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History of Hockey in Canada Essay

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Updated: Sep 27th, 2019


Sports have been one of the main aspects through which some countries have gained their recognition. Some countries are found to be good in certain sports activity with respect to others and this is usually used to give them identity worldwide. For example in athletics and especially long races, Kenya has been seen to dominate. This is still observed in hockey as Canada has always performed better than other countries.

Hockey is commonly regarded as the national game in Canada, and the importance of this sport is rather high. On the one hand, this defines the national identity of the Canadians and forms a healthy habit for those who admire this kind of sport.

Actually, hockey is a serious reason for national pride in Canada, and there are some instances in history, when the hockey background defined the national status of Canada in international negotiations. The aim of the paper is to describe the significance of this sport for Canada from the perspective of national identity, as well as its effects on international relations. 1


Hockey is an example of a game which is both indoor and outdoor and whose popularity is high all over the world. This game is usually played by two teams who usually try to score each other. The game can be played by people of both genders. Most commonly, the game is played by teams consisting of one gender although the two genders can be incorporated together in one team.

The game can be played on various play grounds such as ice and natural grass among other. The field on which the game is played or the location such as beach usually gives rise to the various types of hockey. The playing of this game usually takes into account the physical challenge such as disabilities and giving such people a chance to participate in it.

History of Hockey in Canada

The hockey game was found to originate in some countries in Asia as well as northern Africa. In these countries the game was played using the locally available materials to the residents such as sticks. In Canada the game is believed to have been brought in by the European colonies.

It is believed that they are the one who took field hockey to Canada. In the 19th century some residents of Canada were found to play a game on the ice. This game has evolved and is recognized as ice hockey in the modern days. This thus shows that this game originated in some parts of Canada.

Toward the end of the 18th century, the game had attracted some followers who even included the queen. Due to the affection to the game, a trophy was bought. By then the infrastructure in Canada was not well established.

The improvement of the infrastructure acted as a great weapon for the spread of hockey to other parts of Canada especially the west. As time passed by it was observed that most of the people were attracted to ice hockey instead of field hockey.

In the awake of the 19th century, the number of players in a hockey match from one team had reduced from nine to seven and there were some modification on the rule and regulations governing the game.

The game had improved with the use of nets being present. This helped to avoid conflicts on whether there had been some scoring in some cases. It also allowed efficient time management by during the game by regulating the rolling of the ball after scoring.

Actually, the aspect of the root source of hockey in Canada gives rise to lots of discussions and arguments as there is no definite answer where hockey was played first in Canada. The clubs appeared in different times in different cities, and each notable hockey city, such as Montreal, Halifax, or Kingston claims to be the first. This thus brings difficulty in understanding the exact origin of hockey in Canada.

To ensure good governance and development of the game in Canada on the already established clubs such as Montreal, an overseeing body equipped with the rules and regulations was established.

The association which was known as Amateur Hockey Association of Canada initially covered a smaller area of Canada but with time it expanded and was able to cover the other parts. This helped in maintaining uniformity in the games played by the different clubs.

To increase motivation to the players and ensure the continuous development of the game, some leagues were introduced. These leagues gave the players a chance to gauge their fitness in the game so that they would make the necessary improvements. This was also attributed to the continuous changes provided to the rules governing the game.

In Canada, the game was divided into two groups; professional and amateurs. In the recent times there has been improvement in the hockey with great attention coming from minor teams. This has attracted more young people into the game.

The presence of different financing organizations has enabled the continuous advancement in management as well as field performance in Canada. Currently, the central organization is Hockey Canada, that was formed in 1968, which was created in order to amateur, university and professional leagues. 2

Due to the establishment of the game at early stages of development of the children, they grow up being well equipped with the necessary skills required. This usually places Canada at a better position to compete with other countries. There are some institutions that usually train the children when they are as young as 12 years. In such cases there are challenges that usually face the development of hockey field.

At that age the children and the parents are usually attached to each other too much. This thus brings the inconvenience incase the children is to be taken to a different place for the training. These problems have been there since the establishment of these academies. To overcome it there have been continuous education on the parents.

Importance of Hockey for Canada

The significance of this game for Canadians was clearly shown by astronaut Marc Garneau, who took his hockey puck and stick with him. This revealed the fact that hockey is valued all over the country, and few Canadians stay ignorant when their favorite teams are involved into ice duels.

Although the game is mainly played during winter, it can be played throughout the year with some games taken in-door. The game provides recreation to all the people irrespective of their age. To avoid the occurrence of injuries, proper clothing is used by the players.

Recreation is good for both mental and physiological relaxation. Thus this form of relaxation usually has more good returns than one could actually quantize. It is observed that people who do not always spend all their time working but usually allocate some to some form of recreation are usually healthier. On the other side playing hockey is a form of physical exercise which is still very important in human health.

Hockey is found to play a significant role on the social life of people. When there are hockey games to be played, there are so many spectators who avail themselves. When these people come together, they usually chat with each other on issues concerning the game as well as other spheres of life. This usually improves interaction between them.

The people usually get a chance to make various friends who are usually useful in various sectors of life in future. In the case of international games, the interaction between the various states players and other stakeholders are crucial in improving international relations. The various players learn about the others and their interaction are gain more knowledge on different economic and social aspects.

Several facts are given by Holman (2009)3. Hence, it is stated that the six central NHL teams generate up to $ 200 million annually in taxes for the government. NHL teams have improved the reputations of their home towns. These taxes are used to develop other sectors of the country.

This leads to the development of other departments which are either directly affiliated to the game or not. When the events of hosting such tournament are in a country, the country usually benefit from improved tourism as well as business activities between the residents and the visitors.

The growth and development of hockey in Canada has created a lot of job opportunities. These include the large number of players, coaches as well as the support team. The resources received by these people usually assist others either directly or indirectly. This enables the citizens to meet their needs.

The excess money is usually invested and is usually very useful in the economic development of the country. Up to eleven thousand people are employed in the sphere of hockey. This has led to the incorporation of hockey in school education. Children are studying the history of hockey in schools, and most schools have skating rinks for physical education lessons.

Hockey is a lifestyle for Canadians, as it is everywhere 24/7. As Jenish (1998, p. 312)4 stated:

Hockey has influenced the lives of Canadians. Love it or hate it, you cannot escape it. At sunrise, the morning paper and radio broadcasts provide all Canadian homes with information and statistics on the game played the night before.

Television allows fans to watch games, sometimes with a better view of the action than if they had been there themselves. Drivers should be on the lookout for the many young people playing hockey in the street. Even our language has borrowed expressions from hockey, for example, when someone is retiring they are said to be hanging up their skates.

The effect of hockey on international relations is associated with reputations of international NHL teams. Nevertheless, the most notable international event in hockey world is the summit series in 1972. These events exceeded the sports frames, as politics was also involved into the contests. The cold war circumstances could not allow this event to be held in precisely sport frames.

Therefore, the contests were regarded as the necessity to protect the reputation of the States. Hence, inconveniences, messes, and even conflicts were involved into the course of the series: arrest of Soviet team’s equipment, mess in training schedule of the Canadian team, suspects in overseeing and overhearing the hotel rooms, etc.

Nevertheless, both sides showed perfect techniques and strategies, and, in spite of the loss of the Soviet team in the series, the reputation of the Soviet Union increased essentially. Hence, as Gruneau and Whitson (1993, p. 45)5 emphasized: “Canadians went from scoffing at their [Soviet] antiquated equipment and strange training methods and practices, to admiration for their talent and conditioning.”

The contest in general was rather tense; nevertheless, players did their best from both sides. Actually, this was the contest which was followed by the entire world. It was a unique series. It was unique by the subject: the results of the contest that lasts for 480 minutes, or 28 800 seconds of pure gaming time had been defined by the 34 seconds till the final siren of the eighth and the last match of the series.

This was the hockey of the highest level. Every duel of Canadian and Soviet teams collected nearly 100 million watchers in Soviet Union, and up to 25 million in Canada and the USA, let alone several millions of fans all over Europe. 6

A lot has been already written about that series, and a lot has never been, and, probably, will never be written or stated.

Anyway, this series was of great significance for Canada and for the USSR, and, regardless of the victory in the series, Canadians felt that there was a worthy contestant for them in the game that was considered purely Canadian. The clubs should be funded to ensure continuous development competition encouraged through trophies as it usually leads to continuous development.

In order to ensure the continuous growth and development of hockey in Canada, there should be good cooperation between the stakeholders. The children should be taught the game from early age to ensure that they have good experience when they grow up.


Finally, it should be stated that the actual importance of this game is defined by Canadians themselves. They adore hockey and that is why they attribute so much value to it. Kids are growing in the atmosphere of love to hockey, and do not mention how they start loving it themselves.

The evolution of the hockey in Canada has been good and the game yield good results to the country currently and still shows good prospects for the future. The good infrastructure and the presence of good management by the hockey organization have contributed significantly to the continuous evolvement and development of the game since the 18th century.

Annotated Bibliography

Gruneau, Richard S., and David, Whitson. Hockey night in Canada: sport, identities, and cultural politics. Toronto: Garamond Press, 1993.

Hockey night is the research and memories dedicated to the hockey history and hockey destiny of Canada. Considering the fact that identity is the key value of hockey for all of Canadians, the author of the book aims at describing the attitude towards hockey, as well as its significance for Canada and its citizens.

Holman, Andrew C. Canada’s game: Hockey and identity. Montreal al: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009.

Hockey is the number one thing that is associated with Canada. That is why Andrew Holman is aimed at defining the key reasons of Canadian identity, and explains why it is associated with hockey. It is impossible to imagine that Canada will stop playing hockey, therefore, the book is written in order to give the idea of its importance.

Jenish, D’Arcy, and Michael Benedict. Canada on ice: 50 years of great hockey. Toronto: Viking, 1998.

History of hockey in Canada is the additional reason for pride. It was invented in Canada, the first game was played in Canada, and Canada is regarded as the country of Hockey geniuses. Consequently, it will be a shame for the entire country if Canada loses its top ranking in the world.

Macintosh, Donald, Thomas Bedecki, and C. E. S. Franks. Sport and politics in Canada: federal government involvement since 1961. Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1987.

Cold War was a period of total interference of politics and security services into every sphere of life. Hockey was not an exception, especially when it became the ring for defining the top ranking between USSR and Canada. Donald Macintosh describes the history of federal control over hockey since 1961.

Macintosh, Donald, and David Whitson. The game planners: transforming Canada’s sport system. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1990.

Sport system needs to be evolving in order to challenge the circumstances. Therefore, evolution of hockey system in Canada is of particular importance, as it has been developing since the creation of Amateur league in 1914, and lasts till nowadays.

Pagnucco, Frank. Heroes: Stars of hockey’s golden era. Scarborough, Ont.: Prentice-Hall Canada, 1985.

Golden era of hockey is the reason for nostalgic memories for most Canadians, and not only Canadians. In fact, this was the epoch of extensive hockey development, as the team had a worthy contestant.


1 Pagnucco, Frank. Heroes: stars of hockey’s golden era. Scarborough, Ont.: Prentice-Hall Canada, 1985.

2 Macintosh, Donald, Thomas Bedecki, and C. E. S. Franks. Sport and politics in Canada: federal government involvement since 1961. Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1987.

3 Holman, Andrew C. Canada’s game: hockey and identity. Montreal al: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009.

4 Jenish, D, and Michael Benedict. Canada on ice: 50 years of great hockey. Toronto: Viking, 1998.

5 Gruneau, Richard S., and David Whitson. Hockey night in Canada: sport, identities, and cultural politics. Toronto: Garamond Press, 1993.

6 Macintosh, Donald, and David Whitson. The game planners: transforming Canada’s sport system. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1990.

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