Some of the greatest professional hockey players of all time hail from Canada — and a quick survey would show picking a favourite, let alone the best player, is a difficult, if not impossible, task.
From greats like Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, and Mario Lemieux, to modern-day stars like Sydney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and P.K. Subban, Canadians are infatuated with the people who bring the sport to life.
It's this love of the game that David Hunter, the past president of the Windsor Hockey Heritage Society, says isn't going anywhere.
If anything, interest in the sport is increasing, as is interest in the location that lays claim to being the Cradle of Hockey.
Hunter says Windsor has a solid case for being called the Birthplace of Hockey — which occurred long before confederation in 1867.
“Ask anyone in the Town of Windsor or surrounding area where hockey was invented. It was here in Windsor, Nova Scotia,” said Hunter, adding hockey enthusiasts from around the globe visit Windsor’s fabled Long Pond every year.
Famed writer Thomas Chandler Haliburton first wrote about 'hurley' on ice in The Attache in 1844. The reference relates to his childhood days while attending King's College School between 1800 and 1810 noting “...you boys let out racin’, yelpin’, hollerin’, and whoopin’ like mad with pleasure and the play-ground, and the game at base in the fields, or hurley on the long pond on the ice…”
In earlier writings, from 1836, he referred to “playing ball on ice” — also considered to be an early form of the sport that is now part of a multi-billion dollar industry.
Hunter rebukes claims that hockey was started in 1825 via the Sir John Franklin expeditions, noting it wouldn't make sense for people on an excursion to the north to pack hockey sticks – opting instead for necessities, like food and warm clothing.
He further says Montreal's claim also doesn't hold water, saying James Creighton, who is credited with organizing the first recorded indoor hockey match in 1875, spent time in Nova Scotia prior to that achievement.
“James was a Nova Scotian. Educated in Halifax,” said Hunter, noting he used “Halifax rules” for the organized sport. He also attended university in Windsor at King's College — the very place hockey was played — and graduated in 1868.
“We know the game comes back to Nova Scotia,” said Hunter.
“European soldiers were stationed here, brought that game of hurley to Nova Scotia… (Hockey) came from Long Pond,” he said.
While there are several groups and organizations that claim a different origin story, or claim the sport was invented in another country — like Europe, Hunter says there is no doubt Windsor has contributed much to fostering the sport that people love worldwide.
Hunter is hopeful Hants County's Bailey Peach will be the next 'Sid the Kid' — the Stanley Cup winning Dartmouth native who currently serves as the captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the National Hockey League.
Peach, who played with the Cole Harbour Wolfpack in the Nova Scotia Major Midget Hockey League and was an affiliated player with the Junior B Valley Maple Leafs last season, was selected 11th overall in the 2017 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League entry draft by the Sherbrooke Phoenix.
Hunter says hockey fans should keep an eye out for the 16-year-old Falmouth forward.
“With Bailey being in the Quebec league, he may end up going into the NHL and if he does, we hope he brings that Stanley Cup back to us,” said Hunter.
To learn more about Windsor's Birthplace of Hockey claim, visit: http://www.birthplaceofhockey.com/