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The Origins of Hockey

(1800-1916)

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Its amazing to think there was a time before hockey became an international phenomenon - with globally televised games, played by elite athletes who earn massive salaries.. that it was once just a pond hockey game, played in isolated communities by probably somewhat competitive, sports-minded guys just for the enjoyment of it..

Though In those early years, it may have resembled the "Wild West" at times..the more the game was played, and the love for it grew, the more it evolved..and as the lsolated communities became connected, standardization of the rules occured, the game evolved even more. Here are a few interesting pieces of history that took place during those early developmental years of hockey!

  • Though there were many earlier games from around the world that had elements similar to hockey, its believed that the game we know as hockey is an evolution of a popular land sport from Ireland called Hurley. When it was adapted in Canada to be played on ice, it became known as "Ice Hurley" then eventually "Ice Hockey".
  • Although nobody knows for sure where or when the first game of hockey was played in North America, we do know that teams consisted of nine men per side. By the 1880s it had became a 7 man squad consisting of 3 forwards, 2 defense, a goalie and rover played offensively or defensively as the situation required. Teams had switched to a 6 player system before the NHLs first season in 1917.
  • In the early years of the game goalies werent allowed to leave their feet to make a save, as a matter of fact they were actually fined $2 if they did so.It wasnt until league president Frank Calder proclaimed - As far as Im concerned they can stand on their head if they choose to. Those words became a catch-phrase for commentators everywhere and when goalies play exceptionally well its often said that they are standing on their heads in net.
  • Many believe that the first written evidence of "ice hockey" rules took place in Nova Scotia in the 1960s when a former British military man, Colonel Byron Weston explained them in an interview to James Power, a well known sports reporter of the day. Weston played this early version of hockey (which used a rubber ball instead of a puck) with friends on the ponds in Halifax, these rules became known as "Halifax Hockey Club" rules. Others argue that the version of rules published in the Montreal Gazette in 1877 by McGill University students, should be considered the original source, though some feel these are just an adapatation of the Halifax Rules, brought from Halifax to Montreal by James Creighton a few years earlier.
  • In 1892, Lord Stanley of Preston bought a silver bowl with an interior gold finish and decreed that it was to be given each year to the best amateur team in Canada. The trophy was originally known as the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup and was won by Montreal AAA in its first year. But by 1926, the NHL had expanded to 10 teams and owned the Stanley Cup.
  • In the early days of hockey minor penalties were 3 minutes and goalies had to serve their own penalties
  • In the days of black and white television it was difficult to differentiate between the red and blue lines, hence the broken red line.
  • The NHA (National Hockey Association) which was founded in 1909 is considered to be the first major professional hockey league. The league consisting of teams from Ontario and Quebec was the first major league to introduce the 6 player system of hockey in 1911, after deciding to drop the rover position. They competed with the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) as the premier league until 1917, fighting to sign the best players of the day. However, in 1917 the league decided to suspend operations in order to get rid of the unwanted owner, and went on to form the National Hockey League.
  • The Montreal Canadiens organization (or as the franchise is officially known "Le club de hockey Canadien") was founded in December 4, 1909 making them the oldest team in professional hockey. Their first season was played as part of the NHA (also in its first season) with a record of 2-10-0. Although it was a tough season for the team, the one bright spot was the play of their captain Newsy Lalonde who scored 38 of the teams 59 goals that year. Unfortunately it wasnt quite so stellar for goaltender Joseph Cattarinich who suffered a 7.7 goals against average!
  • It was in 1910, that the game format changed from playing two 30-minute halves to the three 20-minute periods format that is still used today.




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