Hockey 's Roots Go
Way Back - Part 1
The National Hockey League seasons come and go. There
is always a lot of excitement due to various changes in rules, new
players, etc. But the essential nature of the game itself is unchanged.
Many historians say the roots of hockey go back more
than 500 years ago in northern Europe where field hockey was a popular
summer sport. When the ponds and lakes froze in winter, many athletes took
to the ice to engage in another version of their summer sport.
Today hockey has come a long way from the time
youngsters in little villages and hamlets of Canada played on frozen lakes
and ponds with sticks made from the branches of trees, and pucks formed
from frozen "horse apples." Eventually, the sport became an
indoor game but its true origins can be traced to youth passing wintertime
Many believe hockey got its name from the French word
'hoquet', which means "shepherd's crook" or "bent
stick." The term ice hockey first appeared in newspaper accounts of a
contest held at Montreal's Victoria Skating Rink in 1875.
November 22nd marks the 82nd anniversary of the NHL.
It was on that date in 1917 that the league was organized in Montreal.
Delegates present at the organizational meeting represented the Montreal
Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa and Quebec. Those four clubs, plus
the Toronto Arenas, were admitted into the league. Quebec opted not to
compete in the first NHL season of 1917-1918.
Hockey was strictly a sport for amateurs until 1904.
That year the first professional league was created - and strangely enough
in the USA. It was called the International Pro Hockey League and was
located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula iron-mining region. That first
league lasted for just three years.
In 1910, the National Hockey Association (NHA) came
into existence, and was followed by the Pacific Coast League (PCL). There
was a transcontinental championship series played by the two leagues with
the winner awarded the highly sought after cup of Lord Stanley.
It took a world war (WWI) to throw all of pro hockey
into a state of suspension. One of the many products of peace was the
National Hockey League that came to stay.
The league's first game was played on December 19,
1917. Playing a 22-game schedule, the NHL picked up on a rule change put
into place by the old NHA. It dropped the rover and employed only six
players per side.
Toronto was the champion of that first NHL season. In
March 1918 it competed against the Pacific Coast League champion Vancouver
Millionaires for the Stanley Cup. Toronto won the series three games to
The Pacific Coast League went out of business, and by
the beginning of the 1926 season the NHL held hockey's center stage all by
itself. It divided its 10 teams into two divisions and took control of the
# # #
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About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
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