McGill University and the History of Sport Development

McGill University plays an integral part in building and innovating modern football, hockey and basketball.

McGill University is one of the best universities in Canada with nearly two centuries of history. It is called the “Harvard of Canada” due to its great quality of education and contributions to human endeavours. McGill Univerisity’s  team of scientists has successfully found out the long-term solution for HIV/AIDS and set the foundation for genetic study. Besides those inventions, McGill University is where football, hockey and basketball were developed. 


Football is often known as a popular sport coming from the United States. In fact, modern football’s rules started from Canada, and McGill University to be specific. The very first modern football game was the match between McGill University and Harvard University in 1874. The team of Harvard University was really interested in the new rules and innovations from the team of McGill. So, the squad from Harvard decided to recommend it to Yale’s team in the following year. Later on, these new rules were introduced nationwide in the U.S. Therefore, McGill University can be considered as the father of modern football.

The 1st game applying modern rules of football between Harvard and McGill in 1874.


A hockey game on campus in 1884, just seven years after McGill students wrote the then-new game's first rule book, with the Arts Building, Redpath Museum, and Morrice Hall (then the Presbyterian College) visible. Photo by Alexander Henderson.
A hockey game on campus in 1884, just seven years after McGill students wrote the then-new game’s first rule book, with the Arts Building, Redpath Museum, and Morrice Hall (then the Presbyterian College) visible. Photo by Alexander Henderson.

Another sport to which McGill made a significant contribution is hockey. Hockey is known as Canada’s official national winter sport and it has become a part of Canadian culture. The birthplace of ice hockey is still a controversial topic since Kingston, Halifax, Dartmouth, Windsor were all claimed to that title. However, there is no doubt that McGill Hockey Club belonging to McGill University is the world’s first official hockey team and plays an integral part in shaping ice hockey’s rules and development. Two students from McGill University Frank Patrick and his brother Lester Patrick formed Pacific Coast Hockey Association, which created Canada’s first artificial ice hockey rink, penalty shots, assists, the blue lines and other significant innovations. This association was sold to National Hockey League in 1926 and the Patrick brothers were enlisted to the Hockey Hall of Fame.


Father of basketball, James Naismith (1861 – 1939). Photo by Springfield College (Courtesy of Springfield College, Babson Library, Archives and Special Collections)

Last but not least, McGill University is where the father of basketball spent his college life. James Naismith – a McGill grad, invented basketball in 1891. He would never think of how great his invention is. He was assigned to develop a game to play during the harsh winter that was “fair for all players and free of rough play.” It took him around two weeks to build all the rules and introduce this game. Basketball is now an Olympic sport and makes a McGill grad become a legend in the field.

All pictures can be found at McGill University’s official website.

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