Is a game between two teams, each usually having six players, who wear skates and compete on an ice rink. The object is to propel a vulcanized rubber disk, the puck, past a goal line and into a net guarded by a goaltender, or goalie. With its speed and its frequent physical contact, ice hockey has become one of the most popular of international sports. The game is an Olympic sport, and worldwide there are more than a million registered players performing regularly in leagues. It is perhaps Canada’s most popular game.
Until the mid-1980s it was generally accepted that ice hockey derived from English field hockey and Indian lacrosse and was spread throughout Canada by British soldiers in the mid-1800s. Research then turned up mention of a hockeylike game, played in the early 1800s in Nova Scotia by the Mi’kmaq (Micmac) Indians, which appeared to have been heavily influenced by the Irish game of hurling; it included the use of a “hurley” (stick) and a square wooden block instead of a ball. It was probably fundamentally this game that spread throughout Canada via Scottish and Irish immigrants and the British army. The players adopted elements of field hockey, such as the “bully” (later the face-off) and “shinning” (hitting one’s opponent on the shins with the stick or playing with the stick on one “shin” or side); this evolved into an informal ice game later known as shinny or shinty.
The National Hockey Association (NHA), the forerunner of the National Hockey League (NHL), was organized in 1910 and became the strongest hockey association in North America. Rising interest in the game created problems, however, for there were few artificial-ice rinks. In 1911 the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) was formed by Joseph Patrick and his sons, who built two enclosed artificial-ice arenas, beginning a boom in the construction of artificial-ice rinks.
The PCHA became involved in a money and player war with the NHA. Although the NHA ultimately emerged as the stronger league, it was the PCHA that introduced many of the changes that improved the game. The only radical rule change adopted by the NHA was to reduce the number of players on a side to six, and that move was made to save money. The western league retained seven-man hockey, but it allowed the goalie to leap or dive to stop the puck. Under the previous rules, a goalie had had to remain stationary when making a save. The western league also changed the offside rule. Under the old rules, a player had been deemed offside if he was ahead of the puck carrier when he received a pass. The PCHA divided the ice into three zones by painting two blue lines across the surface and allowed forward passing in the centre zone between the blue lines. This opened up the game and made it more exciting. Another innovation in the western league was the idea of the assist. Previously, only the goal scorer had been credited with a point. In the PCHA the player or players who set up his goal were credited with an assist. The first numbered uniforms also appeared in their league.