Ice hockey’s reputation for belligerence extends to long-standing controversy surrounding its invention. A vociferous debate has raged for decades about how the game we now call ice hockey evolved. Credit for inspiring the modern version of Ice Hockey has been attributed to a number of similar sports. Claims have been made that Ice Hockey is a direct descendant of the following:
- Field Hockey – A sport of European origin also played with sticks, which shares a number of features with modern ice hockey.
- Hurling – A fast and furious sport of Irish origin, played with a ball and sticks. Goals are scored by successfully hitting the ball over or under the opposing team’s crossbar. Legal manoeuvres include hitting the ball with one’s stick while it is in the air, or on the ground, or even slapping it with an open hand.
- Lacrosse – A sport played with netted sticks and a hard rubber ball, which often becomes as violent as ice hockey. Like ice hockey, Lacrosse is very popular in Canada and the United States.
- Bandy – A sport originally played on frozen ground with a ball and sticks on English marshes in the early 19th century.
- Kolven – A Dutch game played on ice involving sticks, which became popular in the 17th Century.
Some claims derive from particularly vague sources, such as a game involving a puck which was played by Canadian Crimean War veterans on the frozen waters of Kingston Bay, Ontario in the 1860s. Indeed, it has even been argued that Ice Hockey owes something to ancient Greek and Egyptian sports!
It is impossible to know who is right. All we can say for certain is that ice hockey was not the first sport to utilise the basic concepts; using sticks to compete for possession of a small object, with the objective of propelling it into an opponent’s goal.
Regardless of how the sport evolved, it is generally accepted that modern ice hockey was born in Montreal on March 3rd 1875, when a group of McGill University students, including James Creighton, played the first game of what has become known as Ice Hockey. Creighton and his friends are credited with devising the rules of the game and, in 1877, they were published in the Montreal Gazette.
After the publication of Creighton’s rules, the popularity of the game soared. Fascination with this ‘new’ sport was such that it was even included in Montreal’s famous Winter Carnival in 1883. By the 1890s, a number of leagues and teams had been established throughout Canada.