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Hockey 's Roots Go Way Back - Part 1 

The National Hockey League seasons come and go. There is always a lot of excitement due to various changes in rules, new players, etc. But the essential nature of the game itself is unchanged.

Many historians say the roots of hockey go back more than 500 years ago in northern Europe where field hockey was a popular summer sport. When the ponds and lakes froze in winter, many athletes took to the ice to engage in another version of their summer sport.

Today hockey has come a long way from the time youngsters in little villages and hamlets of Canada played on frozen lakes and ponds with sticks made from the branches of trees, and pucks formed from frozen "horse apples." Eventually, the sport became an indoor game but its true origins can be traced to youth passing wintertime away outdoors.

Many believe hockey got its name from the French word 'hoquet', which means "shepherd's crook" or "bent stick." The term ice hockey first appeared in newspaper accounts of a contest held at Montreal's Victoria Skating Rink in 1875.

November 22nd marks the 82nd anniversary of the NHL. It was on that date in 1917 that the league was organized in Montreal. Delegates present at the organizational meeting represented the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa and Quebec. Those four clubs, plus the Toronto Arenas, were admitted into the league. Quebec opted not to compete in the first NHL season of 1917-1918.

Hockey was strictly a sport for amateurs until 1904. That year the first professional league was created - and strangely enough in the USA. It was called the International Pro Hockey League and was located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula iron-mining region. That first league lasted for just three years.

In 1910, the National Hockey Association (NHA) came into existence, and was followed by the Pacific Coast League (PCL). There was a transcontinental championship series played by the two leagues with the winner awarded the highly sought after cup of Lord Stanley.

It took a world war (WWI) to throw all of pro hockey into a state of suspension. One of the many products of peace was the National Hockey League that came to stay.

The league's first game was played on December 19, 1917. Playing a 22-game schedule, the NHL picked up on a rule change put into place by the old NHA. It dropped the rover and employed only six players per side.

Toronto was the champion of that first NHL season. In March 1918 it competed against the Pacific Coast League champion Vancouver Millionaires for the Stanley Cup. Toronto won the series three games to two.

The Pacific Coast League went out of business, and by the beginning of the 1926 season the NHL held hockey's center stage all by itself. It divided its 10 teams into two divisions and took control of the Stanley Cup.

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You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

About the Author:

Harvey Frommer is in his  38th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to acclaim in 2011.  The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One. 

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath, The Sporting News, among other publications.

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Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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