Historically in England field hockey was simply called ‘hockey’, but the origins of stick-and-balls games date back several centuries earlier. Examples of these games include hurling in Ireland, shinty in Scotland, and bandy in England. IJscolf was a game made popular during the Dutch Golden Age. It was played on ice and there are similarities with ice hockey, but there is no evidence the sport originated from there. It was played with a curved wooden bat and the objective was to hit a leather ball to a chosen target in as few strokes as possible. Field hockey developed in England in the 17th century, and occasionally it was also played on ice. The ‘ball’ was often a cork stopper for a barrel. These stick-and-ball games were taken to Canada and the United States when soldiers and immigrants travelled there. While the origins of ice hockey would be more difficult to pinpoint, it was Montréal who stands as the leader in the development of the sport to what we are familiar with today. The city is widely recognised as the birthplace of organised ice hockey.
Initial games were played under the Hockey Association rules, which was England’s field hockey organisation. By 1877 seven rules were published, of which six were based on the Hockey Association’s twelve rules. Three years later the number of players per team was reduced from nine to seven. By 1893, there were nearly a hundred teams just in Montréal alone, apart from the many leagues across Canada. As the popularity of ice hockey grew, many ice rinks were replaced by bigger ones. The oldest indoor rink still in use today is the Boston’s Matthews Arena, which was built in 1910. The professional era started early in the 20th century and by 1902, the Western Pennsylvania Hockey League employed their first ice hockey players. The National Hockey Association was formed in 1910 and further amendments were made to the rules. On an international level, in 1908 the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) was established in Paris, France. IIHF is the worldwide governing body for ice hockey and in-line hockey, with their headquarters based in Zurich, Switzerland. The federation is responsible for governing and developing the sport worldwide. It oversees international tournaments and provides access to these by creating different levels best suited to the nation’s level of expertise and their national development of the sport. Currently there are over 80 national member federations.
A team consists of six players that includes a goaltender. Apart from the goaltender, the five are made up of three forwards and two defenders. Hockey is an off-side game, meaning that the puck can be passed to a player ahead of you. The objective is simply to get the puck into the goal of the opposing team. A game is divided into three periods of twenty minutes, with the clock running only when the puck is in play.