Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Sandra. Sandra Wonders, “Who invented the game of hockey?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Sandra!
We were walking past the Wonderopolis barn the other day when we overheard an interesting conversation amongst the cows:
Cow 1: Woo hoo! The pond has finally frozen over. The ducks challenged us to a game of hockey. Let's go!
Cow 2: You want us to play hockey against the ducks?
Cow 3: Don't underestimate the ducks. They're small, but they're mighty. I'll grab the skates. Someone get the sticks.
Cow 4: I'll grab the sticks. Who has the puck?
We're not sure if they found the puck or not, since we headed off to find the farmer right away. We felt we should warn him about the very real chance that the pond could soon be the site of an udder disaster, with feathers flying and nothing but milkshakes in our future.
The cows' conversation did make us start WONDERing about the origins of hockey, though. Who was the first one to think it was a good idea to go sliding along a frozen surface with thin strips of metal strapped to your feet while trying to hit a small, round object with a long stick?
Many historians have looked at the question of who invented hockey and, unfortunately, there's not a clear-cut answer. This is probably due to the fact that ice hockey as we know it today developed over the course of hundreds of years.
Some scholars believe that hockey's roots go back over 4,000 years to ancient Egypt where a crude stick and ball game was played. Evidence also exists that similar games were played by the ancient Ethiopians, Romans, Greeks, and Aztecs.
Of course, when we think of hockey, we think of ice hockey. Those early stick and ball games likely evolved into various games that were played on frozen ponds across Europe. Some examples of these early precursor games include hurling or hurly played in Ireland, shinty played in Scotland, and field hockey or "bandie ball" played in England.
Historians have uncovered evidence of hockey-like games being played in England in the mid- to late-1700s. For example, an engraving from 1797 has been found that shows a person on skates with a stick and a cork plug (called a "bung") on the frozen River Thames in 1796.
These hockey-like games were brought to North America by British soldiers and other immigrants. Beginning in Nova Scotia in the early 1800s, hockey began to evolve into the team sport we know today. Today, Canada remains the country most closely-associated with hockey.
The development of the modern version of organized ice hockey played as a team sport is often credited to James Creighton. In 1872, he moved from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Montreal, bringing skates, hockey sticks, and a game with a basic set of rules with him.
In 1875, Creighton organized indoor hockey practices at the Victoria Skating Rink. After practicing for about a month, the first organized indoor game of hockey was played on March 3, 1875.
The game featured nine players on each team, including Creighton and students from McGill University. Rather than using a ball or a bung, the teams played with a flat, circular piece of wood created by Creighton.
Today, hockey remains a popular sport around the world. From youth leagues and colleges to professional teams and the Olympic Games, hockey continues to entertain millions of fans each year.