Duquesne Gardens
Duquesne Gardens was the main sports arena located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA during the first half of the 20th century. It opened 3 years after a fire destroyed the city's prior sports arena, the Schenley Park Casino, in 1896. The arena was the first hockey rink to use glass above the dasher boards. Developed locally by the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company, Herculite glass was first tested in Pittsburgh. Most rinks were using wire mesh before the shatterproof glass was invented. The Gardens was the home arena of the AHL's Pittsburgh Hornets, NHL's Pittsburgh Pirates and the Western Pennsylvania Hockey League.


Situated near the corner of Fifth Avenue and Craig Street in the city's Oakland neighborhood, Duquesne Gardens was constructed in 1890 as a trolley barn. Then in 1895, Christopher Lyman Magee, a Pittsburgh politician, spent nearly $500,000 to purchase and renovate the building. He renamed the structure the Duquesne Gardens in 1896, although it was always called it the "Arena" by the locals. The sports arena was designed to seat 6,500 people. In its early days, the building hosted rodeos and the circus. The Gardens also featured Pittsburgh Golden Gloves boxing and housed a movie theater. However the facility's main attraction was the artificial ice surface. According to Total Hockey, the official encyclopedia of the NHL, Pittsburgh was one of the first cities in North America to lure amateur Canadian players for what was a standard $30 a week stipend and a local job in the early 1900s. The manager of a Canadian team returned from a trip to the Gardens in 1902, according to an account in Total Hockey, and gave the following description to the Toronto Globe: "Pittsburgh is hockey crazy. Over 10,000 turned out for our three games there. The general admission being 35 cents and 75 cents for a box seat . . . the Pittsburgh rink is a dream . . . What a marvellous place it is." It was that ice palace that helped make the city a professional hockey pioneer, much the way it had given birth to the first pro football players in the 1890s. Players in the Western Pennsylvania Hockey League (WPHL) were paid to play hockey before 1904, but that is when the first professional league officially formed. The Pittsburgh HC joined Sault Ste. Marie (Ontario), Sault Ste. Marie (Michigan), Calumet (Michigan) and Houghton (Michigan) to form the International Professional Hockey League (IPHL) in 1904. Other leagues popped up after that and the IPHL disbanded after the 1907 season. On January 24, 1899, the Gardens hosted its first hockey game in a match between the Pittsburgh Athletic Club and Western University of Pennsylvania ( University of Pittsburgh). The Fort Pitt Hornets, Pittsburgh Athletic Club and Pittsburgh Pro HC also played their games at the Gardens. However the Gardens featured many ice hockey games between the years 1910 to 1915. In those days, games were mostly played at the Winter Gardens inside Exhibition Hall located near the city's Point. Therefore the Gardens was used mostly for recreational skating and amateur hockey matches for teams like the Fort Pitt Hornets. Then in 1911, Lester Patrick started the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. To learn how to obtain proper refrigeration in order to generate artificial ice, he came to the Gardens to see how it was done. However in 1915 the Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets of the United States Amateur Hockey Association was founded. The team evolved from being an amateur to a semi-pro franchise and was one the earliest organized sports teams in Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Athletic Associations's Seven, an amateur hockey club, as well as the Carnegie Tech hockey club and the University of Pittsburgh hockey team also played their home games at the Gardens in 1919.

Pittsburgh Pirates
In 1925, the Yellow Jackets were sold to James Callahan and mobster William Dwyer and were renamed the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates then joined the NHL on November 7, 1925. Pittsburgh's first ever NHL game was played on December 2, 1925, with the Pirates taking on the New York Americans in front of 8,200 fans. The Pirates lost the game in overtime, 2-1. The Pirates lasted until 1930 but were facing relocation to Philadelphia due to financial issues associated with the Great Depression. What helped make the city such a hotbed for hockey in the early part of the century, the Duquesne Gardens, ultimately helped doom the Pirates. The Gardens held slightly more than 5,000 fans, which was fine at the turn of the century but small by comparison in the late '20s to other arenas sprouting up, such as 18,000-seat Madison Square Garden. The Pirates did not make very much money playing in the 5,000 seat Gardens. The team was so strapped for money that they traded Conacher to the New York Americans during the 1926-27 season for a journeyman player and $2,000. Conacher had been the highest-paid NHL player at $7,500 a year. The Pirates later moved the team across the state to become the Philadelphia Quakers for the franchise's last season in 1930-31. However the Gardens still witnessed ice hockey even during these dark financial times. In 1930 Roy Schooley re-acquired the rights to the Yellow Jackets. The Jackets played for two years before the team was purchased in 1932 by Pittsburgh theatre chain owner John Harris, the founder of the Ice Capades. Harris then went on to purchase a new $5,000 sanitary soda fountain for the Gardens and renovated a portion of the building to become one of the largest dance halls in America.

Pittsburgh Hornets
On October 4, 1936, Harris purchased the Detroit Olympics of the International-American Hockey League and merged them with players from the Yellow Jackets and the IHL's Pittsburgh Shamrocks. The team was named the Pittsburgh Hornets and became a member of the American Hockey League. The Gardens would be home for the Hornets for the next 20 seasons. The Hornets played their first game at the Gardens on November 8, 1936, a 5-2 win over the Cleveland Barons. The franchise later won Calder Cups in 1951 versus the Providence Reds, and in 1955, versus the Buffalo Bisons.

The arena was the home for Duquesne University Basketball as well as the founding NBA franchise Pittsburgh Ironmen on which Pete Maravich's father and future college coach Press Maravich played. The arena also hosted the first of 16 NBA neutral site regular season games played in Pittsburgh. Played on March 11, 1953 the NBA would not play another regular season contest in the city until the Civic Arena's completion.

The Gardens was demolished in 1956. On June 18, 1998, the intersection where the Gardens once stood was dedicated as " Billy Conn Blvd." The Park Plaza Apartments and Duranti's Restaurant now stand on the site. Two sections of red brick wall from the Gardens form part of the restaurant's wall on Craig Street. The Gardens would be replaced as the home rink of the city's pro hockey teams. Construction of the Civic Arena began in 1958, three miles to the west of the Gardens.

  • The Gardens was the first hockey rink to use glass above the dasher boards.
  • It was also the fourth ice rink in the world to use a Zamboni ice resurfacing machine.
  • The arena's ice surface was nearly 50 feet longer than today's NHL rinks and had state-of-the-art refrigeration and resurfacing technology. However the NHL made the Pirates reduce the ice sheet to conform to NHL standards when that franchise began play in 1925.
  • Program covers called the Gardens: "The Largest and Most Beautiful Skating Palace in the World." The competition and ice surface garnered the attention of hockey players all across Canada. Many top-notch Canadian players came to play in front of capacity crowds of 5,000 in Pittsburgh. Even while the building celebrated its 40th anniversary, the Gardens still had one of the highest-regarded ice surfaces in North America, still drew hockey players from Canada.