On the coldest day in the history of Dallas, Texas, the Trinity River froze solid, enticing dozens of citizens to play shinny on the river using “skates of the vintage of every year from the landing of the Mayflower to the Battle of Manila.” The year was 1899, a full century before the Dallas Stars would bring the Stanley Cup to Texas. The roots of the sport in Texas began with the roller-skating boom of the 1870s and transitioned to the first “ice palaces” in the mid-1920s. At those pioneering rinks, thousands of spectators would flock to watch the likes of “Big Jim” Riley of the Dallas Ice Kings, also the star first baseman of the Dallas Steers, compete against the Houston Polar Bears or the San Antonio Broadway Hawks—and even defeat the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers in a 1930 exhibition game. Also in this era, Rice University iced strong teams, Terrill Prep School won the first high school hockey state championship, ice shows were popular, and the society pages of the newspaper regularly reported on which of Texas’s finest participated in recreational skating outings.
Later, on the eve of the Second World War, pioneers like Clarence Linz and Sam Buron would lead the way in bringing professional hockey to Texas with the construction of the Fair Park Coliseum and the addition of ice to the Will Rogers Coliseum. It was in these state-of-the-art arenas that the American Hockey Association expanded to Texas for the 1941–42 season, bringing with it professional hockey in the form of the Dallas Texans and the Fort Worth Rangers. Just a month into the season, America was at war, and while the league would ultimately suspend play in 1942, fans in Texas could not get enough of their new on-ice heroes like Manny Cotlow, Samuel “Porky” Levine, Leroy Goldsworthy, and Gene Carrigan. Early Strides to Pro Hockey is a unique visual scrapbook that glides you through all the wonderful early history of ice sports south of the Red River, leading up to that historic first season of professional hockey in the Lone Star State and the many glories since achieved by Texas on Ice.
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