Who Invented Ice Hockey?

Ice hockey is one of the most beloved winter sports around the world, and it’s a national obsession in some countries, like Canada. Popular belief holds that hockey was invented in Montreal, but is that really the case? In a word – no. The truth is, we really don’t know who invented ice hockey, or when it was actually invented. We do know that it’s been popular since at least the 1700s, and it may have originated even before that time.

The U.S. Women's Ice-Hockey Team's Hard Road to the Winter Olympics Finals  | The New Yorker

The word “hockey” could come from at least two sources. Many people think it may derive from the Old French word “hoquet,” which literally means a “shepherd’s crook,” (think of the shape of the hockey stick, but it may also come from the Middle Dutch word “hokkie,” which can mean “goal” when used popularly. We do know that 16th century Dutch paintings show a game that looks like ice hockey or its relative being played on frozen canals, so that predates settlement and invention in modern-day Canada.

The Brits May Have Done It

Field hockey and lacrosse were popular in Europe, and many people believe that British soldiers, stationed in Canada in the 1700s created a more modern form of ice hockey to combat boredom and the long, cold, Canadian winters. There are more paintings that show this new form of entertainment being played in Nova Scotia and even Virginia in the United States during this time. So, we really don’t know who invented ice hockey, only who helped refine it. Ice Hockey

The First Indoor Game

Montreal may not lay claim to inventing the game, but they certainly can boast about hosting the very first indoor ice hockey game. On March 3, 1875, the first organized and acknowledged indoor game was played in Montreal, and the “Montreal Gazette” reported it, making it official. It wasn’t until 1877, however, that any real “rules” were drafted for the game. Five Canadian students drafted these first seven rules, and so, in a sense, they did help “invent” the modern sport of ice hockey. Their names were James Creighton, Henry Joseph, W. F. Robertson, Richard F. Smith, and W. L. Murray, and once there were rules to follow, the game just grew in popularity.

The coveted Stanley cup came into being when the governor general of Canada, Lord Stanley of Preston attended the Montreal Winter Carnival in 1888, where the game was showcased. He was so impressed with this new winter game that he helped create the championship and a trophy for the best team in the country, and that trophy was the Stanley Cup.

Since then, the game has just grown in popularity and has spread around the world – the first US professional team formed in 1899 in Michigan, and it’s spread like wildfire since then. Hockey is so popular because it’s competitive, fast-paced, and can be violent at times, but most of all, it takes immense skill to be able to balance on the thin blades of ice skates while maneuvering that tiny puck around the rink. So, we don’t really know who invented ice hockey, or who to thank, but without the invention of ice hockey, we would be missing one of our very favorite winter sports!

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