When Was Hockey Introduced In The Olympics? [Facts!]

Spread the love

While the Winter Olympics have been going on in PyeongChang, South Korea, since Friday, it has not been a popular sport in the country. Perhaps surprisingly, the country that is most synonymous with ice hockey is also one of the most successful winter sports countries in the world. For years, Canadians have wondered how Korea became so good at hockey. The answer is quite simple: the country introduced the sport to the Olympics in the 1930s.

Here, we’re going to take a look at when and how hockey was introduced to the Olympics.

Early Years

Hockey was first played at the Olympic level in 1928. There were just 12 countries participating in the inaugural Winter Olympics, and since then, the number of teams at the Winter Olympics has more than doubled. With the increase in teams and more competitive levels, the time of day that the game is played changes: early morning and late afternoon games are common while night-time hockey is a thing of the past. As a result of the increase in popularity and mainstream acceptance, we can see a change in the sport’s look as well. Gone are the days of using ice skates and sticks, and in their place are shiny new sets of wheels. In fact, in some countries, ice hockey became so popular that they replaced ice skating as the preferred winter sport.

Korea was one of the first countries to take up hockey. The first inter-Korean games were played in the late 1960s, and as a result, hockey has become a significant part of the country’s culture. In 2019, there are 22 teams in the country, compared to 12 in 1928. This means that there is an increase of almost 50% in the number of teams and participants since the first Winter Olympics. The main difference is that in 2019, the games are being played at a high level—the KHL, for example, has five teams from the country, and two of them have qualified for the playoffs so far.

The 1930s

The first official International Ice Hockey Federation (FIH) World Cup was held in October 1930, just two months after the first Winter Olympics. There were four participating teams, and Canada was the clear leader on the ice, winning the cup with ease. The Canadian men’s team went on to win the first-ever World Ice Hockey Championships two months later, and have won the tournament every year since. Canada also won the first-ever World Women’s Ice Hockey Championship in 2019, and took home the trophy for the third year in a row.

The same year as the first World Cup and first-ever Worlds, Germany also announced that it was introducing hockey to the Olympics. The German team won every game it played in the tournament, and eventually took home the gold. It’s likely that Germany’s introduction to the sport influenced the decision to include it in the Olympics. After all, it was the first major sport to be added after the country made the decision to join the organisation. Moreover, as Germany was a member of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (O.I.F), which later became the Union des Football Nations (U.N.F.N.), the choice of hockey as an Olympic sport made sense. The majority of the players on the German team were members of the O.I.F., and the idea was to continue playing hockey in Francophone France, and across the English-speaking world. The first German hockey team trained in Frankfurt am Main, and the first German Olympic hockey team was formed in April 1931.

The 1940s

Between the two World Wars, hockey experienced something of a golden era. The games were often played at night and attracted large crowds. There were also a lot of informal games and leagues that formed between amateur and professional teams. One of the best matches during this time was the Canada vs Sweden match of December 4, 1942. The two countries had never been on good terms, and this was to be a game that summed up the bitterness of the past. The score was 3-2 to Canada after four hours of play, and the partisan crowd went wild. When the clock reached its inevitable end, the Canadian fans stormed the ice in celebration, while the Swedes were furious that the match was over. The game was never finished, and it went to a seventh minute. Several fights broke out before the match was finally called a draw.

Hockey was a common sport for both men and women in the 1940s, and the games were often played on outdoor rinks. In fact, many teams picked up where they left off before the World Wars, playing in informal leagues or tournaments. During the 1940s, hockey featured heavily in Canadian cinema. Numerous movies were shot in the country and showcased the exciting sport to the world. Some of the most memorable hockey scenes were in the 1942 film, Hockey Story, starring Richard Cromwell and Margaret Sullavan. In the film, the former U.S. President Calvin Coolidge is shown playing hockey, and in another scene, he is seen coaching a group of children to play the game. In the scene, it’s implied that Coolidge had a stroke after the game, although it’s not clearly stated in the film.

Hockey was one of the first sports to be showcased at the Commonwealth Games. In fact, it was one of the very first organised sports in the history of the Games. The first Commonwealth Hockey Championship was held in London in April 1945, with just three teams participating. That same year, the first women’s hockey tournament was held in London, and it was followed by a second tournament a year later. The popularity of the sport grew significantly after its inclusion in the Games, and in the next few years, the number of hockey players in the country more than doubled. Between the wars, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States were the dominant countries in international hockey, and many players and coaches from that era are still considered among the best of all time.

The 1950s

The popularity of the game increased in the post-war era, and with it, the number of countries playing the game. New York City became the centre of the hockey universe in the 1950s, with the introduction of the ice hockey courts, and subsequent boom in the sport. Crowds of spectators came from across the US to watch the exciting sport, and over one million people packed into Madison Square Garden to watch the U.S. men’s team play. One of the most memorable matches of the era was the semifinal game between Canada and the U.S. on March 2, 1955. The game was tied at 1-1 after regulation time, and went to a sudden-death overtime. In the end, Canada won the match 3-2, setting up a rematch with the U.S. two weeks later. The game was once again held at MSG, and this time, Canada won handily, 6-2, setting up a date with the reigning world champions, the Soviet Union. The series was nicknamed the ‘Ice Bowl’ due to the Canadian and American teams playing in sub-zero temperatures.

Hockey experienced something of a revival in the 1950s, and a lot of the credit has to go to the Canadians. Their national team won back-to-back World Cups in 1954 and 1955, with the bulk of its players being members of the Kootenay region of British Columbia. The national team has been credited with popularising the sport among the general public. Players like Bobby Orr, who won gold with Canada in both the World Cups, were household names in the country, and both men and women began to see hockey as a suitable sport for everyone. In fact, the popularity of the game increased so much that the Montreal Canadiens reached an agreement with the NHL to adopt the Winter Olympic Games as its winter sports league. This is what led to the formation of the Winter Olympics in 1968. While the Winter Games were initially seen as a way of bringing the benefits of the Winter season to Canada, the country has developed a huge following in the rest of the world as well. The games have since been held every four years, and have become an event that is watched not only by ice hockey fans but by audiences around the world.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!