Hockey History

ice hockey history

Hockey is an extremely historic game that has been played for hundreds of years. Originally from Windsor, Canada, hockey developed as a North American game that has since spread worldwide. Hockey began as a sport that was played with nine vs. nine on a team, with a wooden puck that was to be scored in a net and minimal personal protective equipment for players. The game originated as a variation of the similar stickball game known as hurling, evolving into ice hurling when it was moved onto the ice. The sport eventually stuck with its more formal name of ice hockey.

Timeline of Hockey

  • 1700-1800: The first hockey game is played in the British Isles and in Nova Scotia, Canada. It spreads west via British soldiers stationed in the Great Lakes.
  • 1875: James Creighton creates organized hockey in Montreal, Canada.
  • 1917: The National Hockey League (NHL) is formed.
  • 1917-1942: The NHL creates the Original Six teams.
  • 1958: Willie O’Ree became the first African American player in the NHL.
  • 1967: The NHL expands to 12 teams. 
  • 1970-1974: The NHL expands to 18 teams.
  • 1979: The NHL merges with the World Hockey Association (WHA), expanding to 21 teams.
  • 1991-2000: The NHL expands to 30 teams.
  • 2004-2005: NHL lockout lasts the entire season, resulting in major rules changes for the gameplay, salary cap, and revenue sharing.
  • 2016: The NHL expands to 31 teams with the addition of the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
  • 2021: The NHL expands to its current roster of 32 teams with the addition of the Seattle Kraken.

Creator of Hockey

The creator of modern hockey was James Creighton, the captain of the first regular hockey club to be formed in Canada. Creighton was key in organizing and putting on annual matches against other semi-organized clubs in the Quebec area.

James Creighton was first introduced to hockey after seeing it played in his native Halifax and participated in nearly every recorded game in the first years of organized hockey being played in Montreal. He was a coach for the first people that started playing the game and helped introduce the first set of rules. 

Creighton played the game until he turned 40, though he continued to enjoy ice skating as a hobby after he stopped playing hockey. Moreover, Creighton was also very accomplished aside from what he did for hockey, as he earned a law degree and worked numerous jobs from railway surveyor to author.


When was hockey first played?

Ice hockey’s official origins, according to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), is that the first official ice hockey game was played in Montreal, Canada, in 1875.

The modern game of hockey was first played on ice ponds in Windsor, Nova Scotia, in the early 1800s. This then spread west in Canada through the help of British soldiers who brought the game with them to the Great Lakes region, where they would play it.

When were the first rules established for hockey?

Modern ice hockey’s first rules were published in the Montreal Gazette in 1877. While many of hockey’s main concepts were present in the original rules, the game has developed significantly since then by implementing and removing a variety of rules.

Where did hockey come from?

Hockey itself has a long history and many believe it originated from ball and stick games in the British Isles, including hurling from Ireland, shinty from Scotland, and bandy in England. Although there was a lot of influence from these games in the British Isles, ice hockey had its key developments of the modern game come from Canada, as the “Canadian rules” dominate international ice hockey today. 

When did hockey become an Olympic sport?

Ice hockey first became an Olympic sport in 1920 at the Summer Olympic Games in Antwerp, Belgium. In 1924, it was officially moved to the Winter Olympics and has remained a prominent Winter Olympic sport ever since. The first women’s Olympic ice hockey events were added for the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan.

What year was the NHL formed?

The National Hockey League was formed in November of 1917. The NHL started with six original teams and has expanded up to 32 teams in the years since.

What are the Original Six teams in hockey?

The “Original Six” are the six franchises that were a part of the NHL from 1942 to 1967, before the league expanded to 12 teams. The teams in the original six included the Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, and Toronto Maple Leafs. Although all of these teams were not the first members of the NHL, they are known as the Original Six because they were the first teams in the “Modern Era” of the NHL, which started in 1942.

What were the first hockey teams in the NHL?

In 1917, leaders of four hockey clubs met to form the National Hockey League. The first teams in the NHL were the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Hockey Club, and Quebec Hockey Club.