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08-12-2012, 11:33 PM
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6'0 200 lbs. defenseman Barney Holden, who scored the first goal, in the first game, of the very first professional hockey league game on December 9, 1904 in the Pittsburgh Duquesne Gardens. The Winnipegger played for Portage Lake from 1904-1907, teammate of Cyclone Taylor and Bad Joe Hall, as they won three championships together in the International Hockey League, Holden was three times an all-star in that league. His card was in the first pack of hockey cards ever made, one of 36 players produced in a set, the C-56 Tobacco Cigarrette Card series in 1910. He played for the Stanley Cup three times over his career, was in the NHA with Quebec for two seasons and was an all-star again in 1912 in the SPHL.

Known as a hitter, he was tough as hobnails, and somewhere on the ice rinks between Michigan, Manitoba, Quebec, and Saskatchewan, he left his blood and his front teeth.

..."was the greatest cover point of all time" according to N.J. Gillespie, writer for the Winnipeg Tribune Magazine, March 11, 1933. Gillespie tells of watching Barney play in Houghton as a youth, and said in the article that Holden would "stand at his position as cover point, now about where the blue line is located, and "laze" a puck over the heads of all and sundry that would find the goal, every time, unless the goal guard was lucky enough to see it coming and block it." "In those days of early hockey, the lighting system was not so good, and when you shot a puck into the air nobody could see it. I have seen "Barney" score goal after goal by shooting a high one the length of the rink that would nestle in the net without the goalie ever knowing it was coming. In the season of 1906-07, playing against the Pittsburgh pro team, in the first five minutes of the second half a player's skate ripped his [Holden's] shoe wide open. He played more than 25 minutes of hockey until the game was ended. When he reached the dressing room, this youth [Gillespie] was there to wait on him, as usual, and drew off his shoe and poured blood out of the shoe. A surgeon took seven stitches in his foot that night." "In those days, hockey players played 30 minutes, and after a 10 minute rest they played 30 more minutes. And if they were hurt enough to have to leave the game, they couldn't get back into the lineup. Unless they were knocked out so cold they had to be carried off the ice, they always stayed in the line up. Those surely were the days of the he-man hockey, mates." Gillespie wrote.

Holden had a legendary wrist shot. It was said that his wrist shot was so hard that it broke the 2 inch thick end boards in Brandon, Manitoba, one night.

He was also known to fire high shots in on net from the blue line and he would score goals from there. With primitive lighting the goalie would often lose sight of the dark disc.

He was not just a heavy shooter but a heavy hitter.

Boy was he tough. In another great story had Holden's skate ripped open early in the second half of the game (back before the creation of three periods) and he continued to play the entire rest of the game with his foot exposed. When the game was over he simply poured the blood out of his boot and awaited the doctors' stitchings.

On the downside of his career Holden moved back to Canada where he played with the Montreal Wanderers and Quebec Bulldogs.

It was said asthma that forced him to hang up his skates, although he played some semi-pro baseball after hockey and was active coaching his 5 sons and 1 daughter hockey and baseball teams in Winnipeg city leagues.

He died in 1948 in Burnaby, British Columbia.

His grandson published in 2004 the book Cross Check: Barney Holden and the Birth of Professional Hockey in North America. (I have yet to get it.)

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