreneurial syndicate that established Australia's first ice rink in 1904 at 91 Hindley Street, Adelaide, the western continuation of Rundle Mall. Reid's syndicates went on to build the first ice rinks in Melbourne in 1906, at South Gate, and in Sydney in 1907, at Railway Square, Haymarket. His world-class facilities for figure skating, speed skating and ice hockey were built with venture capital over a century ago and produced the first two generations of National ice champions, including his own sons and daughter, and many others who represented Australia at Olympic and World Championships. The Melbourne and Sydney Glaciaria were the first and only Australian rinks for 30 years and the Melbourne rink that Reid initially managed himself, cradled the birth of national ice hockey competition, and the national organising bodies for both ice hockey (1908) and skating (1911). The Melbourne Glaciarium is also the story of the first permanent moving picture palace and the birth of the silent film era in Australia.

DUNBAR POOLE
(1877 - 1954)

Member of the Adelaide, Melbourne & Sydney Glaciarium Syndicates; player on the 1st Australian Ice Hockey Team of 1906, Melbourne; patron of the Sydney Glaciarium Ice Hockey Club, 1920 and president in 1921. Credited with introducing figure and speed skating to Australia during the Grand Era for Ice Rinks (1890–1920). Poole was enlisted by Reid's first rink development syndicate from Britain where he was reputedly the best rink manager. He arrived in Melbourne in 1899 and was involved with the planning and development of all three of the first Australian rinks. Poole became the first manager of Sydney Glaciarium where he was an early player, administrator and selector in ice hockey, figure skating and speed skating. Made the first Life Member of the NSW Ice Hockey Association Inc in 1933, and active in the NSW Soccer Association. He was also the second instructor at Minto Skating Club in Ottawa, and he returned to Britain on numerous occasions where he was manager of the Streatham Ice Arena and the Streatham Redskins Ice Hockey Team in the 1930s. Poole introduced figure and speed skating; helped establish the first three rinks in three different States of Australia; played on the first Australian ice hockey team; and then made a significant contribution to ice hockey and rink management in NSW, where he eventually retired.

1ST AUSTRALIAN ICE HOCKEY TEAM
1906

The ice hockey match officially regarded as the first organised game in Australia took place at the Melbourne Glaciarium on July 17th, 1906. This is the earliest known Australian record of a specific game in a specific place at a specific time, with a recorded score, between two identified teams. The match was reported in 'Melbourne Punch' newspaper on July 19th, 1906: 'The first hockey match — Australia v. America — played on ice in this city, which took place last Tuesday night at the Glaciarium may be marked a complete success, and as the teams had been practising some time, was a good exhibition of the game, and most picturesque. The Australians wore full white suits, the Baltimore boys white shirts and grey trousers. Technically, the Australians were not up to the Americans, but put up a very good game, the result of which was a draw, each team scoring a goal. The sight of the players swiftly gliding and dodging about the ice was very pretty and kaleidoscopic in its changes. Fireman T. H. Miller, of Baltimore, played a magnificent game — in fact, he was the centre of the picture during the whole period of the game — just over thirty minutes.' Australia: Herbert Blatchly (capt), Dunbar Poole, C Kelly, James Thonemann, Gordon Langridge, Ramsay Salmon. America (USS Baltimore): F G Randell (capt), R Stirling, T H Miller, J Benditti, D F Kelly, J T Connolly.

1ST ICE CHAMPIONS
1935 on

Among the first generation of International champions from Reid's rinks were Kenneth George Kennedy, the first Australian Winter Olympian and the 1st Australian Olympic and World Championship Ice Hockey Teams, Squaw Valley, California, US, 1960. Australia's first International medal came in 1987, 80 years after Reid established the first rinks and almost a quarter of a century after Kennedy had first argued that overseas trips were necessary for Australia to reach world standard. Australia won IIHF Pool D gold that year and the record for the highest ever score in a World Championship against New Zealand — 58–0 at Perth. A further 10 medals followed over the next 20 years. Then, at the 2007 Championship in South Korea (Div II Group B), the Mighty Roos narrowly missed promotion, losing only to the host nation.  In 2008, Australia defeated China 1–0 on home ice at Newcastle, achieving Division I World Championship standard in the centenary year of Australian ice hockey. NHL correspondent Bill Meltzer had earlier noted: 'Ice Hockey Australia hopes a day comes when the AIHL is also a choice off-season destination for foreign pros on the rise — much like fall and winter league baseball in the US and Latin America — as well as a breeding ground for an Australian national team solidly entrenched in the IIHF's Division I level.'

ChampionsIntroduction

HOCKEY

Ice hockey has been played in Australia at club level since 1906 when Melbourne Glaciarium opened. Victoria first played NSW officially in a three-game National championship series at Melbourne in 1909, the year before the first European Championship was played. The captain was Robert Jackson and Andy Reid, eldest son of Henry, played on the team. The Victorian Association formed in 1908, the same year as the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), and John Goodall, the Melbourne player who donated the Cup, later became its president. Goodall was also first president of the first National controlling authority in 1923, which joined the IIHF in 1938. The Goodall Cup became the holy grail of Australian ice hockey, and its tradition continues to this day in the AIHL. Among the International champions who trained Victoria were American Charles Uksila who played with Dunderdale in the forerunner to the Chicago Blackhawks, and European Henry Witte. First among Australia's best ice hockey champions and buiilders were Dunderdale, Leslie Reid, Kendall, MacGillicuddy, Molony, Brown, NHL one-gamer Coulter, Chase, Winter, Kennedy, Carson and McEachern. They were followed by the first Australian Olympic and World Championship teams from 1960. Many of these first champions and coaches developed in both the amateur and professional hockey leagues of Britain and North America.

FIGURES

The National Ice Skating Association of Australia was founded in the year 1911 at Melbourne Glaciarium, then known as 'The Academy of Skating'. Sydney formed its own national association in the late 1920s. Both held independent "Nationals" until 1931, when they collaborated to form the Council of the National Ice Skating Association of Australia, after which time championships were conducted in affiliation with the ISU. The first instructors at Melbourne were Professor James Brewer of Princes Skating Club in London and Professor Langley, a former Australian quad roller skating champion. The first ISU-affiliated Nationals were held in Sydney in 1931 for "men, ladies and waltzing on ice" disciplines. Reid's daughter Mireylees, trained by Kaspar, won many independent Nationals and the third ISU-affiliated National championship in 1935. Other world-famous instructors included Lena Uksila, Henry Witte, Rhona Thaell and Enders and Cambridge. Others among the first Australian figure skating champions and buiilders were Leslie Reid, Sydney Croll, Cyril MacGillicuddy, Ken Kennedy, Patricia and Gwenneth Molony, Jack Lee, Reg Park, Nancy Burley and daughters, Adrian Swan, Pat Gregory, Mason and Bower, Dawn Hunter, Nita Solomon, Charles Keeble, Aileen Shaw, Bill Cherrell, Tim Spencer and Mary Wilson.

RACING

The ISU first organised speed skating Championships in 1893, and the sport has been an integral part of Australian ice since the first rinks in the early 1900s. It was initially controlled by the Ice Hockey and Speed Skating Council. Leslie Reid, son of Henry Newman Reid was Australia's first speed skater, although he did not compete internationally. Australia's first International was Jim Brown and the first Olympian was Ken Kennedy. The Olympic Southern Flyers Ice Racing Club, the oldest sanctioned club in Australia, was founded in 1949 at Melbourne Glaciarium. In 1956, Colin Hickey came seventh in the 500 and 1000 metre speed skating. From 1952, speed skating was organized by the Australian Ice Racing Council. Colin Coates participated in six Winter Olympics, from 1968 to 1988, and came sixth in the 1976 10,000 metres event. Australia's first World Championship win in a winter sport came from its short track relay team in 1991 at Sydney. Short track speed skating also gave Australia its first Winter Olympic medal, a bronze won by the men's relay team in Lillehammer 1994, and its first winter gold medal, won by Steven Bradbury at Salt Lake City in 2002. Others among the first speed skating champions and builders in Australia were Sydney Croll, Len Duke, Eddie Spicer, Edward Tutty, Jeanette Neal, Gary Cassidy, John Eyre, Alan Heffernan, Teddi Jenkins and Barry Maybury.

BUILDERS

Over the years, Australia's best Olympic results have been in ice sports for ten Games and snow sports for six. That is so, despite the fact that participation in ice sports represents less than one percent of the total participation in winter sports in Australia. Henry Newman Reid, James Thonemann and Dunbar Poole were the first and most significant builders. Their work was consolidated by Reid's three sons and daughter in all three of the major disciplines: ice hockey, figures and speed skating. These foundations were further developed by John Goodall, Molony and Gordon, Len Duke and Harry Kleiner in Melbourne; and Jim Pike, Ken Kennedy, Sydney Croll and Jimmy Bendrodt in Sydney. Of those, Molony, Gordon, Croll, Kleiner and Bendrodt were primarily focused on the management, promotion and development of rinks, but some were also very active in the administration of the various controlling bodies. Duke wrote the constitution for the first ice racing club. Goodall and Kennedy did similarly with the National ice hockey association, forging critical links to their International counterparts. From the late-1940s, their work was extended by rink managers such as Alwyn Smart in Melbourne, and John Caruana at the Glaciarium and Prince Alfred Park rinks in Sydney. The 1960s brought a new wave of rink developers, in particular Pat Burley and his family, which continues to the present day.