Norwich’s hockey team was started in February 1909 by a group of restless cadets who were looking for something to do during the winter months. The eight skaters called themselves the “Norwich Red Socks,” and won two out of the three games they played that year before the ice began to melt. With no indoor athletic facility existing on campus at the time, opportunities for exercise and entertainment were very limited. However, an obvious opportunity was presented by the abundance of ice, particularly the natural rink that formed on the Upper Parade Ground.
The modern game of ice hockey developed in Montreal in the 1870s, so it’s no surprise that Norwich students in nearby Vermont were eager to join the game. There was talk in the student newspaper of wanting to get a team together as early as 1890, but it didn’t come to pass until nearly 20 years later.
In those early days of outdoor hockey, the season was more or less limited to the month of February, since time was needed for sufficient ice to form and then for the team to practice before competition could get underway. About five games constituted a typical season, and the Norwich skaters would play against anyone willing to accept the challenge, from high school teams to local Canadian clubs.
Unsurprisingly, hockey gained popularity quickly, and the 1913 season saw the construction of a temporary outdoor rink over top of the tennis courts, complete with electric lights. When the university sold its horses in 1948, the former Taylor Riding Hall became Taylor Hockey Arena, which was modernized in 1956 to include artificial ice—gone were the days of waiting for the natural freeze before the season could begin!
Visit the Norwich University Archives on campus or on the web to learn more about the history of Norwich hockey. Sources on the subject include old campus newspapers, yearbooks, and the records of the athletic department.