Whenever you hear the word hockey what do you think of? Winter? Ice? The Cold? Maybe even Canada. All these things play a role in hockey today, but maybe not as much you would think when it was originated.
Most, if not all people think that hockey was originated and developed in Canada. But, a very rough form of the game of hockey has been discovered in Egypt. Around 4,000 years ago. As well as artifacts found in Ethiopia from 1000BC and Iran in 2000 BC. It is believed this ancient form of hockey was played by the Romans, Greeks, and the Aztecs. These games were more comparable to field hockey than ice hockey, but that is because there was no ice in these areas. While this stick and ball game shows very little similarities to modern day hockey, it is just a start. The modern form of hockey that we all know and love today was spread around Canada by British soldiers in the mid-1800s. There is also research that mentions a hockey-like game played in the early 1800s by Mi’kmaq (Mimac) Indians in Nova Scotia. Which was influenced by the Irish game of hurling. Which used a stick called a hurley and a wooden block as opposed to a puck. It is thought that this game was the one that spread around Canada because of Scottish and Irish immigrants, as well as the British army.
Overall, Hockey is a worldwide sport. Being played by about 70 different countries. As well as international competition in the Olympics and other tournaments like the World Cup of Hockey and other International Juniors' tournaments. While the powerhouses of international hockey competitions include the United States, Canada, Russia, and Finland. Hockey had its Olympic debut at the 1920 Summer games in Belgium. Yes, the first-time hockey was played in the Olympics it was played in the summer, the time no one really thinks about playing hockey. The tournament included seven-man teams as opposed to the six we know today. This seventh player played a “rover position”. The game consisted of two 20-minute periods with no substitutions for either team. If a player ended up getting injured during the game, the other team would have to pull one of their players. The European players were amazed by the style of play from the North American teams. Compared to the Europeans, the Canada and the United States teams skated with more grace and seemed almost like acrobats on skates, Swedish player Oscar Soderland explained. Canada ended up earning the gold medal in the tournament over the silver winning United States, and Czechoslovakia earning bronze. The Canadian team consisted of players from the Winnipeg Falcons team, which had beat the University of Toronto for the Canadian Amateur Championship before the tournament. All of the players for Team Canada were of Icelandic descent, except for their goaltender, Wally Byron. Team USA had a team that consisted of four Canadian citizens who played for American hockey clubs. As well as George Geran who played in the NHL. The game with the largest margin in the tournament was a 29-0 win for the United States. The United States scored a goal every minute for the first 13 minutes of the game. The U.S. also managed to score a goal while two men short as well. Tony Conory led the United States with eight goals.
The hockey the most people enjoy around the world today is professional. With professional leagues in many different countries. The most popular being the National Hockey League (NHL). The NHL was not the original North American hockey league. The National Hockey Association (NHA) came to an end in 1917, which was followed by the NHL. For about 25 years the NHL competed as two rival leagues: the Pacific Coast Hockey League and the Western Canada Hockey League. Which competed for the Stanley Cup. The NHL expanded for the first time in 1924 by the addition of the Boston Bruins, the first American hockey team. The second expansion came in 1926 which brought the NHL to ten teams.
The Great Depression and World War II led to the NHL needing to reduce its teams from ten to six. These six teams would later become known as “The Original Six”, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, New York, and Toronto. 25 years later, the NHL expanded once again, this time doubling in size from six teams to 12. The Original Six formed into the East Division, while the six new expansion teams made up the West. The 12 teams competed against each other for seven years until the NHL expanded once again while adding another 6 teams, bringing the total team count to 18. The NHL kept expanding to attempt to compete with the World Hockey Association (WHA). The WHA shut down in 1979, which led the NHL to adopt four new teams. The NHL stood at 21 teams until 1991 with the addition of the San Jose Sharks. Since 1992, the NHL has expanded from 22 to 31 teams, the newest being the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017. With a perspective 32nd team coming to the NHL and Seattle for the start of the 2022 season.
Hockey has evolved in many ways since its original state in Egypt and Ethiopia. From the way the game is played to rules and many more. The way it has spread to over 70 different countries and has created international competition. Even the way we enjoy hockey today is very different from its origination. The NHL has evolved immensely in the past and is planning to keep growing on into the future. But the one thing that cannot be forgotten is hockey’s roots and how it has evolved over the many years.