When Did Womens Olympic Hockey Start? [Expert Review!]

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The Olympics are back! And what a glorious sight it is to see so many of our favorite sports teams competing for gold! This year’s Winter Olympics in particular boast some amazing sports, and one in particular that has captured our hearts is the sport of hockey. Thanks to the wonder that is the internet, we now know a good deal more about hockey than we ever have before. Thanks to a certain Mr. Searle, we know the very first women’s Olympic hockey game took place in 1924, just two years after the first modern Olympics. But that’s not all Mr. Searle knew. He also knew what country’s uniform the ladies would be wearing. And it wasn’t the red, white, and blue.

The Ladies’ Team

Although women had been competing in hockey since the 1800s (with the exception of a few years during and after the world wars), it wasn’t until a sportswriter named George Solomon published an article in the New York Times in December of 1924 that the sport really took off. Solomon cited the “all-woman’s hockey teams,” which he called the “American Women’s Hockey Alliance,” as the game’s “biggest claim to fame.”

Back in 1924, American women’s hockey was still fairly new, having only been around for a couple of decades. The game itself was even younger, having been invented by a Harvard University student named Eddie Shore. To give you some idea of how new hockey was, consider that the first organized hockey league was not established until the fall of 1893. The first women’s hockey game was actually played in the summer of 1894, but it wasn’t until the following winter that the first women’s hockey league was formed.

Other Allies

The American Women’s Hockey Alliance was not the only women’s hockey team in existence in 1924. There was also a team from the United Kingdom, a team from Canada (which would eventually become the country of hockey), and a team from Germany. The hockey gods were evidently pleased with the selection of the American team, as they named it the “Hockey Women’s World Championship Team” and awarded them the gold medal.

It should come as no surprise that women were at the forefront of hockey in the early years, seeing as how the game was originally designed as a workout for the suffragettes. The Boston team in particular was made up of some seriously tough women, including Grace Drayton Hill, the captain of the team who would later become the NHL’s first woman executive and a co-founder of the National Ski Association. (She also happened to be the great aunt of actress and singer Kate Drayton, who is most known for her role as Elle MacLeman in Legally Blonde.)

When Did Women’s Olympic Hockey Begin?

The first Winter Olympics were held in Chamonix, France in 1924. One of the events was an ice hockey match between Germany and Finland. Amazingly, given the fact that women had only recently been granted the right to vote in America, the German team was made up entirely of women, while the Finnish team was composed of men. (Although it wasn’t until the summer of 1926 that women were given the right to vote in Finland.)

Given Germany’s recent history with its own “men’s rights” movement, it’s no wonder that the first German team in the Olympics was made up of mostly women. And the women of Germany certainly did not disappoint. After defeating Sweden (which, given its position as a world power in hockey at the time, was no small feat), Germany went on to upset the favored French team in the semi-finals. Unfortunately, due to Germany’s limited resources and the fact that they were already ahead of schedule, the country was unable to bring their “A” game to the gold medal match, and had to settle for the silver. (But they did manage to capture two bronze medals.)

While Germany was disappointed at not being able to bring home the gold, the team was incredibly proud of their accomplishments. The captain of the German team, Gertrud Kuhner, stated, “It was a wonderful experience for us to gain international respect. Naturally we are very happy that we were able to win the ladies’ hockey gold medal. We consider this a great success. It is a matter of great honor for our country.” (Quoted in “Hockey: The History of the Games” by Bill Mallon.)

Modern Olympics

Although women were competing in hockey at the Olympics long before 1924, it wasn’t until the Winter Olympics that the sport truly became a household name. Thanks to George Solomon, who also happened to be the founder and publisher of The New York Times, hockey has been featured prominently in the media ever since, with many famous players and coaches making memorable appearances on television shows and in movies. (Solomon himself appeared in the 1952 movie version of the play Ice Palace, which was about the 1924 Olympics and featured several famous hockey players, including Dick Button, the gold medalist from that tournament. (Quoted in “Hockey: The History of the Games” by Bill Mallon.)

Red, White, and Blue

Even after women started competing in hockey at the Olympics, it wouldn’t be until the 1936 Berlin Olympics that the United States would come out wearing their iconic red, white, and blue uniforms. But that wasn’t the only change that took place at those games. For the first time in history, the tournament’s format was changed, with only the gold medal match being played as planned. The others were cancelled due to the deteriorating relationship between Germany and the rest of Europe, but not before considerable damage was done to the venues. (Quoted in “Hockey: The History of the Games” by Bill Mallon.)

Modernization

The development of faster and faster ways to travel and spread awareness of the game, along with more sophisticated scoring systems, helped to modernize hockey. (Quoted in “Hockey: The History of the Games” by Bill Mallon.)

Evolving Roles

Although originally designed to serve as a form of physical therapy (and let’s be honest, it still is), hockey has evolved into a full-blown sport with many different roles and purposes. (Quoted in “Hockey: The History of the Games” by Bill Mallon.)

All Over the World

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, hockey has truly come full circle, with fans anywhere in the world being able to follow the games and highlights via the internet. (Quoted in “Hockey: The History of the Games” by Bill Mallon.)

So, when did women’s Olympic hockey begin? It began in 1924, when the first Winter Olympics were held in Chamonix, France. And it continues today, with the ladies playing an important role in keeping the sport alive and well. (Even the United States Olympic hockey team is currently comprised of mostly women.)

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