While I am sure that almost everyone knows what hockey is and how it’s played, I’m not sure that a lot of people actually know how old a sport hockey really is. Believe it or not – games that include sticks and pucks existed even in Egypt; There is evidence recording such games being played in 4000 BC! And Egypt isn’t the only place such games were recorded in – there was also Ethiopia, later on both the Greek and the Roman empire and with their falls, the game carried on onto the countries that were created after the fall of the empires.
Did the game change in any way from its original form?
Yes, it did – the hockey we love and watch now is a variant of the game that originated from Egypt; namely, this was the variant the English people played in the 17th century! And believe it or not, it was played on ice – as it would often happen that the ponds and lake would freeze, creating the perfect field for the game. What’s really interesting though, is that there would usually be up to 100 players on the field! (The number of players decreased over time as there were many, many injuries being reported.)
How did it get its name?
Like with everything that is used in multiple countries, hockey had different names in every country it was played in. But the name hockey was first recorded in Ireland in the 16th century (it was written as hockie) and it is believed that it originated from a French word for the “shepherd’s crook” – probably the tool hockey was played with in the beginning of hockey games in Ireland.
How did it become a professional sport?
Hockey was considered an amateur sport up until the beginning of the 20th century. At the turn of the 20th century, people in the US (and not in the UK – even though it practically bloomed over there) created the first professional league for hockey games which was called International Pro Hockey League. The IPHL was created in 1904, and after that, there blossomed many more professional leagues, especially in the US. One might say that it’s in the 20th century that the US became obsessed with hockey! This love for hockey was so huge that its popularity sent it off to the Olympic games no sooner after the creation of its first professional league.
Does that mean that hockey has been in the Olympic games lineup since the 20th century?
Well, yes and no! Hockey was first seen at the Olympic games at the beginning of the first decade of the 20th century – to be precise, in the year 1908. Afterwards, it was being dropped and re-invited to certain Olympic games, and it took a long time for it to become an irreplaceable Olympic sport.