The increasingly popular sport of hockey is a game between two teams of six players that is played on an ice rink. The purpose of the game is to get the puck (rubber disc) past the opposition goalkeeper and into the net. Hockey has incredible speed and there is more than its fair share of physical contact. It is now a recognized world international sport, and there are an estimated one million registered players playing in leagues on a regular basis. The sport is also an Olympic sport, first featured in the games in 1920 and has been a regular ever since.
The Origins of Hockey
It is widely thought that hockey originated from the English game of Field Hockey, and indeed the British still refer to hockey as Ice Hockey. The second school of thought is that it became popular in North America as a derivative of the game lacrosse and was spread to Canada by British soldiers in the mid-1800’s. Over the last couple of decades, a new theory has developed, stating that the origins of hockey came from a Native American game who used a sort of Irish Hurling Stick and a wooden block, not a ground ball. Perhaps this game also came from the British troops, but it was the Scottish and Irish soldiers that bought it to Canada.
The term rink, that referred to the area of play, was a term that was used in curling by the Scottish. Reports of the early games of hockey mention a rather chaotic game, with as many as sixty players on the ice at any one time and simple stones acting as a goal. The first recorded use of a puck in a game of hockey was in 1860 in a game in Ontario.
The Early Organization of Hockey
There is evidence on the very first public indoor game of hockey that has been recorded, it was held in the Montreal Victoria Skating Rink in 1875. The game was between two student teams from McGill University, but unfortunately the game was marred by much violence. A local paper who commented on the game stated that, Shins and heads were battered, benches smashed and the lady spectators fled in confusion.
This early display of violence continues to this very day, albeit in a far more controlled environment. The very first team to try to bring in a code of practice and rules governing violence on the rink was the McGill University Hockey Club, which was formed in 1877. They also reduced the number of players allowed in one team to nine. By the turn of the Century, hockey had become as popular as lacrosse in Canada, and the world’s first national hockey organization was the AHA (Amateur Hockey Association) that was formed in Montreal. The first league was formed in 1885, with four teams (seven players in each team).
In part two of the blog on the origins of hockey we look at the 20th Century and the rapid growth of the sport in North America. And how interest grew in Europe, especially in the cooler climate countries, to embrace this fast-moving sport from Canada.