The Sport of Ice Hockey

As noted in Mark Rivkin’s recent post on the history of hockey, ball and stick sports date back to the world’s earliest civilizations. As the popularity of hockey spread throughout the civilized world though, northern settlements sought a way to enjoy the sport even during the winter months; thus the game moved from the field to the ice. The game of ice hockey most likely evolved from variations of field hockey played throughout the ancient world in Northern Europe and North America, and its official origins can be traced to a variety of civilizations, both modern and ancient. In fact, the rink, or the playing area for ice hockey was actually used in a game known as curling in Scotland during the 18th century. But the modern game as the world knows it today can be attributed to a man named James Creighton, who came to Canada from Nova Scotia in 1872, bringing with him sticks, ice skates and a new idea of an organized game which came about from his experience playing a free-wheeling, stick-ball game called ricket, shinny and sometimes hockey.

James Creighton is often referred to as “the father of ice hockey”, and during his time as a figure skating judge at the Victoria Skating Club’s Skating Rink he organized early morning sessions of informal ice hockey at the rink with his friends from McGill University (where Creighton studied law) and members of the club. From this came the first recorded indoor game of organized ice hockey in Montreal on March 3, 1875, implementing Creighton’s Halifax Rules, modified in 1877 as the Montreal Rules, in which teams were restricted to seven members a side, the rink’s measurements were made standard and injured players could be replaced. McGill University established the first university hockey team, and in 1877, Creighton became the captain of the first known organized ice hockey team, The McGill University Club. The rules for the game were drafted at McGill University in Canada in 1879, and ice hockey found its way to the United States around 1893. By the turn of the twentieth century ice hockey’s popularity had spread across the Atlantic and throughout Europe.

In countries where the sport is very popular like Canada, the U.S. and parts of Europe it is known simply as hockey, but the name ice hockey is used in countries where the term hockey refers to other forms of the sport, such as field hockey or roller hockey. Ice hockey is a team sport played indoors or out in a rink, or patch, of ice. Players upon ice skates use wooden or composite sticks to shoot a hard rubber puck into their opponent’s net. Each team has six players (five skaters and a goalie), and a team usually consists of four lines of three forwards, three pairs of defense, and two goalies. Five members of each team skate up and down the ice trying to take the puck and score a goal against the opposing team. Each team has a goaltender who defends their goal from opposing players. Ice hockey is a fast-paced, physical sport, and the game is most popular in Canada, the northern United States and Europe; areas that are sufficiently cold for natural seasonal ice cover. Indoor artificial ice rinks have helped hockey become a year-round pastime, which is even seeing more action down south. Learn more about all the official rules, regulations and leagues by checking out Mark Rivkin’s post on Hockey’s Governing Bodies.