Many of the Brethren know full good and well that the NHL semi-finals are now in full swing. The First Mate and I are both cheering our teams on - I the Blackhawks and he the Flyers. He was born in Philadelphia, as was his mother, so he he has a long history with the Broad Street Bullies. I just picked the Blackhawks for giggles because I liked Eddie Belfour and Jeremy Roenick back in the day. And red is pretty! Let's face it, I'm a football fan.
What all this has to do with seafaring in general and U.S. Navy hero Stephen Decatur in particular is made clear by this article from The Calgary Herald.
Canada, of course, considers herself the birthplace of hockey but, as Swedish researches Patrick Houda and Carl Giden seem to have proven, it was more like the kindergarten. Apparently, a ball-and-stick game played in Scotland and known as shinty was adapted to ice as early as 300 years ago and played in the British Isles long before the supposed natal date of Canadian hockey. A similar game, known as hurley, was also played in Ireland and was the form that came to North America with British colonist.
Hurley as a game is found in written descriptions from Canada as early as 1811. There is documentation by British explorer Sir John Franklin of his men playing hurley on Great Bear Lake in October of 1825. But all of this is decades after documentation of the cold-weather game being played in the U.S.
The researches identified entries in New Yorker William Alexander Duer's diary telling of hurley matches in the city in the 1780s. They also found written references to hurley on a frozen river in Philadelphia some time in the latter part of the same decade. From the article:
During the winter, when the glassy surface of the Schuylkill invited the boys to skim over it on skates, no one excelled him in hurly, prisoner's base, and the other games of the season.
The "him" in this contemporary account is none other than Stephen Decatur. The future hero of both the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812 would have been somewhere around eight or nine years old at the time. This is a guy who, in his early twenties, chased down and supposedly nearly caught the Jersey Devil in it's native Pine Barrens as well. Evidently he was athletic from the get go and a good skater to boot.
It surely is not rocket science but it is history. And history with a seafaring twist no less. That's what we love here at Triple P. Thanks must go once again to the First Mate for pointing this out to me. Good luck out there on the ice.