Modernization of Hockey Began Post WWII – by C. Scott Holland
While researching NHLers who served in either WWI or WWII, I found this interesting tidbit relating to the modernization of the game of hockey:
In response to the dilution of talent during World War II, the league changed its rules to encourage a faster paced game. Until 1943, a player was not allowed to make a forward pass across his own blue line. That changed in the 1943-44 season, when the NHL ruled that players could pass from their defensive zone up to the middle of the rink, which would be marked by a new red line at center ice. This changed the game drastically, as many returning war veterans discovered upon their return. Also, regular season overtime had to be discontinued due to wartime curfew restrictions. OT would not return for 41 years. (From the HOF history of the NHL.)
That one new rule not only changed the game’s complexion but became a standard and integral part of hockey’s future.
Junior hockey in Ontario became a very popular sport shortly after the end of WWII. Teams like London, St. Thomas, Chatham and Sarnia emerged. Within a decade other smaller communities would build arenas and enter teams into various categories while hockey for players 20 and older increased in popularity as well.
By the mid-1950s the OHA had its Big Ten Junior B Conference with teams spread out from the Toronto area all the way south to Chatham where in late in 1948 an arena had been erected on the grounds utilized by the Canadian Armed Forces for training during WWII. That arena opened in 1949 and is still used today. It is Chatham Memorial Arena, the home of the Chatham Maroons.
Junior hockey was evolving and growing. Many were becoming farm clubs of the NHL’s original six.
During the last 70 years so much has changed yet one thing in common remains. Every team, whether professional or junior, gives thanks to our Canadian veterans – the men, the women – plus many of our forefathers who although they never served in the Armed Forces, worked hard to ensure our troops had the necessities to seize victory. the few who are left from those battles deserve our greatest tribute, respect and acknowledgement. They believed in Freedom and helped us gain the Freedom we have today.
We should remember this not only on Remembrance Day but every single day we exist.
Although the 11th minute, of the 11th day of the 11th month marked the end of WWI, today it stands as a great reminder of the sacrifices all soldiers have made for our country and many other countries.
Without their sacrifices our freedom does not exist.
(photo credit – Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens, Remembrance Day Mask, David Arrigo)