When Was Hockey Founded? [Solved!]

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Most people know that hockey is a winter sport but how exactly did hockey come about? Fortunately, we were able to track down a few answers for you right here! Let’s get started.

The Amateur Era (1875-1894)

If you’ve ever played hockey before then you know how frustrating it can be when you misread the direction of a shot or pass. This is why hockey developed the concept of “hockey sense.” While some people believe that hockey sense is actually born out of practice, we know that this is not true. The truth is that hockey sense is purely an instinct that you either have or don’t have.

For hundreds of years prior to the formation of organized hockey, people simply played the game as it came to them. In England, for example, people would throw a stick or a ball around with friends on the village green or city parks. During this time period hockey was often called “soccer on ice.” It was not until the end of the 19th century that the game began to be organized and played by professionals. This is mainly because the development of ice hockey beds allowed for people to play the game at all hours and temperatures. Without them, playing hockey would be a very different experience.

The National Hockey League (1894-1917)

In 1894, the American Amateur Hockey Association was founded and began organizing amateur games. This was followed by the formation of the National Hockey League (NHL) just two years later in 1896. The NHL was originally only open to amateur players but began accepting some professionals in 1898. The NHL was one of the first pro leagues to allow professionals to play, and eventually, it became one of the most popular ones. However, during this time, the NHL was viewed as having “yellow stripes” and was not considered an elite league.

The beginning of the 20th century was a very active time for the NHL. In 1901, the first NHL All-Star Game was held. Just four years later, in 1905, the NHL reached its peak population of 878 players. In 1914, the NHL became professionalized when it was split into two separate divisions—the “A” and “B” clubs. These divisions would continue to exist, with the NHL maintaining a “farm team” system where the best players on the lesser teams would often get called up to the bigger clubs. In 1917, during World War I, the NHL stopped admitting professional players. When the league resumed in 1919 only selected amateurs were allowed in. This is when hockey truly began to be seen as a sport rather than a game.

World War II Era (1919-1945)

From World War II until the early 1950s, hockey really didn’t have a chance to shine. The game was either banned or played under difficult circumstances. Banned in many places due to lack of ice and equipment, players would form hockey teams, sometimes consisting of just two or three people, and play in empty barns and churches. In Canada, the league didn’t fully resume operations until after the war, when it awarded full participation and prize money for its championship.

Even when the game started to be seen as a sport again, it still faced many challenges. In Canada, for example, several teams went bankrupt and had to close down their doors. This is because hockey still hadn’t fully recovered from the economic impact of World War II.

Post-war Expansion and Maturing of Hockey (1945-1964)

After World War II, the game continued to grow in popularity around the world. In Canada, the game faced its biggest boom in terms of population yet. In the 1940s, several teams in the country posted perfect seasons, winning all of their games. The 1950s saw the NHL reach its highest point of popularity, with over 1.85 million people regularly attending games during the decade.

The decade of the 1950s also saw some of the most exciting hockey ever played. In 1951, the first purpose-built hockey arena, Maple Leaf Gardens, opened its doors in Toronto. During this time, hockey also started to receive more coverage in mainstream media. It wasn’t just the wealthy elite who could afford to pay for tickets to see a game—the game became accessible to the general public.

The decade of the 1950s was also the time when amateur sport started to receive more investment from the community. This is because after the war amateur sport started to be seen as a pathway to professional success. People started recognizing that talent could be developed at a grassroots level and that there was a future for their sport in professional play.

Hockey Becomes an Olympic Sport (1964-1996)

In the early 1960s, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) started to get behind hockey. In 1964, the Toronto Maple Leafs won the first Olympic gold medal in hockey—this was followed by nine more golds in the next ten years. It was also during this time that the NHL made the decision to admit only Canadian teams into the league, effectively ending the possibility of American teams competing in the Winter Olympics. This was done in the name of fairness, as American teams had also been denied the opportunity to participate in the Olympics due to baseball going missing for a year during World War II.

The 1960s also saw the NHL reach its greatest height of competition, with the average attendance reaching 12,000 per game. This was more than double what it was in the early 1950s. The decade saw the introduction of new rules and the refinement of existing ones, as the game continued to evolve to keep up with the improvements in technology.

One of the most significant events in the history of hockey was the Miracle on Ice in 1980. The USSR had dominated the previous five Olympic tournaments and was expected to repeat its performance. However, during the tournament, the Soviets were upset by a relatively unknown United States team in the semi-finals. This is when the entire world came to know that the USSR could be beat. After the Miracle on Ice the sport of hockey took a back seat to soccer in the USSR, but they have since risen up to reclaim their rightful place as the number one winter sport.

Hockey Becomes Worldwide Popularity (1996-Present)

The popularity of hockey continues to rise around the world. Since the early 2000s, many countries have started to adopt the sport, with the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Poland all establishing national teams. In many other countries, such as China and India, the game is also popular among the country’s younger generations. In North America, particularly in the United States, the sport’s popularity continues to grow among all demographics. Even in places where the game had not previously been as popular, such as Finland and Sweden, teams have started playing the game and it has become an overnight success. This is mainly due to the increased international popularity of mixed martial arts (MMA) and combat sports in general—many consider these sports to be the modern successor to hockey.

Thanks to the XFL taking off and the global financial crisis of 2008, the game had to endure a 16-month hiatus. When the game started again, it was clear that the NHL had changed. Gone were the days of using wooden sticks and pucks—now players used helmets, metal sticks, and nets to protect the goaltenders. Gone also were the days of only fielding one team per city—now many hockey cities, such as Toronto and Vancouver, maintain a “farm team” system, where the best players on their minor-league teams get a chance to play on a daily basis and show off their talents. This opportunity allows for the growth and development of young hockey players, as well as providing spectators with top-notch hockey gameplay.


Hockey evolved from a game played primarily by the rich and powerful back into a mainstream winter sport enjoyed by people of all walks of life. The game continues to grow in popularity around the world and will no doubt continue to enjoy the support of the general public and investment from the community as we look towards the future.

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