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.