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UNB Hockey - A Tradition of Excellence

1897 - The First Game

There is no exact date marking the appearance of hockey on campus, but we do know that there were inter-class and inter-club games held as early as 1880. The first recorded competative game was on Feburary 5th, 1897 against the local detachment of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Infantry (now the 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment). The RRCI was housed in barracks located beside Officer’s Square, in downtown Fredericton. The game was played at the George Street outdoor rink. UNB lost 3-2, with Norman McLeod scoring UNB’s first goal followed by Ovide Peters with the second. This marked the second every compative game in Fredericton's history - a local Fredeircton team had played the RRCI team two days prior. UNB and the Fredericton team would later played a three game series with all three games ending in ties (0-0, 2-2, and 1-1).

The next documented off-campus matches did not occur until 1902 when UNB entered a team in the Fredericton City League.

1902 - The Beginning

In January 1902, the "Red and Black" defeated a team of local bank employees 2-1. From this date on UNB hockey has altered and expanded as much as the University itself with entry each year in some league or another. From the era when "home ice" was a flooded field borrowed from the local garrison and the players, not a Zamboni, cleared the ice; when the team captain doubled as coach and the 7-man starting line-up ("every man in College capable of putting on a sweater") was the entire team. - UNB hockey has evolved from January/February weekend recreation (weather permitting) into the Varsity Reds' present 30 game regular-season schedule.


1906 - A Collegiate League Begins

UNB was a founding member of the Maritime Intercollegiate Hockey League (MIHL) along with Mt. A, St. FX and Dal on December 28th, 1905. The first varsity league game followed a few weeks later that January with UNB defeat Mount Allison 3-2. In the years to follow - other teams joined (St. Dunstan's/UPEI, Acadia and UdeM) while others left (Mt.A) others joined for ahwile but have since left (Kings College, TUNS, UCCB, MUN twice and STU)

Missed Years

UNB failed to ice a collegiate team on a few occasions; in 1907 due to a clerical error, in 1912 due to the league taking a hiatus as a result of WWI, 1915 due to Mt. Allison pulling out, 1916/1917 & 1918 due to no league and 1919 due to no ice (closure of Fredericton's Arctic Rink). UNB was successful in playing in the city league during these years.

These apart, and despite the effects of the World Wars - enrolment declined, Officer Training claimed many would-be players, and travel was severely curtailed - UNB continued to compete (sometimes in more than one league) every year.

1911 - UNB's first coach

In 1911 the team acquired its first paid coach, Sandy Staples. This development was funded by the Class of '10, thus initiating a solid tradition of Alumni support for UNB's hockey program which has continued to the present. Since Staples guided his 10-man team to the 1911 New Brunswick League Championship, 19 others have succeeded him as coach.

The Five Fathers of UNB Hockey

Five Men in particular marked notable eras in UNB varsity hockey.

Throughout Fred MacLean's tenure (1921-1930 & 1933-37), UNB had no rink of its own, and had to compete with other city teams for ice-time. Nonetheless, despite the lack of facilities, despite enrollments and athletics levies lowered by the Depression, UNB became permanent holder of the Sumner Cup in 1928; won the MIAU title in 1934; and were N.B. Intercollegiate Champions in '36.


Former NHLer Pete Kelly's 20 years behind the UNB bench coincided with major developments in UNB athletics in general and hockey in particular. Kelly was also Director of Athletics - a measure of the increasing importance of hockey on campus despite the relative weakness of the war years. His emphasis on conditioning underlined the inadequacy of existing facilities, more critical than ever now that most of UNB's varsity opponents enjoyed artificial ice. In his first year, 1948, the student body voted overwhelmingly to dedicate funds provided by Lord Beaverbrook to the construction of an indoor arena. In 1955, UNB's varsity team moved into the newly completed Lady Beaverbrook Rink with a new name: the "Red Devils" (accredited to the The Brusnwickan Sports Departemnt - actualy they were called the Red Raiders for one week, but Sports writers flipped these names between the Men's basketball and hockey teams). Peter coached UNB to MIAU titles in '60, '62 and '64, inaugurated the modern era in UNB hockey.

Bill MacGillivary, captain of the MIAU-winning team of '62, succeeded Kelly as coach n 1967. While the next decade saw a number of play-offs but no titles, future prosperity was nonetheless preparing. UNB's "building boom" was in full swing: in 1974, the Red Devils abandoned the Lady Beaverbrook Rink to the Saint Thomas Tommies (rivals relocated from Chatham in 1964) and moved up the hill to the new Aitken University Centre - a change no less momentous than the shift to the L.B.R. from the outdoor College Rink of the 1940's & 50's.

As Kelly was succeeded by a protégé in MacGillivary, Bill in turn coached Don McAdam. Player for three seasons (1970/71-72/73), then coach from 1977-85, McAdam took the 1983/84 Red Devils to an AUAA title, their first in 20 years.

UNB hockey fell on hard times in the late '80's, with a dismal 36-82-3 record (0.298). UNB turned to newly hired head coach Mike Johnson to turn the program around. In 2 years coach Johnson took the team to the MacAdam Division finals (lossing to eventual CIAU Champions Moncton), followed by two straight appearancies in the AUAA finals. UNB failed to advance to the CIAU fianls past powerhouse Acadia in both cases, but coach Johnson had raised the qualify of team and the program to a new level of sustainable success.

The 'Other' League

The first years were trying for the MIHL. After a dispute in 1908, UNB, along with King’s, Acadia and Mt. Allison, created their own collegiate league (the New Brunswick-Nova Scotia League, comprising of the 'football' schools - also refered to as the MIIHL - Maritime Inter-university Inter-scholastic Hockey League) in parallel with the MIHL. UNB would play in both leagues and would be the first team to win the NB-NS league title 5 times and as such retained ownership of the Sumner Trophy (displayed in the Colter Room at the Atiken University Centre).

UNB's First Title

UNB won their first MIHL title in 1925. UNB would win their next tile in 1934 followed by a 26 year drought. They broke St. FX’s nine year hold on the MIAU title in 1960 with UNB taking the title two more times over the next 4 years. 1964 marked UNB’s 3rd title, in five years, and entitled them to attend the 2nd annual CIAU championships in Kingston, Ontario. UNB finished in 3rd having lost their first game to eventual champions, Alberta, and defeating University of Montreal in the bronze medal game.

Introducing the Varsity Reds

In Fall of '92 the UNB Athletics Department adopted a singular sporting title "Varsity Reds". This title was chosen by the students in a campus referendum the previous Winter (November '91 to January '92) and replaced the different nicknames being used by the varsity teams (Red Devils-Hockey, Red Raiders-Mens BB, Red Bloomers-Womens BB, Red Shirts-Mens Soccer, Red Sticks-Womens FH, Reds-Womens VB, Beavers-Swimming & Black Bears-Wrestling). The choices available during the referendum were: Red Lions(8.5%), Falcons(13.4%), Red Mariners(11.6%) and Varsity Reds (66.5%). Maureen Sparks, UNB Athletics Department Secretary, now the Assistant AD of UNB Athletics, is credited with the suggestion.

VReds Logo

The road to a National Title

In the Summer of '96, UNB announce that Mike Kelly would be UNB's new head coach replacing former NHLer Danny Grant who had been performing head coaching duties while Mike Johnson was on leave with Hockey Canada. Kelly, like Bill MacGillivary and Don MacAdam before him, was a former player and was also the Captain of the 83/84 AUAA title team. Kelly's previous coaching experience in the OHL mixed with his high expectaions of team disipline paid off in his first year taking the team to it's third AUAA tile, it's first since 1983/84 and a birth in the CIAU finals. Despite the loss in the finals to Guelph, the team and coach Kelly brought UNB's program into the national spotlight.

The next year the team was determined to return to the CIAU finals and capture the national title. They began the season with a 14-0 record and went on to finish the season 24-3-1 - a new team record (14-0 at home) as well as 17 weeks as CIAU #1. They marched through the playoffs defeating UPEI in the first round, STU in the second and Acadia in the AUAA finals, for the second time in two years. In the new round robin format at the CIAU finals UNB defeated Windsor and Alberta in the preliminary rounds and captured UNB's second CIAU title and the hockey program's first National Title by defeating Acadia in the finals, for the second time that post-season.

AUAA Banner CIAU Banner

Early Success - 3 titles in 5 years

In 1960, 1962, and 1964 the University of New Brunswick's senior varsity hockey teams were Maritime Intercollegiate Champions: the early '60'' remains unsurpassed as an era of hockey predominance in the annals of UNB varsity hockey.

1940s 1950s

The MIAU league was quite different back then. On first examining the events of this half-decade, it might appear that "the only constant is change." The formula for determining the Maritime championship was transformed from 1960's 2-game total goal contest between the Nova Scotia and NB-PEI divisional winners (fore-runners of the present day Kelly and MacAdam divisions), via 1962's best-of-3 series, to the no-playoff formula inaugurated in 1963/64, by which the title was awarded to the team finishing first in the regular season standings.

The regular season schedule, too, became progressively longer and more exclusively focused on intercollegiate play - 1958/59 saw UNB's last entry in a non-varsity league; the 1960/61 season's warm-up was a 6 game tour of Eastern US colleges; and the MIAA's introduction of the inter-locking schedule, which replaced intra-divisional schedule in 1962/63, necessitated an early December season start, the earliest ever.

As for the players themselves, the rosters for '59/60 to '63/64, though listing many names notable (both then and now) in Atlantic provinces hockey, provide no evidence of a 'dynasty," of less-than-normal turnover: 6 players - Barteaux, Bolitho, MacGillivary, Clarke, Clouthier and Hughes - played in both '60 and '62; but the rosters of the '62 and '64 have only Marchant, Ciotti, and Naylor in common.

A closer look, however, reveals consistency in other factors perhaps no less important. By the end of the '50's" UNB varsity hockey had a name ("Red Devils"), a home arena (the Lady Beaverbrook Rink), a "supporting cast" (from 1960/61 onward the Devils had a strong JV team, the "Red Demons", on which to draw) and long-term direction in the person of Coach Pete Kelly - in short, an identity.

The traditional UNB-Mount A. hockey rivalry had come to an end in the mid 40's, and by the end of the decade UNB had ample opportunity to know the new enemy: the powerful 1956/57 Red Devils won every game they played in the NB-PEI league, but lost to St. Francis Xavier University in the Maritimes intercollegiate finals - St. FX's tenth title in eleven years.


In the 1960 final the Red Devils were ready, but only just: St. FX defeated UNB 6-2 in the opening game - which was nullified when the MIAU ruled a St. FX player ineligible and ordered a sudden-death game to determine the Maritime Championship. UNB won 2-0 at the LBR.


The 1960/61 Devils, despite a strong team and a good showing in their pre-season US exhibition tour, did not fulfil expectations in their regular season, relinquishing even the NB-PEI title. They came back with a vengeance, however, in '62, once again depriving St. FX of the Maritime Championship in a best-of-3 series (lost one, won the second 7-6 and the third 3-2).

The rivalry intensified in the 1962/63 season: the new interlocking schedule matched the Maritime title contenders in a regular-season game for the first time, before St. FX took UNB's Maritime title. Also at stake was the right to play in the first-ever Canadian national intercollegiate hockey Championships.


The 1963/64 season - although lacking the dramatic impact of Maritime playoffs (not restored until 1967/68) - represents the crowning achievement of the early '60's" UNB's first appearance at a national hockey championship (2nd CIAU Championships). The Red Devils' trip to Kingston, Ontario netted them the consolation title (by defeating U. of Montreal 8-6) and 3 All-Canadians.

Copyright © 1999/2000 WWW.VREDSHOCKEY.COM
Note: The historic pictures are not of 'real' UNB teams, but are altered from material found on the internet at the Hockey Hall of Fame. We are working with the Hockey Program to archive the historic material in storage at the L.B.Gym.