About Varsity

The origins of a men’s ice hockey Varsity Match date back to the first officially recorded fixture in 1900. In modern times, the OUIHC Men’s Blues are the only men’s hockey team to play the university recognised Varsity Match for which players can be commended for their performances with the Oxford Blue. Blues have been earned in ice hockey since 1933 and it is considered an esteemed honour to play the Varsity Match and to be rewarded with a Blue. Once earned, a student may be referred to as a Blue or a Blues athlete.
After the formation of the Women’s Blues in 1981, the Oxford women have been participating in the Varsity Match with the 33rd match scheduled for 2016. The most recent result saw a 25-0 victory for Oxford in 2015, testament to the quality and commitment of the team. The women pride themselves in developing women’s ice hockey players from rookie status to Varsity Match Blue – a path many of the women’s alumni have taken. Outstanding ice hockey players have come from NCAA programmes, Canadian leagues and European leagues to Oxford and have earned their Blues by participating in this historic annual match.
In order to play the Varsity Match, the player must be a matriculated student of the University of Oxford and be resident in Oxford during the term in which the fixture takes place. Additionally, the player must be a registered member of the OUIHC.

Upcoming VM Fixtures

Awarding of Oxford Blues

The highest sporting accolade a student of Oxford University can attain is the Oxford Blue, awarded for outstanding performance during the Varsity Match – the athletic competition between the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. Made famous by the (Rugby) Varsity Match, the Boat Race, and a number of novels and films, Blues are a prestigious award recognising the prowess of the top student-athletes at the University and among past recipients are a number of Olympians and noted British and international athletes.

Ice hockey Blues have been awarded since the 1933 Varsity Match to a distinguished list of OUIHC players with only those of the highest ability and commitment earning a Full Blue. The first ice hockey Full Blue was awarded in 1982; the most recent in 2017.

Recipients of the Blue include Peter Dawkins ’61 (Heisman Trophy winner ’58), Michael Spence ’68 (Nobel Prize Winner in economics, 2001), Shona Brown ’87 (former Senior Vice President of Google), Mark Carney ’91 (former Governor of the Bank of Canada and current Governor of the Bank of England) and Diana Fox ’91 (the director of Strategy and Engagement at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)).

Over the past decades, both the men’s and women’s first teams have earned Blues with over 50 Half-Blues, 20 Discretionary Full Blues, and two Extraordinary Full Blues awarded since 2011 alone.

The men’s team lost their Blues Status in 2013, but this was restored by the University Blues Committee on 3 November 2014 by an overwhelming majority. This was pivotal in the re-establishment of a recognised men’s Varsity Match in 2015 in which men from both universities earned Blues for their performances in the match.

History of the Match

Recognised by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), the 1885 ice hockey match played between Oxford and Cambridge students makes the Oxford-Cambridge ice hockey rivalry the oldest in the sport. Whilst little contemporary evidence is known for the 1885 match,  a Varsity bandy match was held in 1895 and the first recorded Inter-Varsity Ice Hockey Match was held at the Prince’s Skating Club of London on 16 March 1900. This match was initiated by Cambridge’s J. J. Cawthra – a Canadian student – who is considered to be the (re)founder of the ice hockey Varsity Match. The match was played with bandy sticks and a lacrosse ball, and although the game ended in a 7-6 victory for Oxford, Cawthra was the standout player on the ice.

After a repeat fixture in 1901 (6-5 to Cambridge), the Inter-Varsity Match and ice hockey began to fizzle out, and the 1902 match was played according to the rules of bandy which ended in an indecisive 2-2 tie. The Ice Hockey Varsity Match returned in 1909, this time, played in Wengen, Switzerland. The following year the Varsity Match moved to Mürren where the fixture would continue to be played until interrupted by World War I. The 1913 Varsity Match saw Cambridge annihilate Oxford (10-0). Due to the outbreak of war ice hockey did not resume at the University until 1920 with the formation of a new University team by Kenneth Taylor.

The 1920 revival led to the formation of the Oxford University Ice Hockey Club (OUIHC) the following year. Under the OUIHC banner, the renewed team won an outstanding 1921 Varsity result which still stands as one of the largest Oxford victories – 27-nil. Players included star goaltender Kenneth Taylor and skaters Lester B. Pearson and Roland Michener.

Throughout the 1920s the OUIHC remained a powerhouse, winning 4 of the next six Varsity Matches. In the 1920s the team produced Olympic medallists, and in the 1928-1929 season the team was captained by Clarence S. Campbell who would later serve as the third president of the NHL. Under Campbell’s leadership, the OUIHC went on to win the 1929 Varsity Match.

In 1933, after the petitions of captain Charles Little, the OUIHC received Blues Status and nine Oxford players received the first Blues for ice hockey after defeating Cambridge 1-0. Since this date, with the exception of the brief loss of Blues Status from 2013-2014, OUIHC players who have competed in the University-recognised Varsity Match have received Blues.

With the growth of Oxford University sport alongside the Varsity Match, the rules of the Varsity Match have been officially implemented by the Blues Committees and standardised to ensure the quality of the match is retained with only matriculated Oxford students participating.

For a detailed account of the OUIHC history, please see the History section of our website.

Match footage below features the 1960 Varsity Match. Blues alumnus Peter Dawkins is number 5.

J.J.Cawthra (Cambridge), has a claim to be the (re)founder of the Inter-Varsity Match. Here he is representing England in 1913 (left) | Ice Hockey (1936) – B.M. Patton













The Oxbridge Rivalry

The rivalry between Oxford and Cambridge is the oldest in the English-speaking world and traces back to 1209 when scholars fleeing Oxford founded the University of Cambridge. This rivalry was subsequently translated onto the pitch, the water, and the rink. The historic Oxbridge sporting rivalry dates to the early nineteenth century with the advent of the Boat Race. The Varsity Matches are the pinnacle of this rivalry and are the highlight of the University sporting calendar.

Within the Varsity Match fixture Oxford is referred to as the Dark Blues and Cambridge as the Light Blues. History tells us that this originated with the first Boat Race in 1829 in which the majority of the Oxford crew wore the dark blue stripes of their college – Christ Church. The second Boat Race, held in 1836, saw the Cambridge boat sporting the light blue of Eton College (school colour since 1625). The respective colour is used in the coveted Blues Blazer for both universities, embodying the rivalry of the Oxbridge Varsity Matches.

The rivalry between Oxford and Cambridge in ice hockey has roots in an unconfirmed 1885 fixture which was most likely a bandy match. The first recorded match was in 1900 at the newly formed Prince’s Skating Club in London, with a 7-6 win for Oxford. Since then, the rivalry has continued through the 20th and 21st centuries largely uninterrupted with the exception of the World Wars.