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History of Hockey


How the Game of Hockey Started & has Evolved

By Stats Hockey / Sept 24, 2006

There are many conflicting theories on when and where the game of hockey started but for all accounts the game evolved out the Irish field game called Hurley. Hurley is played year round in Ireland on a field with a ball and stick. The game of Hurley was played regularly in the fields of Nova Scotia back in the early 1800's. But when winter came around Hurley was to difficult to play because of the rough ground caused by snow so the game was eventually moved onto the ice. This new game called "Hurley on Ice" basically started at King's College in Windsor, Nova Scotia just outside of Halifax and became very popular on the East coast for the first 50 years of the 1800's.

The New Game  (1850-1900)

This Hurley on Ice was also called Rickets and Shinny but was eventually called Hockey somewhere in the later part of the 1800's. There is a story that a Royal Canadian Rifles officer stationed in Nova Scotia named "Hockey" for years had his men play this game and that's how the name of Hurley or Shinny changed to Hockey. In the early 1870's an engineer named James Creighton taught his friends at McGill University on how to play this new game of hockey he learned while living in Nova Scotia. The stage was set in Montreal in the mid 1870's for the first organized hockey game that was played inside a rink. Eventually James Creighton wrote up new rules called the "Halifax Rules" which had 9 players on each team. Hockey became very popular in Montreal at that time and James Creighton who had a law degree decided to move on to Ottawa and eventually became the Law Clerk of the Senate. He then started Ottawa's first organized hockey team called the Rideau Hall Rebels in the late 1880's. Also around this same time the first organized amateur hockey league started in Kingston, Ontario and had 4 teams.

The Stanley Cup  (1892)

In 1892 Lord Stanley, Earl of Preston and Governor General of Canada decided to donate a cup that could be challenged by amateur hockey teams in Canada. The first Stanley Cup winner was the Montreal AAA (Amateur Athletic Association) in 1893. By the end of the 1800's hockey was becoming the national sport of Canada because almost all regions of the country were playing this new sport. The equipment used in hockey was also evolving with skates that strapped to your boots in the first 50 years of the century to skates that were clamped or screwed into your boots in the later 50 years of that century. Other equipment used in the 1800's was light shin pads, wool shirts and socks and solid wood sticks.

New Century  (1900-1950)

This new century saw the invention of the tube skates which eventually evolved into the present day skates and also netting that was not used in the last century was also invented. This new netting was first used by Maritimers at the turn of the century who threw it over both posts in order to catch the puck and also to show the puck past between both posts. Also the number of  players allowed on each team went from 9 to 7 (3 forwards, 2 defenseman, 1 rover and 1 goalie). It stayed this way until the NHL was formed and the rover position was dropped which meant 6 players aside.

From the turn of the century to 1917 saw many professional leagues formed like the International Pro Hockey League, National Hockey Association (NHA) and the Pacific Coast League (PCL). All these leagues eventually folded which lead to the creation of the National Hockey League (NHL) in 1917.

NHL  (1917)

The National Hockey League started out with 5 franchises, Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Toronto Arenas, Quebec Bulldogs and Ottawa Senators. The Toronto Arenas won the Stanley Cup in the first year. The National Hockey League eventually gained control of the Stanley Cup in 1926 and from then on it could only be won by NHL teams instead of other league champions challenging for this cup. By 1942 after seeing many teams come and go from the NHL the league settled in with 6 franchises, the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks. These 6 teams stayed this way until the 1967 expansion and have become fondly known as "The Original Six".

Present Day  (1950-2001)

The last 50 years of this century saw the invention of the curved stick in the late 50's by Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita which before was always straight. Goalie masks also came into vogue when in the late 1950's Jacques Plante took a shot off the face during one game and decided in the following season he would where a mask. Hockey helmets were not worn on a regular basis until the early 1970's and were eventually mandated by the NHL for the 1979-80 season.

NHL Expansion  (1967)

The NHL added six new teams in the 1967 expansion and they were the Minnesota North Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, California (Oakland) Seals, St. Louis Blues and the Los Angeles Kings. In 1970 the Vancouver Canucks and Buffalo Sabres were added.

WHA  (1972-1979)

In 1972 saw the formation of the World Hockey Association (WHA) which became an instant rivalry to the NHL. This new league was signing away some of the top NHL players like Bobby Hull and Derek Sanderson. But like most new leagues without any history and solid fan support eventually died out in 1979.

Wayne Gretzky  (1979-1999)

He was arguably the best player ever to play ever to play organized hockey. His stats are almost mind boggling when you compare them to players today or players from the past. Wayne Gretzky played 20 seasons in the NHL and won the Scoring Title (Art Ross) 10 times, Most Valuable Player (Hart) 9 times, Stanley Cup 4 times and was the only player to have a 200 point season and he did it 4 times. His all time career stats were 894 Goals, 1963 Assists and 2857 Total Points.

More Expansion  (1972-2000)

The NHL continued to expand in 1972 when two more teams were added (New York Islanders and Atlanta Flames). In 1974 saw another two teams added (Washington Capitals and Kansas City Scouts). In 1976 the California Seals franchise moved to Cleveland (Barons) and Kansas City moved on become the Colorado Rockies. In 1978 saw Cleveland Barons merged into the Minnesota North Stars. In 1979 the NHL absorbed the remaining WHA teams (Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets, Hartford Whalers and Quebec Nordiques. In 1980 the Atlanta Flames moved to Calgary and in 1982 saw the Colorado Rockies move on become the New Jerseys Devils. From the late 1970’s to the early 1990’s saw the league with just 21 teams and 4 divisions called the Smythe, Norris, Patrick and Adams. The Eastern Conference was called Prince of Wales and the West the Campbell Conference.

The 1990's saw 9 new teams added to the National Hockey League and which now has 30 teams, 2 conferences and 6 divisions for the start of the 2000-01 season. San Jose Sharks were added in 1991, Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992, Anaheim Mighty Ducks & Florida Panthers in 1993, Labor stoppage in 1994, Quebec Nordiques moved to become the Colorado Avalanche in 1995, Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix in 1996, Hartford Whalers relocated in Raleigh (Carolina) in 1997, Nashville Predators were now the 27 team in the NHL in 1998, Atlanta Thrashers came in 1999, and in 2000 the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild were the last expanded teams for the NHL.

Note: The exact place and time hockey was invented is still an ongoing conversation.

Last Updated: Sept 24, 2006



First Black Player in the NHL

On January 18, 1958 Willie O'Ree became the first black player to play in the NHL. It didn't get the media attention like Jackie Robinson did in April 15, 1947 (MLB) but it was certainly a turning point. Willie was born on Oct. 15, 1935 in Fredericton New Brunswick and grew up playing baseball, football & hockey. In the 1955-56 season while playing junior hockey for the Quebec Frontenacs he was hit in the face with the puck and lost sight in one eye.

He eventually made the Boston Bruins farm team and was called up to the bruins on January 18, 1958 and went on to play 45 games and scored 4 goals. He was considered one of the fastest skaters of his time. 


The Invention of The Zamboni ®

In 1954 Frank J. Zamboni made his first important sale of his ice resurfacer machines to the Boston Gardens and the rest is history. This new machine needing only one person to operate could resurface the ice in minutes what used to take hours with the old ice resurface machines. Frank was born on January 16, 1901 in Eureka, Utah and died in 1988.


First Woman to Play Pro Hockey

On Sept 23rd, 1992 Rheaume Manon became the first woman to play in the NHL and also the first woman ever to play in one of the Big Four Pro Sports. She was the starting goalie in a preseason game for the Tampa Bay Lightning against the St. Louis Blues. After that she went on to have a career in the minors. Manon Rheaume was born on Feb 24, 1972 and has officially retired from playing hockey in 2000.

Disclaimer: Cannot guarantee these stats are Complete.