Hockey is probably the oldest sports which is still being played in all corners of the world, in almost the same form as it was invented. But, wait a minute, which hockey are we talking about? The US knows of hockey played on a ice skating rink, whereas, the more popular and widespread form is field hockey, played on a grass field or synthetic turf. Obviously, both the sports are related, and hence, we'll go through the history of both of them.
Invention of Field Hockey
Field hockey, in most parts of the world is referred to as just hockey, which is its officially recognized name. It's a team sport played between two teams, in which players attempt to score goals, just like ice hockey, but by hitting a leather ball (instead of pucks) with hockey sticks (which are J-shaped), into the opponent's goalpost.
We need to rewind back 4,000 years to discuss the history of hockey. Throughout many world histories, games played with curved sticks and a ball have been found by historians. The first documentations of a hockey-like game can be found in 4,000-year-old drawings from Egypt. In Ancient Greece, a depiction was found dated 500 BC, when the game was called Kerytezin. It was then played with horns and a spherical ball-like object. In the far east, in inner Mongolia and China, a game similar to modern field hockey, named Beikou, is being played by the Daur people for about 1,000 years. During the Middle Ages, hockey-like games were played throughout Europe.
1363 was the birth year of the word 'hockey', when Edward III of England published a proclamation: "...moreover we ordain that you prohibit under penalty of imprisonment all and sundry from such stone, wood and iron throwing; handball, football, or hockey; coursing and cock-fighting, or other such idle games".
In the early 19th century, England's public schools endorsed the game, and in 1849, the formation of the first club took place in Blackheath in London. The modern rules were formed by the Teddington Hockey Club, which introduced the striking circle and sphere from a rubber cube. 1886 saw the founding of the Hockey Association. The first international friendly (Ireland 3, Wales 0) took place in 1895, followed by the founding of the International Rules Board in 1900. Hockey was a part of the 1908 and 1920 Summer Olympics. However, it was dropped in 1924, which led to the formation of the Fédération Internationale de Hockey (FIH), declared as the international governing body of hockey by seven European nations. The game was back in the 1928 Olympics.
The British took the game to India in the early 20th century, by introducing the Beighton Cup and the Aga Khan tournaments. This started the era in which India dominated world hockey. Playing in the Olympics for the first time in 1928, India not only won all five games, but did it not conceding a single goal. They won all Olympic golds from 1932 until 1956, and then in 1964 and 1980. After the Indian partition in 1947, the formation of Pakistan gave India its first real competitor in the hockey field. Pakistan won the Olympic golds in 1960, 1968, and 1984. The introduction of artificial turf in the '70s began the downfall of these two Asian hockey powerhouses, and a simultaneous rise of countries like Germany, Netherlands, and Australia.
Invention of Ice Hockey
Ice hockey, what we simply call hockey, is a team sport played on a small-sized ice rink. In this fast-paced game, skaters use L-shaped sticks to direct a puck (a small thick disc) into the opposing team's goalpost. It is a highly physical sport, with players breaking into frequent scuffles with opposite team members. Each team has six players (five skaters and one goalie), all of whom have to skate around on ice and score goals.
The invention of ice hockey has always been a matter of debate. In Silas T. Rand's documentation called Legends of the Micmacs (1894), he has given evidence of a hockey-like game played among the Mi'kmaq (pron: mi:gmax), the First Nation people (native Americans) living in Eastern Canada, somewhere in the early 19th century. Western European colonizers brought with them the medieval form of field hockey.
However, it is widely believed that British soldiers staying in Nova Scotia, Canada, were the ones who invented hockey, somewhere in the mid 1850s. The first recorded hockey encounter took place between Kingston British soldiers and those stationed in Halifax, during the mid 1850s. They used a rubber ball instead of a puck, and had very basic rules and guidelines. Hostilities were limited due to their military discipline. In the 1870s, Montreal's McGill University students were the first to set up concrete ice hockey rules. It was then that the number of players per side were limited to 9, and the ball was replaced by a wooden puck. If the Society for International Hockey Research is to be believed, the word 'puck' derives its origin from the Irish word 'poc', or the Scottish and Gaelic word 'puc', which means to poke someone, or deliver a blow or punch someone.
In 1879, the game was added with more formal rules, which were set by the students of McGill University in Montreal, Canada. In the year 1885, Montreal saw the first national organization of hockey, i.e., the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada.
Hockey was being played on an amateur level in the US since 1880s, but 1890 is when the first organized hockey match is believed to have been played in the United States, between University teams of Johns Hopkins and Yale. The game achieved immense popularity in the United States, and despite being originated in Canada, the very first professional hockey league was organized here.
In 1903, the Pro Hockey league was established, but it met its demise within three years from its formation. This league included teams from the northern parts of the United States and many parts of Canada. In 1910, the National Hockey League, i.e., the NHL originated, and the popularity of this sport began to spread its wings. In the beginning of the 20th century, Great Britain and European countries also showed immense interest in the sport.
Today, ice hockey is played in eight countries, and field hockey has spread all over the world. It wouldn't be wrong to quote that this ancient sport has captured the imagination of many throughout the globe.