How It’S Made Hockey? [Facts!]

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Hockey has always been a game of tradition and history. From the very first players wearing knickerbockers to the first NHL game, it’s always been a game that is closely associated with Canada. Now that the Winter Olympics are just around the corner, it’s time for hockey fans to get their fix.

With all the recent talk of a professional ice hockey league returning to the States, it’s important to understand where hockey comes from and how it got here in the first place. Thankfully, that’s what this article is all about.

Hockey Starts In Montreal

At the turn of the twentieth century, Canada was in the grips of a sporting renaissance. Skating was popular, and a number of sports teams became very successful, including the Montreal Victorias in the early 1900s. One of the sporting events that helped fuel this newfound Canadian obsession was hockey.

From the very first games in Montreal in 1900, hockey quickly became a craze. The sport was so popular that in 1903, the Ontario Hockey Association was formed, and in November of that year, the first professional hockey league, the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA), was born.

The OHA consisted of the Montreal Victorias and the Ottawa Senators, with teams in Toronto, Peterborough, and other cities across Canada. It was a fairly typical hockey league at the time, with only two teams, but what makes it special is that it was the first time that women had ever been allowed to play in a professional hockey league. Indeed, the Montreal Victorias were a team made up entirely of women, which is why they are referred to as “the hockey queens of Montreal”.

Hockey Goes International

While hockey had been around for a while in Canada, it was still a relatively unknown sport internationally. That began to change in the 1910s, as Canadian exporters began to get the word out beyond our borders and make hockey more accessible to the world. A famous example of this was Hockey Night in Canada, which was first telecast in April of 1927.

The program, which is still going strong seventy-five years later, brought hockey to the masses for the first time, and it was an instant success. Not only did Hockey Night in Canada help make hockey popular in Canada and internationally, it also introduced people to the sport for the first time. The program was an instant hit, and in 1928, it drew an average weekly audience of 2.5 million viewers.

One of the things that made Hockey Night in Canada so influential was its ability to showcase international hockey. Back then, most people couldn’t fathom the idea of an NHL game occurring outside of North America, but that all changed with the emergence of the international game. Hockey gradually became an acceptable sport for the rich and famous, and by 1930, the Montreal Canadiens were one of the three clubs that comprised the NHL. (The other two were the New York Rangers and the Chicago Black Hawks.)

The Great Depression

The Great Depression was a time of great change for hockey. Not only did it mark the end of one of the most influential periods in the history of the sport, it was also a period of great growth. Few sports have seen as great a transformation as hockey has over the past 100 years.

For one thing, money was no object to the rich and famous, which meant that teams could spend more on players. Also, the Great Depression meant that more people had money to spend on sports, and as a result, more people wanted to play. In fact, between the years of 1931 and 1939, the number of people playing hockey worldwide jumped from 10,000 to 100,000. It was a boom time for hockey.

War, World War II, And Hockey

During World War II, men were at the frontlines of battle, and women were taking over a variety of jobs that had previously been performed by men. In hockey, this meant that there were more people playing, more people watching, and more trophies being handed out. (It must be noted here that the trophy count increased due to a greater appreciation for the sport, not because there were more people playing. That was certainly the case during the war years, as scores of men were away from home for long periods of time.)

The most prominent trophy presented during this time was the Stanley Cup, first awarded in 1904 and named after a person, Sir Arthur Stanley, who had donated funds to build the trophy.

The hockey world was truly grateful for the help, and the Arthur Stanley Cup continues to this day to be one of the most prestigious trophies in the sport. The Vancouver Canucks have now won the Cup sixteen times, which is the most of any NHL team, and more than any other team in the “old” NHL, which is now the Canucks’ honor to claim.

The impact of World War II on hockey is undeniable. Not only did it see an increase in the number of players and fans, but it also marked the first time that the Stanley Cup had ever been won by a team outside of Canada. In addition, the war years saw the establishment of a number of professional hockey leagues, including the famous wartime NHL. This league had its genesis in the United States in the wake of the new “franchise” movement that was inspired by the successes of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks. The league originally consisted of the New York Rangers, the Detroit Red Wings, and the Blackhawks.

The Rise Of The World Hockey Association

Hockee has always been a league of its own. Since its inception in the fall of 1935, the WHA has never really been a part of the established hockey world. (Although, on the other hand, the WHA has always maintained that it is the “original” professional hockey league.)

The league began as a Canadian answer to the success of the American NHL and their new ideas about making a league more accessible to the average person. Some of the innovations that the WHA brought to the table included lowering the entry fee and creating an award for the regular season champion. The most significant change, however, was that unlike the NHL, which was founded on territorial rights, the WHA allowed anyone to join, no matter where they were located. (Of course, this also meant that teams could and often did travel internationally, which is why the league is best known for showcasing international hockey.)

For a time, the WHA was a true success, and it even expanded to the United Kingdom and continental Europe. The WHA drew huge Canadian TV viewership when it came to hockey, which saw the Montreal Canadiens win the Stanley Cup in 1953 and 1955. When the WHA merged with the NHL in 1975, it was initially planned that the surviving league would be called the World Hockey Association-Canada. (The NHL had absorbed the WHA’s operations in the UK and Europe, and so the name change to the NHL/WHA merger simply formalized what had already happened.)

The NHL and the WHA were both instrumental in the growth of professional hockey during the twentieth century. The establishment of the two leagues meant that hockey no longer had to be restricted to the elite—the average person could play, and play at a high level, too.

With the emergence of the NHL and the WHA, hockey truly came into its own as a sport. The world of hockey would never be the same after this point.

Hockey Gets Glamorous

In the 1950s and 1960s, the world of professional hockey became even more glamorous. The golden age of television started to hit, and live TV coverage of games became the norm. (In fact, it wasn’t until the 1970s that video replay was employed by professional hockey leagues in North America.) These were years of big hair and even bigger shoulder pads as players began to accentuate their masculine beauty with brightly colored hair and makeup.

In addition, more and more people were exposed to the sport of hockey. The launch of the television program 60 Minutes in 1968 would eventually lead to more people learning about hockey and, more importantly, wanting to play the game. (It should be noted here that while TV cameras were certainly a contributing factor to the popularity of hockey in the 1960s and 1970s, the game itself had been steadily gaining popularity for many years before the emergence of TV cameras.)

The Impact Of The Growth Of Television

It’s important to put the rise of television into context. Before the advent of modern-day TV, people had to make do with whatever was available to them, whether that was the radio, the newspaper, or even the occasional magic lantern slide show. (The first TV sets were originally called “black boxes” because they had a limited number of channels and no remote controls.)

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