RI Hockey Legacy

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Roller Polo

Roller polo was introduced in the United States in 1882.  Without roller skating roller polo would not have come about.  The increasing popularity prompted roller rinks to be converted with boards and goal nets called cages.  Roller polo sticks were a similar shape as field hockey.  The players would use one hand to hold the stick with a leather strap attached through a hole at the top of the stick and around the wrist to prevent the stick being knocked away.  They wore the same skates that recreational skaters used, metal “sandals” with straps and four wooden wheels.  Two five-man teams (two rushers or wingman, a center, a halfback and a goalkeeper) tried to drive the ball with their sticks into the opponents' goal (cage).  Goals scored were referred to as "caged".  The ball was only  put in motion by a stick, not the skate, otherwise a foul would be called.  Roller polo was very popular in Rhode Island in the 1880's through the 1940's at venues: Olympian Club Skating Rink in Newport, Infantry Hall in Providence, Meiklejohn Auditorium in Pawtucket and later Marieville Gardens in North Providence.  The Newports of Newport, Pawtucket Tigers, Providence Grays, Providence Gold Bugs and Providence Bears represented the state in leagues against teams throughout New England.   In the post war era roller polo would continue as Roller Hockey.  

Ice Polo

Ice polo teams were formed 1880's and evolved from roller polo.  Frank Barron, an accomplished ice polo player, formulated the first set of rules.  Six players formed a team with the following positions: goal, coverpoint, cover goal, first rush, second rush, and center.  Later seven players formed a team.   On-side play was not enforced.   The mid 1890s were ice polo’s brief ascendancy in the United States.  Students at Brown, Yale and Harvard universities, M.I.T., Boston College, and Tufts organized teams, as did Greater Boston high schools.  The first Spalding Hockey guide (published in 1897) was actually entitled Official Ice Hockey and Ice Polo Guide.  While mostly on ice hockey, it contained a small section on ice polo.  Ice polo was played from 1899-1902 in the RI Interscholastic League prior to ice hockey on ponds throughout the state.  Hope High School won the first Interscholastic championship in 1899.  Amateur ice polo was as popular as ice hockey from the 1900's through the 1920's in Rhode Island.  The Elmwood Independents were 1921 New England Ice Polo champions.  Many Independents and players from the East Side Ice Polo team would continue as amateur ice hockey stars as the sport became more popular in the late 1920s.