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Two games of primitive hockey, played at the same time and on the same frozen surface, spell trouble at Oathill Lake in 1867.
The North West Arm being rough, Maynard's Lake bleak and partly open, the 1st and 2nd Dartmouth decidedly sheely, skaters cast about for good ice, and by some unknown means the initiated were informed of there being a good surface on the almost unknown "Oathill Lake," where out grandfathers fished fifty years ago. There are several ways of getting to this pretty little "sheet," but the most direct route is to cross Maynard's lake diagonally from the pipe-house, in a northerly direction, this brings us to a rugged pathway up a steep hill, and after a long descent "Oathill" bursts upon the view. On Saturday the lake was covered with skaters of both sexes, there being about 1000 there during the afternoon. In every direction pretty sylphlike forms were to be seen either cutting the "outside edge" independently, or timidly learning to "stroke out," aided by the strong arms of the sterner sex. Some of the ladies' costumes were charming; jaunty fur caps, tight-fitting jackets and looped upskirts, showing the bright-coloured petticoats and hose; neat boots, and in most cases the same skate. Rosy cheeks predominated, and many pale ones were flushed with a returning tinge of health, brought by the fresh air and pleasant excitement of the scene. The deep green forest shuts in the lake and makes a deep green fringe to a very pretty scene.
Two well contested games of "ricket" were being played. At the upper end were a number of young men from Dartmouth and the City, playing their "hurleys" and "following up" the ball while the centre was occupied by a number of officers of the Garrison and Fleet, in a match game called hockey i.e. ricket. The boundary lines of each game were not well defined, and occasionally the "aristocratic hockey ball" would encroach on the upper game when the "plebian hurleys" would pass it around for a time and send it back again to its select circle. Very little science was displayed in either game, the old class of players seem to have died out, and their successors are not up in the science of leading off the ball, doubling and carrying it through. Instead of the old styles, the game as now played is dangerous to outsiders, especially to ladies, some of whom were rather roughly treated in the scrimmage after the ball. There was no tenderness displayed in the "United Service Game," as many sore shins can testify, and more than one poor little middy got a stretcher from their heavier antagonists of the land service. Some small boys had the hardihood and impudence to raise their hurleys to strike the "swell ball" as it passed them, for which the flagrant crime they were visited with condign punishment. This was not relished by the friends of the juveniles, who after their own fashion encroached upon and took partial possession of the select territory which, during infringement resulted in terrible forebodings of a conflict between both sides, but although a forest of sticks and hurleys were raised in the air, not a head was broke, or, as Pat said at Donnybrook, "six o'clock came and no blow struck." However, the "exclusives" had to abandon their game and retire from the field with their "hot porter" apparatus, which had been well patronised during the day. To the bystanders it was great fun, and it would be hard to say which side behaved the best or the worst. This much must be said, that if exclusive games of hockey are to be played, a crowded lake is no place for it, moreover as one said, a ricket ball on the ice is like an old hat on the road, to be hit by everybody, and as it is the established custom for everyone who chooses to take a hand in, it is next to impossible to play match games except on unfrequented ice. Some fishermen cut fishing holes through the ice in eager search for the little trout that are said to be in abundance, thus making ugly holes in which to get a cold bath. The evenings now are very beautiful, and six o'clock comes too early, but a knowledge of a not too well defined path through the woods being between us and the road hurries one off before the shades of evening close, so reluctantly we quit the really beautiful lake for the smoky atmosphere of the city.
Yesterday Oathill was enlivened by the strains of music, the 4th band being posted in the woods near the north end of the lake, adding materially to the enjoyment of the large number present. The ice is not so good as it was on Saturday, but is daily improving.