by Chuck Eckels
The one thing all hockey jersey collectors have in common is a passion for the game of hockey. They express that passion by collecting a favorite team, a favorite era, or a favorite player. Others collect hockey books, media guides, sticks, or art. There are so many different ways to enjoy the game even more than simply watching it. So what’s the best way to intensify and express the affinity for the game and it’s players through collecting game worn hockey jerseys?
There is tremendous biological diversity on this planet. That’s a good thing. How boring would it be if we all looked alike? There’s a large expanse of cultural diversity on this planet too. There are so many choices when it comes to customs, food, languages and religion. The points of friction occur when a particular group tries to impose their choice on others. All the religious wars in history are a great example of this. So the best way to show how important the game is to you is to collect what you like. Collect what ever makes you happy. There is no one way. There is no best way. Collectors will sometimes claim their way as “the best way” to collect game worn hockey jerseys. It is for them but maybe not for you or me.
I have changed my collecting focus more times than I have changed my socks. Collecting is like chewing gum. I keep a shirt until all the sugar has been chewed out. The sugar lasts longer in some than others. My current focus is vintage Ivy League. I feel that way because it was the Ivy League schools that brought the game to the United States. Before there were any professional leagues there was college hockey in the US. I consider them the roots of the hockey tree in the US. Most notably are the schools Brown, Columbia, Yale, and Harvard. In 1898 the Skating Club of New York offered a trophy for these four schools in an end of the year tournament. Brown won that first contest. They could lay claim to being the first national champion.
There is not a lot of information about college hockey from the 1950’s back. Both the Hockeydb and SIHR have incomplete info in their data bases. So I went out and bought books, media guides, programs, and photos that would help me ascertain wether or not a sweater was game worn or simply an award sweater. As I pursued this, I found the detective work to be very enjoyable. The respective Ivy League libraries have been very helpful as well. I have always gotten a response from them.
I wrote a similar blog about validating a 1961-62 Dartmouth dureen jersey. A friend of mine told me I should not be telling other collectors how and what I’m doing. He’s a strong believer in one of the uglier parts of the hobby- scarcity. If I let other people know, then they may grab a shirt I want. I have unfortunately seen people do some ugly things because of a highly coveted shirt. I believe on the other hand that there is plenty to go around for all of us. I have no problem sharing and helping other collectors. Any grail that has been tirelessly chased will eventually pop up. One wouldn’t want all the food they will consume in their lifetime to appear all at once and then have to eat it all in one sitting. The same is true for jerseys. All the jerseys will eventually pop up over time. Be patient.
As someone venturing into uncharted territory I could be called a pioneer. As a pioneer, sometimes you take an arrow in the back . I sometimes get over zealous and over anxious when making purchases. I buy too much or I buy a bogus shirt. All of that is on me. I purchased a green Dartmouth sweater with a white D that I thought was a game used hockey sweater. I had not done enough research prior to buying it. I ended up buying at best an award sweater and lost a few bucks in the process. The only thing I got right was the time period but that mistake helped me a ton.
I am currently trying to validate a Harvard sweater that I picked up. A must have for any Harvard collector is ” The H Book of Harvard Athletics”. There are three editions. The first edition covers all Harvard sports from 1852 to 1922. The second edition is from 1923 to 1963. The third edition from 1963 to 2012 has two volumes. The first volume covers the fall and winter sports. The second volume covers the spring sports. Obviously, hockey is in the first volume of the third edition.
One does not need a hockey data base with these books. There are team rosters, stats, photo’s and so much more. In May 1875 Harvard decided it’s color would be Crimson. A student would earn a college letter from Harvard by competing in an event against Yale. The color of the sweaters and the H signifies the sport the student earned their letter. The first sport at Harvard was crew in 1852. These athletes wear white sweaters with a red H. Baseball players wear red sweaters with a black H. Football players wear black sweaters with a red H. Track athletes wear red sweaters with a white H. Tennis players wear a red H outlined in black on a white sweater. The golf H is white bordered with red on a black sweater. Finally, the hockey sweater has a red H bordered in white on a black sweater.
The sweater pictured below is no doubt a hockey sweater. It is a black sweater with a red H trimmed in white. It looks similar to team photos circa 1920. It has a round collar just like in the photos. The older sweaters were either all black or had a small H above the H and a small T below the H for hockey team. ( Defensemen of the time for Harvard wore black sweaters with white stripes so the goalie knew they were on his team. Goalies would often wear all white and white wash their pads so they would be hard to see. Players did not wear numbers. Many players are pictured in team photos wearing black sweaters with white stripes. So I believe players wore their game uniforms in team photos.) The question is, is this a game worn sweater or simply an award sweater? It has the same James Brine tag in the hem as some Dartmouth game worn sweaters that have recently sold at auction. There were no boards so there will not be the same wear wear as exhibited by today’s jerseys. There is tremendous wear as one can see the tag bleed through itself. The sweater is not faded from wash wear so that is not a good sign. I have an e-mail in to the Harvard library asking for game photos. I’d like to see a sweater like this in an action shot. I would like to know if their game sweaters were also the same as their award sweaters? This sweater is over 100 years old so not many people alive from this era. I believe it is a game worn sweater based on the wear in the tag.
I get the most joy out of collecting by finding vintage Ivy League hockey jerseys and preserving hockey history.