Minnesota takes on Wisconsin for the 270th time on Friday night. That's more than any other Gophers hockey opponent. But for this post I said screw all those games, I want to tell you more about the first time these two schools met on the ice.
The very first game against Wisconsin happened all the way back on a January Friday night in 1922. The 1921-22 season was the first hockey season at the Varsity level, before that hockey had been played as a club sport at the U.
Gopher jerseys that first season. Courtesy of VintageMNHockey.com
The first away games the Gophers played that season was against Wisconsin. Coach I.D. MacDonald went to Madison with some of the most bonkers names in the history of Gopher Hockey. Captained by Chet Bros (who also coached the womens' hockey team), the hockey team traveled with the basketball team, as both squads were playing Wisconsin that weekend.
In fact the basketball game was a much bigger deal, according to the amount of column inches given to each sport in the newspapers. The basketball game against Wisconsin was for first place in the Big Ten. While the hoopsters won 17-15, they couldn't capture the Big Ten crown in 1922.
Back to to the hockey game. As it was reported in the Minneapolis Journal the betting line for the hockey game the Gophers were the underdogs with the Badgers favored 10/8 odds. Despite the bookies casting shade the Gophers opponent seems somewhat mysterious. Wisconsin doesn't keep track of its hockey history before 1963. So I'm not sure if the Badgers team was a club squad or not, or even where they played the game. But it definitely happened because the Minnesota Daily had this report.
The main takeaway I have from this article is that the Gopher Center was named Bope Eldridge. BOPE, which is apparently short for Beaupre (which is also an awesome name) was a U of M student from Saint Paul that is given a lot of credit for organizing the 1921-22 team and promoting the sport on campus.
This photo from that first or possibly second game against Wisconsin in 1922, shows the game being played outside. Possibly off campus, it's hard to tell with the only building in view is the house in the background on the right.
Gophers vs Badgers, 1922. Courtesy Hockey Hallf of Fame, Eveleth Minnesota. Thanks to @VintageMNHockey for sharing it with me.
Playing again on Saturday the Gophers dominated winning 3-1. Here is the synopsis from the Minneapolis Journal:
Captain Bros and Jacobson led the onslaught and the teamwork of the Minnesotans was effective from the very start, kept Wisconsin baffled...
After beating Wisconsin, the Gophers offered to play Michigan for an unofficial Big Ten Championship. The Wolverines refused the invitation. So with the powers bestowed upon me by the internet I declare Minnesota the 1921-22 Big Ten Hockey Champs.