History: Ice, ice baby: Dallas’ first hockey games were played in Oak Cliff

This old newspaper clipping shows the lineup of the 1927 Dallas Ice Kings. Third from right is team captain Jim Riley, who is the only person ever to play in Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League. Image courtesy of The Dallas Morning News HIstorical Archives
This old newspaper clipping shows the lineup of the 1927 Dallas Ice Kings. Third from right is team captain Jim Riley, who is the only person ever to play in Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League. Image courtesy of The Dallas Morning News HIstorical Archives

Dallas entered the big leagues of hockey in 1993 when the Minnesota North Stars relocated and became our Stars.

But Dallas’ first organized ice hockey games were played about 90 years ago in Oak Cliff.

Gardner Ice Palace opened in 1927, adjacent to the Gardner Park baseball stadium, which was also home to minor league baseball for about 50 years.

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There were high school hockey games played at Gardner Park Ice Palace. Sunset and Oak Cliff (now Adamson) high schools both had ice hockey teams in the 1920s, as did North Dallas High School.

On Jan. 12, 1929, the two high schools played “one of the most exciting ice hockey battles ever seen here at Gardner Park Ice Palace,” a newspaper reported at the time. Sunset had been ahead 2-1, but an Oak Cliff player named Mark Anglen scored a point at the last minute. In overtime, Oak Cliff scored the winning goal, shot by Doc Barr. Barr was a tennis standout who remains the only Texas high school singles tennis champion the Dallas school district has ever produced.

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Minor league hockey games also were played at Gardner Ice Palace for several years.

The only athlete ever to play both Major League Baseball and in the National Hockey League, Jim Riley, served as captain of the Dallas Ice Kings hockey team. The Ice Kings played an exhibition game against the Kansas City Blues of the American Hockey League in November 1927, losing 7-3. They also played in the Southwestern Ice Hockey League, which included the Houston Polar Bears as well as teams from Fort Worth and San Antonio.

Riley played for the Dallas Steers baseball team from 1923-24 and ’26-27.

He was born in New Brunswick, Canada to an American father and a Canadian mother. He did a brief stint in Major League Baseball in the early ‘20s, playing first base for the St. Louis Browns and second for the Washington Senators (which moved to Arlington and became the Texas Rangers in 1972).

He then played six full seasons in the Texas League, hitting left, fielding right and batting over .300 in his first four seasons.

Previous to his stint in baseball, Riley had played eight seasons of professional hockey in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. He was a member of the 1917 Stanley Cup Champion Seattle Metropolitans and also played in the 1920 finals with that team, which lost to the Ottawa Senators.

The same year Riley captained the Ice Kings, he made the Chicago Black Hawks roster, playing three games. He then went to the Detroit Cougars of the NHL and played six games in 1927.

The Ice Palace also booked boxing and wrestling matches. It could seat about 3,500 for hockey and 5,000 with no rink.

But the ice palace didn’t last long. The building burned down in 1933.

Hockey left Dallas for a while, but it always returned.

Clarence Linz brought hockey back to Dallas in 1941. A contract with the American Hockey Association allowed for about 30 games to be played that first season in the old ice palace at Fair Park. In its last season, 1945-46, that team became a minor league club for the Montreal Canadians.

Hockey returned again in 1967 as the Dallas Black Hawks, a farm team for Chicago’s NHL team. That team played at Fair Park and folded in 1981.

The Central Hockey League brought the Dallas Freeze from 1992-95.

Since then, this has been pure Stars country.

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