Before Ovechkin: Columbia Heights Roller Hockey

Washington Roller Hockey (1926)

Washington Roller Hockey (1926)

Before Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, we had Barkley, Morrow, Harrison, W. Whiting and H. Whiting

The Whiting brothers, William and Harry, lived with their parents at 55 Adams St. NW — according to the 1930 U.S. Census — and in 1926, Harry was only 15. I’m guessing that he’s the guy standing on the right with the baby face.

The D.C. Hockey team played in Columbia Heights at the Arcade Rink — the current DC USA site — in a multipurpose gymnasium which doubled as a professional basketball venue (I use the term professional loosely).

Columbia Heights roller hockey (1926)

Columbia Heights roller hockey (1926)

On January 17th, 1926 the evening matchup was between Washington and visiting Baltimore.

A new dish was served on Washington’s sports menu last night at the Arcade when teams representing Washington and Baltimore met at roller hockey, the Capital Cityans winning, 3 go 1.

The game is both fast and rough, but seemed to appeal to the gathering on hand, made up mostly of skaters. The visitors scored their lone tally shortly after the opening whistle blew when Freeman, running down the sidelines, scored on a chance shot. Before the first period ended Washington tied the score, and its two other goals came in the second. The third was a scoreless one for both teams.

Houston easily starred for Baltimore, while the Whitings were the locals’ best bets.

Thrilling roller hockey advertisement (1926)

Thrilling roller hockey advertisement (1926)

The Whiting boys were quite the accomplished skaters, competing four years earlier in a 24-hour roller skating race at Central Coliseum (i.e., Cardozo High School).

Washington roller-skate enthusiasts were treated to a thrilling finish in the 24-hour race staged in the Central Coliseum and finishing at 8:05 last night. For 46 laps Harry Whiting and his brother Bill raced neck and neck with one and then the other appearing in front for a short time.

By the end of the race, Harry Whiting had traveled a mind-bogging 301 miles, beating his brother William by a single lap. OMG … this sounds like the most boring spectator sport ever. For all you baseball haters, I’m going to ask you to attend one of these the next time you whine about watching nine innings.

Below is a photo of the old Arcade Market. You probably have seen the DC Cultural Tourism sign on the east side of 14th St., which has this exact photo. The next time you’re rockin’ out on the stairmaster in Washington Sports Club, or standing in a line 30 people deep at Target, think about the roller hockey that took place on that very spot over eighty years ago.

Arcade Market (1913)

Arcade Market on 14th St. in Columbia Heights (1913)

All the incredible photos on this page are from Shorpy.

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  • Sean Walsh

    This may be a bit of an ask, but would you happen to know what colour the ‘W’ jerseys were? Thanks.