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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Who Started Hockey Anyway?!?!

What is hockey? The Society for International Hockey Research has issued a definition meant to accommodate early forms of the activity: Hockey is a game played on an ice rink in which two opposing teams of skaters, using curved sticks, try to drive a small disc, ball or block into or through the opposite goals.

It is as simple as that. There is no reference to rules. I personally accept hockey as any pastime where participants on ice skates use a club, or other wooden implement, to knock a puck or some such propellant around the ice. Others say an activity cannot be recognized as hockey unless it is a contest between teams and conducted under an accepted set of rules. On most days I would have said "Screw the rules". However, as a referee I can not say that anymore. Andy would make sure of that. Games bearing some resemblance to hockey are known to have taken place in Europe as early as the sixteenth century. A painting by Pietr Bruegel entitled "Hunters in the Snow" (circa 1565), depicts skaters carrying curved sticks. One of these figures is about to fire off the first slap shot with a small object on the ice. We have suspicions that it was VJ's "Team Elder" John Lawerence, but they are just suspicions. He was probably too young to be on the ice back then.

The earliest skate blades were fashioned from animal bones. If they were trying to play hockey, can you imagine the panic that caused when they fell and one of those animal bones went sliding across the ice? "Shit JD! "Is that from your shoulder?!?!" That is likely why polished iron blades were used after that in the 1500s.

So, modern research points to North America as the region where the idea of hockey as a sport came from. Versions of the game are said to have happened in New York and Newfoundland as early as the late eighteenth century. The International Ice Hockey Federation has endorsed a longstanding Montréal claim. It is based on documented evidence, in newspapers, of a specific game between two teams of identified members and a recorded score. The match was played at the city's Victoria Rink on March 3, 1875. No earlier descriptions of an actual game of hockey with a recorded score have ever been found. But to make it official, it ended in a brawl and there was beer on hand. We think John was likely there and involved some way. We just can't prove it...