Michigan hockey’s heritage

Joseph Barss (center) in military garb, posing with his parents before heading to the front in World War I. (Photo courtesy of the Barss family)

Joseph Barss was born in 1892 in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. Upon hearing of the Halifax explosion in Halifax Harbour — the largest man-made explosion before the atomic bomb — he provided medical support to the city, inspiring his calling to become a doctor. For school, he decided on the University of Michigan. Ice skating at the Coliseum to rehabilitate wounds suffered in World War I, Barss approached U-M’s athletic director, Fielding Yost, and pitched a varsity hockey team. With the caveat that Barss serve as the program’s first coach, Yost agreed. Barss led Michigan to two league titles during his five-year stint as coach and, upon graduating, became the chief of surgery at Hines Veterans Hospital in Chicago. While he pursued his calling in Michigan medicine, his legacy will always be his introduction of Michigan hockey.

— Adapted from “Halifax, heroism, and hockey” by John U. Bacon, Michigan Today 


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