Ice hockey originated in Canada in the early 19th century, based on several similar sports in Europe. However, the word “hockey” comes from the old French word “hocquet”, meaning “stick”. Around 1860, a puck was substituted for a ball. In 1879, two McGill University students, Robertson and Smith, devised the first rules.
THE STANLEY CUP
The first recognized team, the McGill University Hockey Club, was formed in 1880 as hockey became a Canadian national sport and spread throughout the country. In 1892, the Governor-General of Canada donated the Stanley Cup, which was first won by a team representing the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association.
The sport migrated south to the United States during the 1890s. Games are known to have taken place there between Johns Hopkins and Yale Universities in 1895. Ice hockey spread to Europe around the turn of the century, and the first Olympic Games to include ice hockey for men was the Olympic Summer Games Antwerp 1920.
Six-a-side men’s ice hockey has been on the programme of every edition of the Winter Olympic Games since 1924 in Chamonix. Women’s ice hockey was accepted as an Olympic sport in 1992 and made its official debut in 1998 in Nagano. Unsurprisingly, Canada dominated the first tournaments. However, in 1956, and until its dissolution, the Soviet Union took over and became the number one team. It was only interrupted by USA victories in 1960 at Squaw Valley and 1980 at Lake Placid. A final that has remained in the annals of sport and beyond, also in the light of its political as well as sporting implications: the Americans, surprise winners against the Russian masters, still remember it as 'The Miracle on Ice'. Since the mid-1990s, Sweden and the Czech Republic have joined the ranks of countries capable of winning gold medals. In contrast, Canada has triumphed in three of the last five Olympic tournaments.