When Was Hockey Invented In Canada? [Ultimate Guide!]

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In the middle of the last century hockey (or skii-ing, as it’s known in Canada) came to be an important part of Canadian culture. The sport’s popularity in the country grew immensely during World War II when it became an activity that could be done on a large scale while still allowing for some leisure time. After the war the game continued to grow in popularity as it became available to more and more people. As a result, there are now over 40,000 registered hockey players in America, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

But when was the game actually invented in Canada? And what is the origin of the sport?

Early Roots

The first organized hockey game in Canada was held in Montreal in February 1877, according to the Hockey Hall of Fame. The game was a challenge match between the Montreal Cricket Club and a team of British and French soldiers. The game was so popular that a second match was soon held, this time between the Montreal Victorias and the English army team. However, not everyone in Canada at the time supported the idea of playing hockey – some people thought it was a brutal game that ought to be banned. One editorial in the Ottawa Journal in 1877 described hockey as “a miniature version of war” and questioned whether or not it was a morally acceptable sport to play during the winter.

One of the most interesting things about the early years of hockey in Canada is that many of the games were actually played with a ball rather than a puck. This was most likely due to a lack of ice. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that organized hockey began to be played with a puck.

Pioneers Of The Game

Many people have credited Al Maclaurin, a Scottish immigrant who arrived in Canada in 1854, with bringing hockey to the country. Maclaurin learned to play hockey from his brothers who were members of the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association (MACA), an early incarnation of the modern day NHL. Three of his brothers became professional hockey players, and all of them played for different teams in Canada. Interestingly, in an attempt to learn more about Canadian history, Maclaurin organized a hockey tournament in 1867 to coincide with Canada’s hundredth anniversary. One of the participants in the tournament was George Hodson, who would later become the first professional ice hockey coach in the country. The tournament was extremely well-received and inspired Hodson to create a school for hockey players in Montreal.

In the early 1900s a female hockey league was started in Montreal called the Ladies Professional Hockey League (LPHL). The league was started by the ladies’ fashion magazine The Lady with a view to promoting women’s interest in fashion and lifestyle. However, the game itself proved to be extremely popular, and the team that the magazine sponsored, the Montreal Wanderers, went on to dominate the league for many years. The team was originally composed of professional players, but as the game grew in popularity, women began to play at a higher level as well. While it’s true that the LPHL lost most of its popularity once the Women’s Hockey League (WHL) was formed in Canada in 1910, the tradition of Canadian women playing hockey continues to this day.

Hockey Enters The Military

Hockey has become such a prominent part of the culture in Canada that even the military has gotten into the game. During World War II the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) formed a team called the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Huskies and the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) Husky Teams to play against each other. While the teams were usually made up of professional players, during the war years many amateurs were allowed to play. One of the games that the teams competed in was a three-on-three version of hockey, which gave more room for fighting and skill-testing than the conventional two-on-two. The game was so popular that two more teams were added to the mix in 1943 – the Princess Mary Dartmouth College Institute of Technology and the Bermuda Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Team. The war-time version of hockey has since become a cherished part of Canadian culture, with the three-on-three format now referred to as the “Diefenbaker Cup”. The cup is named after Canada’s longest-serving prime minister, John Diefenbaker. It is currently held by the Royal Military College of Canada.

The Spread Of The Game

After the war many different organizations and schools began promoting hockey. Teams were formed across Canada, and the game grew rapidly in popularity. In fact, the National Hockey League (NHL) began as a merger of several hockey leagues in Canada in 1926. Many people believe that the birth of the NHL can be attributed to Jack McDonald, a coach who helped popularize the game across Canada. McDonald began to make teams based on geographic regions of the country, and the result was the creation of the Western Hockey League in 1926. A year later the Quebec Hockey League and the Maritime Hockey League merged to form the new National Hockey League. The first regular season game of the newly-formed NHL was played on December 18, 1926. While McDonald is most responsible for popularizing hockey in Canada, he wasn’t the first person to do so – the previous winter, a group of hockey enthusiasts from Montreal had begun playing the game, and many of their friends and family members followed suit.

Hockey Lives On

The NHL has since grown to such a large scale that it is often hard to imagine the game’s humble beginnings. Today, the league is made up of 30 teams, and it continues to grow each year, attracting more and more fans. Many people around the world now follow the NHL closely, and it is often considered to be one of the four major sports leagues of America along with the NFL, MLB, and the NBA. On January 19, 2022 the NHL will celebrate its 100th anniversary, which has led to a lot of retrospectives and special events. In the coming weeks the hockey world will come together to celebrate this extraordinary sport.

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