Ice Hockey: History
There are many forms of stick and ball games that have been played for millenniums and have traversed the world from the Middles Ages and older from areas of Ireland, Scotland, and more that closely resemble each other and even the ice hockey we know today in some respects. England has some of the closest that date back to the 1700s where the game is played on ice with a bung, a piece of rubber or cork that was used to stopper barrels. As Britain began to colonize the world especially areas within Canada and the United States, their popular pastimes came with them, including those of the stick and ball variety.
Despite these early depictions of ice hockey or sports on ice, they aren’t nearly as significant in their contributions to the game seen today as Montreal is its main center for development. The Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal hosted the first indoor game of hockey in 1875 that pitted two teams of nine players. With this game, a piece of circular wood was substituted for the traditional bung and the goal posts were situated so they stood 8 feet apart.
From 1876 to 1880, there were some major developments within the game of hockey, including such changes to the size of the teams to the publication of the rules set forth by both the Hockey Association from England. Some minor differences did occur between the rules set forth by those in England from those set forth by those in Montreal. In 1883, the Winter Carnival hosted the first championship tournament between the growing number of teams within the area with the winner receiving the Carnival Cup.
Rivalries have formed between hockey teams like those between Oxford and Cambridge as well as Queen’s University and Royal Military College, both of them located in Kingston, Ontario. As these rivalries have laid claim to the title of oldest rivalry in hockey’s history, the teams in Ontario have formed a championship game to determine the victor on an annual basis since 1986, upon its 100th anniversary of said rivalry.
The governor of Canada, a Lord Stanley of Preston, helped aid the cause for hockey as he and his children grew to be great hockey enthusiasts. Lord Stanley himself purchased the silver cup that would be awarded to the best team during the Winter Carnival tournament, which he’d named the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup (later renamed the Stanley Cup) with its presence still known today with its awarding to the triumphant team of the National Hockey League. Lord Stanley also offers advances through his children like his son, Arthur, who helped create the Ontario Hockey Association, and his daughter, Isobel, who became one of the first female player in the game of hockey.
As the birthplace for hockey, Montreal is soon overwhelmed with over 100 teams for the sport by the year 1893. Meanwhile, other areas within Canada soon sprouted their own teams as they developed the sport with additional aspects from other sports like cricket. Some teams found cricket pads were better suited to protecting the goaltender’s shins from harm perpetrated by players’ sticks.
The United States had their own version of hockey, which resembled polo in that a ball was used rather than a puck. In 1892, the father of ice hockey for the United States, Malcolm Greene Chace, a tennis player, had come to Niagara Falls to play in a tennis match when he met some Canadian hockey players, who taught him the sport. He took those teachings and formed his own team with players from Yale, Brown, and Harvard, taking them across Canada so they could play against other teams. Yale and Johns Hopkins Universities are credited with the first hockey match within the United States, taking place in Baltimore.
Europe got a taste of modern hockey when some of Lord Stanley’s children visited England and trounced the team comprised of court members at Buckingham Palace in 1895. As the league became a reality in Europe in 1903, the first championship win would go to Britain in 1910. The sport of bandy had been a popular one until hockey came upon the scene and knocked bandy from its perch as the Olympics would soon encompass hockey as one of its sports while it ignored bandy.
With more spectators than the original rinks could handle, newer rinks were being built to encompass the larger group of spectators for this growing sport. While many of the older indoor and outdoor rinks are either no longer in existence or they are used for other purposes, there are some that still survive today as hosts for hockey games, such as Matthews Arena in Boston and Madison Square Garden.
1910 saw the formation of the National Hockey Association in Montreal as the beginning to the rules and regulations seen in the sport today, such as period length divisions and penalties on a major and minor scale. As it soon restructured itself into the National Hockey League in 1917, it soon saw its expansion past the Canadian border into the United States with its incorporation of the Boston Bruins as its first U.S. team.
With its history starting from its earlier renditions to its modern makings within Canada, ice hockey has an intriguing gameplay that makes it a game worth playing as well as a game worth watching.