Pittsburgh Athletic Club
CityPittsburgh, Pennsylvania
LeagueWestern Pennsylvania Hockey League
Operated1895–1904, 1907–1909
Home arenaDuquesne Garden
Schenley Park Casino
ColorsRed (crimson) and white
General managerCharles Miller
CaptainHarry Stoebener (1899–1900)
Regular season titles(3) 1898–99, 1899–1900, 1900–01

The Pittsburgh Athletic Club (PAC) was one of the earliest professional ice hockey teams. It was based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from around 1895 until 1904 and again from 1907 to 1909. The team was a member of the Western Pennsylvania Hockey League, which was formed in 1896.



Pittsburgh Athletic Club, 1899, 1900 and 1901 WPHL Champions
Pittsburgh Athletic Club, 1899, 1900 and 1901 WPHL Champions

In 1895, Pittsburgh officials, constructed the Schenley Park Casino which featured the first artificial ice-making plant in North America. The 1895–96 winter season also saw the first introduction of hockey in the city. On December 30, 1895, the Pittsburgh Press made mention of a “great international hockey and polo tournament” opening game at the Casino. The newspaper reported that a team consisting of ten players from Queen's University played against a group of local players from Western University (today the University of Pittsburgh) and Pittsburgh Catholic College of the Holy Ghost (today Duquesne University) and a half-hour of exhibition of hockey was played before the polo match. The paper noted that 2,500 to 3,000 fans showed up to watch the game, despite claims of bad weather. No score or records were reportedly kept but the paper did note that the team from Queen's University outplayed the Pittsburghers, who had never played the game before.[1]

After seeing the excitement and fan appeal of the hockey game, the Casino's management decided to organize a senior league at the rink. The league was strictly amateur and was named the Western Pennsylvania League.[2] The league played its first season in 1896–97 at the Casino, with four teams, the Pittsburgh Athletic Club, the Duquesne Country & Athletic Club, Western University of Pennsylvania (the University of Pittsburgh today) and a team known as (All-)Pittsburgh, or the "Casino" team. The Pittsburgh Athletic Club team was managed by Charles S. Miller, who became the league's president.[3]

Championship era: 1899-1901

Duquesne Garden on January 19, 1901 The Pittsburgh Athletic Club vs. Queen's University. Queen's won, 1-0, in front of 5,523 at the Garden.  This postcard of the event was published in 1909
Duquesne Garden on January 19, 1901 The Pittsburgh Athletic Club vs. Queen's University. Queen's won, 1-0, in front of 5,523 at the Garden.
This postcard of the event was published in 1909

The league played at the Casino twice a week, on Tuesday and Friday nights.[4] The first "big league" championship (season) game was November 17, 1896 between Duquesne Country & Athletic Club and All-Pittsburgh, won by Duquesne 2–1.[5] However the league's season was cut short on December 16, when the Casino rink was destroyed by fire. The "Casino" team, Pittsburgh Athletic Club and Western University teams all lost their hockey equipment in the fire.[6] A fire at the Casino in December 1896[7] destroyed the only ice hockey rink in Pittsburgh and the league dissolved without a championship.[8]

The team and the league were revived by the construction of an artificial ice rink at the Duquesne Garden. The league's second season began on January 24, 1899, when the Garden hosted its first hockey game in a match between the Pittsburgh Athletic Club and Western University of Pittsburgh.[9] The Pittsburgh Athletic Club would then go on to claim the league’s first championship.[10] The team then won the next two titles, which resulted in being awarded the $500 Trophy, in 1900 and again in 1901[11]

The 1901–02 season is considered the first season whereby the league and its teams were recognized as professional. The first professional ice hockey league. To fill their team the Pittsburgh Athletic Club lured players from Canada with promises of high-paid employment and small cash incentives, which was around $30 a week.[12] Two of the players signed by the Pittsburgh Athletic Club were George Lamb and Bill Hamilton.[11] In 1904, the Pittsburgh Athletic Club was captained by Alf Smith, a future Hall of Famer, who won four straight Stanley Cup titles as a player and coach with the Ottawa Silver Seven from 1903 to 1906.[13]

The WPHL and its teams lasted until the end of the 1903–04 season, when the league pulled their best players to field one Pittsburgh team, the Pittsburgh Professionals, to play in the International Professional Hockey League.

Revival and quick demise

The WPHL, along with the Pittsburgh Athletic Club team was revived for the 1907–08 season. The team now featured several of Canada's top talent such as Albert Kerr, Ken Mallen, Garnet Sixsmith and Cyclone Taylor. However, the WPHL could no longer rely on salaries as novelty to attract Canadian talent, since professionalism had spread into Canada. Many players signed up, particularly since the WPHL played on Duquesne Garden's artificial ice and was not dependent on cold weather to provide a naturally frozen surface, however as winter began and Canadian rinks became available, the players would just flock north to teams closer to home. This jumping effected all of the league's teams. The Pittsburgh Athletic Club itself saw the mid-season defections of stars like Cyclone Taylor and Con Corbeau to Canada. Finally, after the 1908–09 season the WPHL and the Pittsburgh Athletic Club team disbanded.[10]

Hall of Famers


  1. ^ "1895-1896 Pittsburgh's Schenley Park Casino". PittsburghHockey.net. Retrieved March 20, 2012.
  2. ^ Amateur Sport". Pittsburg Press: p. 8. December 20, 1896.
  3. ^ Miller, Charles S. (November 24, 1901). "Speed is Hockey's Chief Charm". Pittsburgh Press. p. 35 – via Google News Archive.
  4. ^ "First Hockey Game". Pittsburg Press. November 8, 1896. p. 6.
  5. ^ "An Exciting Opening". Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette. November 18, 1896. p. 6 – via Newspapers.com.
  6. ^ Amateur Sport". Pittsburg Press: p. 6. December 17, 1896.
  7. ^ "Pittsburg's Casino Burned" (PDF). New York Times. December 18, 1896.
  8. ^ Trietley, Greg (November 1, 2011). "Oakland Once the Hockey Center of Pittsburgh". Pitt News.
  9. ^ "1896-1956 Duquesne Gardens". Pittsburgh Hockey.net. Retrieved April 19, 2012.
  10. ^ a b "Before the NHL: Western Pennsylvania Hockey League, International Professional Hockey League". Crashing the Net. Retrieved April 19, 2012.
  11. ^ a b "Is Pittsburgh the Birthplace of Professional Hockey?". Pittsburgh Hockey.net. Retrieved April 19, 2012.
  12. ^ Bouchette, Ed (May 2, 1999). "Ice Age". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. C1.
  13. ^ Grove, Bob. "Pittsburgh hockey thriving for more than a century". Pittsburgh Hockey.net. Retrieved April 19, 2012.
Preceded byFirst Championship Awarded WPHL Champions 1898-99, 1899–1900, 1900-01 Succeeded byPittsburgh Keystones1901-02