The beauty of the sport as it began to emerge across Canada was its simplicity. All that was needed was ice, which was abundantly available, a stick and, of course, a puck.

Before we arrived at today’s vulcanized rubber puck, hockey games were played with many different objects ranging from India rubber balls to frozen fruit and manure to wooden pucks. The first documented use of a flat disc known as a puck was in Montreal on March 3rd, 1875. By the turn of the century, the puck had arrived. There would be no innovations on the design of the puck until 1996 when the new "FoxTrax" puck was introduced. Fox Television, who, at the time had the NHL television contract, designed the new puck based on the notion that television viewers had difficulty following the puck on broadcasts. The "FoxTrax" puck had a tracking device inside it, and when shown on television, it appeared to glow. Depending on the speed it was travelling at, it also featured a coloured comet trail. The hockey-viewing public did not embrace this new technology and the "FoxTrax" puck, after a much-ridiculed trial, was dropped following the playoffs.


The beauty of the sport as it began to emerge across Canada was its simplicity. All that was needed was ice, which was abundantly available, a stick and, of course, a puck.

Before we arrived at today’s vulcanized rubber puck, hockey games were played with many different objects ranging from India rubber balls to frozen fruit and manure to wooden pucks. The first documented use of a flat disc known as a puck was in Montreal on March 3rd, 1875. By the turn of the century, the puck had arrived. There would be no innovations on the design of the puck until 1996 when the new "FoxTrax" puck was introduced. Fox Television, who, at the time had the NHL television contract, designed the new puck based on the notion that television viewers had difficulty following the puck on broadcasts. The "FoxTrax" puck had a tracking device inside it, and when shown on television, it appeared to glow. Depending on the speed it was travelling at, it also featured a coloured comet trail. The hockey-viewing public did not embrace this new technology and the "FoxTrax" puck, after a much-ridiculed trial, was dropped following the playoffs.


© 2001, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

The Puck

Not much has changed since its inception.

CHIN

© Hockey Hall of Fame


The rules for hockey have remained the same for most of the past century, though there have been several minor changes over the years, most notably the number of players on the ice. In the early days, there were seven players a side. The seventh player, the rover, covered all areas of the ice and was the top player on the team.

The ice surface, with its many markings indicating different rules and zones developed as the rules for the game evolved. Hockey’s first rules were known as the "Halifax Rules" but with the game’s rapid growth in Montreal, these were soon replaced by "Montreal Rules." The game originally consisted of two thirty-minute halves, but was soon altered to three twenty-minute periods. By 1917-18, goalies were allowed to drop to their knees to stop a shot.

The blueline and assists were introduced in 1918-19. After that, forward passing was slowly introduced to the game, zone by zone.

In 1937 the goal line was added, allowing the icing rule to go on the books. A few seasons later the red line, also known as the "center" line, was added to help reduce offside calls and speed up the game. Once th Read More

The rules for hockey have remained the same for most of the past century, though there have been several minor changes over the years, most notably the number of players on the ice. In the early days, there were seven players a side. The seventh player, the rover, covered all areas of the ice and was the top player on the team.

The ice surface, with its many markings indicating different rules and zones developed as the rules for the game evolved. Hockey’s first rules were known as the "Halifax Rules" but with the game’s rapid growth in Montreal, these were soon replaced by "Montreal Rules." The game originally consisted of two thirty-minute halves, but was soon altered to three twenty-minute periods. By 1917-18, goalies were allowed to drop to their knees to stop a shot.

The blueline and assists were introduced in 1918-19. After that, forward passing was slowly introduced to the game, zone by zone.

In 1937 the goal line was added, allowing the icing rule to go on the books. A few seasons later the red line, also known as the "center" line, was added to help reduce offside calls and speed up the game. Once the red line was added, the rink began to resemble the surface we know to day and the modern era had begun. After the center line, for the most part the surface and rules stayed the same.

The ice was painted white, giving it the look of today, and the goal line moved out a few times.


© 2001, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

The Ice Surface

1997-98: Goal line moved two feet further out from back boards.

CHIN

© 2001, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.


As for the rules, the next change came with an equipment innovation. The curved hockey stick was created by accident. Blackhawk Stan Mikita broke his stick in practice in 1961 and was surprised to discover that it added some zip to his shot. Soon Mikita and teammate Bobby Hull were experimenting with all sorts of curves ranging from slight bends to cartoonish hooks. Hull and Mikita’s high-scoring ways made believers of many and the league soon put a limit on the permitted curvature of the stick. It would take several years before controversy would surface again with the "in the crease" rule that led to many goals being overturned, upon video review, for an opposing player’s presence in the goalies crease. This rule hit a boiling point when the 1999 Stanley Cup final was decided by a Brett Hull goal that was seemingly scored with his foot in the crease. The rule was revised that summer.

The only other major change was the decision to go to a four-on-four overtime in 1999. Each team would be awarded a point for the regulation tie and an additional point for a goal scored in overtime.  

Most rules are changed to reflect a necessary d Read More

As for the rules, the next change came with an equipment innovation. The curved hockey stick was created by accident. Blackhawk Stan Mikita broke his stick in practice in 1961 and was surprised to discover that it added some zip to his shot. Soon Mikita and teammate Bobby Hull were experimenting with all sorts of curves ranging from slight bends to cartoonish hooks. Hull and Mikita’s high-scoring ways made believers of many and the league soon put a limit on the permitted curvature of the stick. It would take several years before controversy would surface again with the "in the crease" rule that led to many goals being overturned, upon video review, for an opposing player’s presence in the goalies crease. This rule hit a boiling point when the 1999 Stanley Cup final was decided by a Brett Hull goal that was seemingly scored with his foot in the crease. The rule was revised that summer.

The only other major change was the decision to go to a four-on-four overtime in 1999. Each team would be awarded a point for the regulation tie and an additional point for a goal scored in overtime.  

Most rules are changed to reflect a necessary development in the game. However, there is one example where a rule was changed specifically because of one team. Originally, if a team was assessed a penalty, it served the duration of the penalty regardless of goals scored against. That would change.

The Montreal Canadiens of the mid-fifties were a truly dominant team, winning five straight Cups to cap the decade. Their offence was so potent that giving them a power-play almost certainly led to disastrous results. The Canadiens were able to ice players like Maurice and Henri Richard, "Boom Boom" Geoffrion, Doug Harvey and Jean Beliveau. It was not uncommon for the Canadiens to score multiple goals in a single power-play. As a result, the rule was changed in ’56-’57 allowing the offending player to return to the ice following a goal.


© 2001, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Bobby Hull & Stan Mikita

Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita pose with their handiwork.

CHIN

© Hockey Hall of Fame


Learning Objectives

The learner will:

  • Investigate the role that hockey plays in Canada’s national identity
  • Explore the history of hockey in Canada
  • Investigate how the evolution of hockey equipment used by Canadian hockey players improved the quality and safety of the game.
  • Explore the evolution of the rules of hockey in Canada
  • Identify significant people involved in hockey in Canada
  • Identify historically significant arenas and rinks in Canada
  • Describe the involvement over time of Aboriginal peoples in hockey

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