• Image of Pittsburgh Athletic Club custom 1901 hockey tee by Backpage Press
  • Image of Pittsburgh Athletic Club custom 1901 hockey tee by Backpage Press
  • Image of Pittsburgh Athletic Club custom 1901 hockey tee by Backpage Press

Pittsburgh has been in the American hockey forefront way before the Penguins moved into the Civic Arena in 1967. We had the Pittsburgh Athletic Club, the Yellow Jackets, the Pirates, the Shamrocks, the Hornets, and then the Penguins. Pittsburgh hockey can be dated as far back as 1895. Take that Canada.

These shirts were made in celebration of Pittsburgh hockey and it’s illustrious, and often overlooked, history. An incredible amount of effort was put into recreating each design from hand, using vintage team photos as references. The prints are done meticulously; as to not disappoint passionate, detail obsessed fans, nor myself, often the worst critic.

The Pittsburgh Athletic Club logo was recreated by hand and eye, by referencing two original team photos. The ink color was specifically mixed to match the original team colors as close as possible, and the premium tee used was also chosen to best represent the original jersey color.

A brief history of the Pittsburgh Athletic Club:

The Pittsburgh Athletic Club (PAC) existed as a member of the Pittsburgh Hockey League (or the Western Pennsylvania Hockey League, as it was later known) from 1895-1904, and then again from 1907-1909. It holds a place as one of the earliest professional ice hockey teams in history.

In the winter of 1895, hockey was introduced to the city of Pittsburgh, and the city introduced artificial ice making to the North America. The Schenley Park Casino fashioned the first artificial ice making plant, and hosted the opening game of the “Great International Hockey and Polo Tournament”, which featured a group of local players from Western University & Pittsburgh Catholic College of the Holy Ghost (now known as the University of Pittsburgh & Duquesne University) against Queens University. Records indicate no account of the final score, but do note more than 2,500 fans attended the game at Schenley Park, and Queens U outplaying the virgin Pittsburghers, who had never played an official hockey contest.
After witnessing the energetic fan fare of this contest, the Casino’s management decided to organize a league at the rink, built specifically for amateurs. Organizers named the league the “Pittsburgh Hockey League”, but soon changed to the “Western Pennsylvania Hockey League” (WPHL). They constructed 4 teams, and set the first season for 1896 through 1897.

1896-1897 Western Pennsylvania Hockey League teams:

• Pittsburgh Athletic Club
• Duquesne Country & Athletic Club
• Western University of Pennsylvania
• Pittsburgh (the ‘Casino’ team)

The league would play their games in the Schenley Park Casino Tuesday and Friday nights, and threw its first “big league” championship game on November 17, 1896. Played between Duquesne County & Athletic Club and the Pittsburgh Athletic Club, Duquesne coming away with a 2-1 victory and the championship. The success of the league was short lived, since the Casino would catch fire on December 1896, destroying not only the only ice hockey rink in Pittsburgh, but also the equipment of all 4 teams, and the league along with it.

Fortunately, the WPHL and the Pittsburgh Athletic Club would soon experience a revival due the construction of an artificial ice rink at Duquesne Gardens, and the PAC were able to enter a second official season January 24, 1899. The Pittsburgh Athletic Club proved to be the superior team in not only this season, by also the following, capturing the “$500 Trophy” in 1900 and 1901.

The 1901-02 season was an important time for WPHL, and Pittsburgh hockey as a whole. This is the first time in history that Pittsburgh was recognized as having professional hockey teams. To meet the expectations of a pro hockey franchise, the PAC filled their team with players from Canada, luring them with the promises of high-paid entertainment and $30 a week cash incentives. The WPHL and its teams lasted until the end of the 1903-04 season. In the end, the league scavenged its best players to field one team named the “Pittsburgh Professionals”. This team of Pittsburgh all-starts would play in the International Professional Hockey League.

For the third and final time, the WPHL, as well as the Pittsburgh Athletic Club would be revived for the 1907-08 season. The PAC were able to attract top Canadian talent, while the other teams in the league found it difficult to attract these Canadian stars with the novelty salaries of the past, since professional hockey had spread into Canada. What mainly attracted players to sign were the games played on Duquesne Gardens’ artificial ice, which was not dependant on cold weather to provide a naturally frozen surface. However, as winter began and Canadian rinks became available, the players would flock north to teams closer to their homes. Due to this and other growing pains of an emerging sport, the WPHL and Pittsburgh Athletic Club disbanded after the 1908-09 season.

As we know, this would not be the end of pro Pittsburgh hockey, merely the historic beginning…

* This design is printed on American Apparel’s top rated Tri-blend track shirt, in heather maroon color. This tee incorporates everything you love about the fit, feel and durability of a vintage T-shirt, in a brand new version. Constructed of Tri-Blend (50% Polyester / 25% Cotton / 25% Rayon), this will soon be your favorite tee due to its softness and flexibility. Per American Apparel: Polyester retains shape and elasticity; Cotton lends both comfort and durability; addition of Rayon makes for a unique texture and drapes against the body for a slimming look.

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