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European immigrants brought various versions of hockey like games to Canada, such as the Irish sport of hurling, the closely related Scottish sport of shinty, and versions of field hockey played in England. Where necessary, these seem to have been adapted for icy conditions for example, a colonial Williamsburg newspaper records hockey being played in a snow storm in Virginia. Early paintings show shinney, an early form of hockey with no standard rules, being played in Nova Scotia in Canada.
In 1825 Sir John Franklin wrote that The game of hockey played on the ice was the morning sport while on Great Bear Lake during one of his Arctic expeditions. In 1843 a British Army officer in Kingston, Ontario in Canada, wrote Began to skate this year, improved quickly and had great fun at hockey on the ice. A Boston Evening Gazette article from 1859 makes reference to an early game of hockey on ice occurring in Halifax in that year.
The first recorded hockey games were played by Canadian soldiers stationed in Kingston and Halifax during the mid 1850s. In the 1870s, the first known set of ice hockey rules were drawn up by students at Montreals McGill University. These rules established the number of players per side to 9 and replaced the ball with a square puck.
Based on Haliburtons writings, there have been claims that modern ice hockey originated in Windsor, Nova Scotia in Canada, and was named after an individual, as in Colonel Hockeys game. Proponents of this theory claim that the surname Hockey exists in the district surrounding Windsor. In 1943, the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association declared Kingston the birthplace of hockey, based on a recorded 1886 game played between students of Queens University and the Royal Military College of Canada.
The Society for International Hockey Research has had an origins of hockey committee studying this debate since 2001 and they defined hockey as a game played on an ice rink in which two opposing teams of skaters, using curved sticks, try to drive a small disc, ball or block into or through the opposite goals.
The committee found evidence of stick and ball games played on ice on skates in Europe in the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries, and viewed these activities as being more indicative of a hockey like game than Haliburtonís reference.
They found no evidence in the Windsor position of a connection from whatever form of hockey might have been played at Long Pond to the game played elsewhere and to modern hockey. The committee viewed as conjecture the assertion that Kings schoolboys introduced the game to Halifax. They noted that the assertion that hockey was not played outside Nova Scotia until 1865 overlooks diary evidence of shinny and hockey being played at Kingston in the 1840s.
The committee concluded that Dr. Vaughan and the Windsor Hockey Heritage Society had not offered credible evidence that Windsor, Nova Scotia, is the birthplace of hockey.
The committee offered no opinion on the birth date or birthplace of hockey, but took note of a game at Montrealís Victoria Skating Rink on March 3, 1875. This is the earliest eyewitness account known to the committee of a specific game of hockey in a specific place at a specific time, and with a recorded score, between two identified teams.
According to the Society for International Hockey Research, the word puck is derived from the Scottish and Gaelic word puc or the Irish word poc, meaning to poke, punch or deliver a blow. This definition is explained in a book published in 1910 entitled English as we Speak it in Ireland by P.W. Joyce. It defines the word puck as The blow given by a hurler to the ball with his caman or hurley is always called a puck.