The game of hockey wasn’t invented; it evolved and grew slowly and as a result, pinpointing exactly where the game was "born" is impossible. It’s very difficult to ascertain at what point the game that started as an on-ice version of European hurley or bandy became a uniquely Canadian game. The earliest claim of "hockey" being played coming from the town of Windsor, Nova Scotia.

Thomas Chandler Haliburton was born in Windsor in 1796 and attended King’s College School. He would become a judge and a writer in his later years, and it was one of his writings that provided Windsor with its self-proclaimed title as the "birthplace of hockey." Haliburton wrote an article in 1844 about his childhood memories and in his musings he spoke of his time at King’s College shortly after the turn of the century and of boys "(playing) hurley on the Long Pond on the ice." However, the version known as "hockey" wouldn’t surface for another fifty years.

Kingstonian James Thomas Sutherland claimed the first hockey game ever contested took place in his hometown and featured two teams made up of the Roya Read More
The game of hockey wasn’t invented; it evolved and grew slowly and as a result, pinpointing exactly where the game was "born" is impossible. It’s very difficult to ascertain at what point the game that started as an on-ice version of European hurley or bandy became a uniquely Canadian game. The earliest claim of "hockey" being played coming from the town of Windsor, Nova Scotia.

Thomas Chandler Haliburton was born in Windsor in 1796 and attended King’s College School. He would become a judge and a writer in his later years, and it was one of his writings that provided Windsor with its self-proclaimed title as the "birthplace of hockey." Haliburton wrote an article in 1844 about his childhood memories and in his musings he spoke of his time at King’s College shortly after the turn of the century and of boys "(playing) hurley on the Long Pond on the ice." However, the version known as "hockey" wouldn’t surface for another fifty years.

Kingstonian James Thomas Sutherland claimed the first hockey game ever contested took place in his hometown and featured two teams made up of the Royal Canadian Rifles, who were stationed at the British Garrison in Kingston as well as Halifax. The game was said to have been played in the frozen harbour of Kingston in 1855. However, the game featured as many as fifty men to a side, and this large deviation from traditional hockey rules has often been cited as a reason to refute this claim.

James Creighton was born in Halifax in 1850. As a youngster he learned the game of hockey and played often. By 1873, he had relocated to Montreal, and soon after introduced the game there. On March 3rd, 1875, Creighton, and many friends played the first game of organized hockey contested inside a rink. This game featured nine skaters a side and followed "Halifax Rules" written by Creighton himself. Hockey’s Montreal debut was very successful and the game quickly grew in popularity.

Another version of the "origin" came from W.F. Robertson, a student at McGill University in Montreal who, after seeing a field hockey game in England, decided to adapt the sport to ice hoping to keep the McGill football club in shape during the winter months. His version of the game had fifteen men a side, and used a lacrosse ball with the edges cut off as the puck. The fact that his "creation" of the game came four years after James Creighton’s exhibition of "Halifax Rules" hockey makes it difficult to accept Robertson’s game as the origin of hockey.

Many variations of the game were played and experimented with before the definitive version of the game evolved and was enthusiastically embraced by Canadians from coast to coast. From the games played in the early 1800’s in Windsor, hockey spread to Quebec by 1875, then into Kingston, Ontario in 1886, and south to Toronto in 1888. By 1890, the game had arrived in Winnipeg and extended to Victoria, British Columbia becoming a coast-to-coast, truly Canadian game. Hockey was born.

© 2001, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

The Earliest Hockey Matches

At the turn of the century, frozen lakes, ponds and rivers were the exclusive hosts for the earliest hockey matches, featuring men and women.

CHIN

© Hockey Hall of Fame.


James Creighton

James Creighton

CHIN

© Hockey Hall of Fame


McGill University Team

The McGill University team, regarded by many as the first organized hockey team.

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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