Ice Hockey - History

History

There are many examples of games throughout history that incorporated hitting a ball on an ice-covered surface that pre-date modern hockey. IJscolf, a game resembling Colf with the added element of an ice-covered surface, was popular in the Low Countries between the Middle Ages and the Dutch Golden Age. The game was played with a wooden curved bat (called Colf or Kolf) and a ball made of wood or leather between two poles or simply convenient nearby landmarks, with the object hitting the chosen point with the least number of strokes. A similar game called Knattleikr had been played for a thousand years or more by the Vikings as documented in the Icelandic Sagas.

However, most believe that modern hockey is evolved from outdoor stick-and-ball games adapted to the icy conditions of Canada in the 19th century. The games of British soldiers and immigrants to Canada, influenced by stick-and-ball games of First Nations, may have influenced the game to be played on ice skates, often played with a puck, and played with sticks made by the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia. A competing theory is that the game was introduced by the Icelandic immigrants adapting the Icelandic game Knattleikr. These immigrants moved to Canada and USA after the eruption of a volcano in Iceland in 1875. Immigrants from Iceland then played on behalf of Canada and won the first ever Olympic medal in hockey.

Often these games were recreation for British soldiers on postings. In Canada, from oral histories, there is evidence of a tradition of an ancient stick and ball game played among the Mi'kmaq First Nation in Eastern Canada. In Legends of the Micmacs (1894), Silas Rand describes a Mi'kmaq ball game people called tooadijik. Rand also describes a game played (likely after European contact) with hurleys, called wolchamaadijik.

Stick and ball games have a long history dating to pre-Christian times. In Europe, these games included Irish sport of hurling, the closely related Scottish sport of shinty, and versions of field hockey, including "Bandie ball," played in England. European immigrants to Canada brought their games with them and adapted them for icy conditions.

The name of hockey itself has no clear origin, though the first known mention of the word 'hockey' in English dates to 1363.

Early 19th century paintings show "shinney," or "shinny," an early form of hockey with no standard rules, played in Nova Scotia, Canada. Thus, many of these early games had also absorbed the physically aggressive aspects of what the Mi'kmaq in Nova Scotia called dehuntshigwa'es (lacrosse). Games of shinney are also known to have been played on the St. Lawrence River at Montreal and Quebec City and in Kingston and Ottawa in Ontario. The number of players on these games was often large. To this day, shinny (or shinney) (derived from Shinty) is a popular Canadian term for an informal type of hockey, either on ice or as street hockey.

In 1825, Sir John Franklin wrote that "The game of hockey played on the ice was the morning sport" while on Great Bear Lake during one of his Arctic expeditions. A watercolor from the mid-1830s portrays New Brunswick Lieutenant Governor Sir Archibald Campbell and his family in the company of British soldiers on skates engaged in stick-on-ice sport. Capt. R.G.A. Levinge, a British Army officer who had been in New Brunswick during Campbell’s time, provides a written account of "hockey on ice" on Chippewa Creek a tributary of the Niagara River in 1839. In 1843, yet another British Army officer in Kingston, Ontario, in Upper Canada, wrote "Began to skate this year, improved quickly and had great fun at hockey on the ice." An article in the Boston Evening Gazette, in 1859, made reference to an early game of hockey on ice occurring in Halifax in that year.

Thomas Chandler Haliburton, in The Attache: Second Series, published in 1844, reminisced about boys from King's College School in Windsor, Nova Scotia, playing "hurly on the long pond on the ice" when he was a student there, no later than 1810. Based on Haliburton's writings, there have been claims that modern hockey originated in Windsor, Nova Scotia, by King's College students and was named after an individual, as in “Colonel Hockey's game.” Others claim that the origins of hockey come from games played in the area of Dartmouth and Halifax in Nova Scotia.

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