Ivy League In The NHL

LORD STANLEY’s CHAMPION DEFENSE CORPS, CIRCA 1929 — the blueliners on the BOSTON BRUINS’ very first Stanley Cup title-winning squad, from left to right, are the reliable veteran LIONEL HITCHMAN, the rookies MYLES LANE (Dartmouth College) and GEORGE OWEN (Harvard University) as well as the irrepressible future Hall of Famer EDDIE SHORE.

Although to this very day the sight of an IVY LEAGUE player performing in the vaunted NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE is still a relatively rare occurrence, the fact of the matter is that Ivy Leaguers have been skating in the storied NHL since the puck was dropped for the very first time back in December of 1917.

Indeed, 21-year-old forward GERRY GERAN had left the picturesque DARTMOUTH COLLEGE campus in New England behind and signed a professional contract with the ill-fated Montreal Wanderers, a club that had already lifted the Stanley Cup four times in the trophy’s then-brief history. The native of Holyoke, Massachusetts, went on to participate in four of the Wanderers’ first six games before a fire completely destroyed the Montreal Arena and led directly to the folding of the team. Nevertheless, it was Geran, then, who became the very first American to ever skate in the fledgling NHL.

Following a seven-year hiatus, Geran returned to contest the 1925/26 campaign with the expansion Boston Bruins club. Late that same season, the second American to ever compete in the crack NHL also appeared when the New York Americans added forward BOB HALL from the New York Athletic Association. Hall, who had skated three varsity seasons at Dartmouth College from 1920 until 1922, had been a teammate of the American pioneer Geran on the Boston Athletic Association Unicorns in the United States Amateur Hockey Association for two seasons before relocating to the Big Apple.


HAT TRICK OF DARTMOUTH HEROES, CIRCA 1928 (left to right) — the remarkable MYLES LANE, the All-America halfback who led the Indians the national collegiate football championship as a sophomore in 1925 and piled up 50 goals in only 17 career games while skating on defense for the varsity ice hockey squad, the versatile EDDIE JEREMIAH, who, after his professional playing career was over, returned to Dartmouth and successfully held the position of varsity ice hockey coach for three decades, along with teammate ED ARMSTRONG.

The Boston Bruins made hockey history a few seasons later and still another pair of Ivy Leaguers were right of the middle of it all, then. Boston defensemen MYLES LANE and GEORGE OWEN had both been star halfbacks on the college football gridiron for Dartmouth College and Harvard University, respectively, before embarking on their travels as professional ice hockey players. It was this unique pair who both became the very first pucksters born in the United States to celebrate a Stanley Cup championship after skating in all five playoff games for the Bruins in the spring of 1929.

Lane had actually made hockey history all by himself earlier that fall. The native of Melrose, Massachusetts, signed a professional contract with the New York Americans one day shy of his 23rd birthday and soon became the very first player to graduate straight from a U.S. college hockey program to a regular place the NHL without skating so much as one game in the minor leagues. After appearing in all but one of New York’s first 25 contests on the 1928/29 schedule, Lane was sold by the Americans to the Boston Bruins for the price of $ 7,500 dollars in early February.

Yet one more Dartmouth College product briefly joined the proud ranks of the NHL professionals during the 1931/32 season when EDDIE JEREMIAH, a versatile sort who could be deployed in the defense or up on the right wing with equal effect, was promoted by the New York Americans from the New Haven Eagles of the old Canadian-American League.


Cornell University goaltender KEN DRYDEN backstopped the Big Red to the coveted NCAA national championship title as a sophomore in 1967 and, two seasons later, appeared in two games for the national team of Canada at the 1969 IIHF World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden.

After the Second World War ended, the National Hockey League entered into a long era during which time the elite, six-team circuit was almost completely devoid of American-born and / or U.S. college-trained players. Things began to change in earnest when the NHL implemented its ambitious expansion program prior to the beginning of the 1967/68 campaign. With the number of NHL teams having been doubled to twelve, more than twice as many job openings for players had instantly been created and the subsequent emergence of the rival World Hockey Association five years later opened still more new opportunities, particularly for those at the top of the American collegiate talent pool.

A wave of would-be All-Star Game participants hailing from a whole new set of Ivy League institutions of higher learning suddenly appeared on the NHL scene at the start of the 1970s. Cornell University’s Canadian legionnaire KEN DRYDEN had been honored as the First Team (East) All-America goaltender three times in as many terms before going on to amass six Stanley Cup titles in only eight seasons guarding the cage for the fabled Montreal Canadiens. CURT BENNETT, who later skated for the United States at the inaugural Canada Cup international ice hockey tournament in 1976, starred for Brown University and was named First Team (East) All-America in 1970 as a defenseman before being shifted to center after turning professional with the St. Louis Blues organization.


DARTMOUTH …… 1917/18 … Gerry GERAN, Montreal Wanderers
HARVARD ……….. 1928/29 … George OWEN, Boston Bruins
PRINCETON …….. 1970/71 … Syl APPS, JR., New York Rangers
CORNELL ……….. 1970/71 … Ken DRYDEN, Montreal Canadiens
BROWN ………….. 1970/71 … Curt BENNETT, St. Louis Blues
PENN * ……………. 1979/80 … Paul STEWART, Quebec Nordiques
YALE ……………… 1983/84 … Bob BROOKE, New York Rangers

Note — the University of Pennsylvania Quakers had a long history of playing ice hockey and also competed in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Association from 1966 until 1978 before scrapping its NCAA varsity program entirely; the one other Ivy League school, Columbia University in New York City, has never had the requisite courage to send a varsity squad out onto NCAA ice.


Brown University defenseman CURT BENNETT, who was born in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan but moved to the United States as a youngster and played high school hockey in Cranston, Rhode Island, before going off to college, twice topped the 30-goal mark and appeared in the annual NHL All-Star Game on two occasions while skating as a center for the Atlanta Flames in the mid-1970s.

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