Skip to main content
Select Source:

Hockey

HOCKEY

HOCKEY in the United States originated during the summer of 1894. American and Canadian college students participating in a tennis tournament in Niagara Falls, Canada, learned that during the winter months they played different versions of the same game. The Canadians played hockey, the Americans a game they called "ice polo." Boasting of their prowess, the students challenged each other to a competition. In a series of matches staged that next winter in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, and Kingston, the Canadians won all the hockey games and managed to tie two of the ice polo contests. Within a few years American colleges and amateur clubs along the Eastern Seaboard had forsaken ice polo for hockey.

At approximately the same time, Minnesotans learned about hockey from their neighbors in Manitoba; players from the upper peninsula of Michigan also challenged Canadians in hockey games. The debut of the Western Pennsylvania and Interscholastic Hockey leagues brought hockey also to Pittsburgh and its environs. By the turn of the twentieth century, hockey had become popular in three separate regions of the United States.

Early Leagues

In 1904, a northern Michigan dentist named J. L. Gibson found enough eager investors from mining companies to form the first professional hockey league. Although the International Professional Hockey League (IPHL) enjoyed some success, it survived only three seasons, disappearing in 1907.

Two years later, in 1909, mining entrepreneur Michael John O'Brien and his son Ambrose joined forces with P. J. Doran, owner of the Montreal Wanderers whose team had been excluded from the Canadian Hockey Association (CHA), to organize the National Hockey Association (NHA), the immediate predecessor of the National Hockey League (NHL). When the NHA began play on 5 January 1910, it had five teams based in three small Ontario towns, Colbalt, Haileybury, and Renfrew, and two teams in Montreal, the Wanderers and an all French-Canadian squad known as Les Canadiens.


So popular did the NHA become that it competed effectively against the CHA. When representatives of the rival leagues met to discuss a merger, NHA officials agreed to take only two clubs from the CHA, the Ottawa Senators and the Montreal Shamrocks, causing the collapse of the CHA. The now seven-team NHA became the top professional hockey league in North America.

Because they could not afford to neglect the family business in British Columbia to play hockey in eastern Canada, Frank and Lester Patrick left the NHA and founded the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) in 1911. The PCHA carried out innovations in the rules and style of play that have been incorporated into the modern game, such as tabulating assists (the NHA did the same in 1913), permitting goaltenders to sprawl to make saves (the NHA required them to remain standing), and adding blue lines to divide the ice into zones (the NHA left the ice surface unmarked). PCHA rules also permitted the players to pass the puck forward while in the neutral zone, whereas the NHA permitted only backward passing and required skaters to carry the puck (that is, to push the puck along the ice with their sticks) toward the opponent's goal. In 1913 the NHA and the PCHA agreed to play an annual five-game series to determine the championship of professional hockey and claim the coveted Stanley Cup, named for Lord Frederick Arthur Stanley, the governor-general of Canada.

The Advent of the National Hockey League

During the World War I the NHA teams lost players to military service, attendance declined, and owners reduced salaries. With so many players in the armed forces, the NHA board of directors voted to dismantle their partnership and, in November 1917, reorganized as the National Hockey League. The National Hockey League inaugurated play on 19 December 1917as a four-team circuit, with the Canadiens and Wanderers based in Montreal, the Senators in Ottawa, and the Arenas in Toronto. (Quebec had received the rights to a franchise, but the owners did not put a team on the ice in 1917). After a fire on 2 January 1918 reduced the Westmount Arena to ashes and left the Wanderers homeless, the team withdrew from the league, having played only four games.

Survival of the fittest was the law for both franchises and players during the early years of the National Hockey League. The teams struggled to fill their arenas and to make profits. The players endured a vicious brand of hockey in which fists and sticks took their toll. They also accepted extraordinarily low salaries, even by the standards of the day. Harry Cameron, the highest paid player on the Stanley Cup champion Toronto Arenas in 1918, earned a paltry $900 per year. The Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators dominated the NHL from 1917 until 1926. Between them, they represented the league in six of the first nine Stanley Cup series played against teams from the Pacific Coast Hockey Association or the Western Canada Hockey League.

Growth and Contraction

In 1924 the NHL expanded into the United States when the Boston Bruins entered the league. Before the 1925–1926 season, the New York Americans and the Pittsburgh Pirates came in, and Canadians feared that the Americans were about to steal their national game.

Between 1926 and 1942 the NHL grew from a tiny circuit of Canadian teams into the major North American professional hockey league. The growth of the NHL was not lost on the owners of teams in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association and the Western Canada Hockey League. In 1926 the Patrick brothers concluded they could no longer compete with the NHL and so dissolved their league, selling many of the players' contracts to NHL teams.

With the onset of the Great Depression in 1929, teams from smaller markets, such as the Ottawa Senators and the Pittsburgh Pirates, struggled to compete and eventually suspended operations. In 1941, after moving to Brooklyn, the New York Americans also withdrew from the NHL. The six surviving NHL teams were the Boston Bruins, the Chicago Black Hawks, the Detroit Red Wings, the Montreal Canadiens, the New York Rangers, and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Many regard the twenty-five year period between 1942 and 1967 as the "Golden Age of Hockey." Yet competition among the "Original Six" was uneven. The Bruins, Black Hawks, and Rangers struggled; the Maple Leafs, Red Wings, and Canadiens dominated.

The stability that had characterized the National Hockey League between 1942 and 1967 gave way to the tumult of the years 1968 through 1979. The prospect of substantial profits and the threat of a new professional hockey league combined to induce NHL owners to add six new teams: the Los Angeles Kings, the Minnesota North Stars, the Philadelphia Flyers, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Oakland Seals, and the St. Louis Blues. In 1970 the NHL expanded to fourteen teams, adding the Buffalo Sabers and the Vancouver Canucks, and split into two divisions, with the Original Six clubs playing in the East and the expansion teams in the West. Predictably, the Original Six teams dominated the NHL immediately after expansion. The Montreal Canadiens won Stanley Cups in 1971 and 1973, and then enjoyed a sting of four consecutive championships between 1975–1976 and 1978–1979.

The World Hockey Association, 1972–1979

The invention of Gary Davidson and Dennis Murphy, who had also organized the American Basketball Association, the World Hockey Association (WHA) began play in 1972 and for seven years competed with the NHL. With franchises in Chicago, Cleveland, Edmonton, Houston, Los Angeles, Minnesota, New England (later Hartford, Connecticut), New York, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Quebec, and Winnipeg, the league gained immediate credibility when such established NHL stars as Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Frank Mahovlich, and Jacques Plante signed with association teams. Along with the NHL players who vaulted to the new league, the WHA advertised a host of young talent, including Mike Gartner, Mark Howe, Mark Messier, and Wayne Gretzky, each of whom later made his mark in the NHL.

The WHA operated on a slender budget before going out of existence in 1979, with four franchises, the Edmonton Oilers, Quebec Nordiques, Hartford Whalers, and Winnipeg Jets, joining the NHL. During its existence, however, the league offered an exciting brand of hockey, only slightly inferior to the quality of play in the NHL, and the inter-league competition for players succeeded in raising the average salaries in both leagues. The principal response of the NHL to the WHA was additional expansion, planting franchises in Atlanta (later Calgary) and Long Island in 1972, and in Kansas City (later Colorado and New Jersey) and Washington in 1974. Such preemptive strikes forestalled the establishment of WHA teams in those markets.

The Europeans Arrive

The American Olympic hockey squad excited new interest in the sport with the celebrated "Miracle on Ice" in 1980, while the New York Islanders and the Edmonton Oilers ruled the NHL throughout the decade. More important, the demographic composition of the NHL began to change. The percentage of Canadian players declined from 82.1 percent in 1980 to 75.5 percent by 1989, while the number of U.S. and European players rose.

The Russians arrived in force during the late 1980s and early 1990s, especially after the disintegration of the Eastern Bloc in 1989 and the collapse of Soviet Union in 1991. By 1998, 22.5 percent of NHL players came from outside Canada and the United States. Swedes, Finns, Czechs, Slovaks, Latvians, Russians, and a smattering of Germans composed the international roster of the NHL. The influx of Americans, Europeans, and Russians resonated with fans. NHL attendance grew throughout the decade. In 1979 average attendance was 12,747 per game. Ten years later, it had climbed to 14,908.

Problems and Prospects

Fundamental changes also took place off the ice during the 1980s and 1990s, especially in the reorganization of the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA). By the end of the 1980s, many players feared that Alan Eagleson, the executive director of the NHLPA since its inception in 1967, had grown too close to management to represent the players effectively. Eagleson survived two attempts to oust him in 1989. Only after his resignation in 1991, however, did players learn that he had embezzled from the pension fund and committed fraud in the process of arranging international hockey tournaments. Convicted of these charges in January 1998, Eagleson was fined and imprisoned, becoming the first Honored Member to have his plaque removed from the Hockey Hall of Fame.

On 1 January 1992, lawyer and agent Bob Goode-now assumed control of the NHLPA. In April 1992, after only four months in office, Goodenow called the first players' strike in league history. The strike cost NHL president John Ziegler his job, and the NHL Board of Governors elected Gary Bettman, the former senior vice president of the National Basketball Association, as the first commissioner.

Even before Bettman assumed control of the NHL, team owners determined to increase its exposure. That aspiration was, in part, the rationale for expanding the league again during the 1990s. Two new franchises, the Tampa Bay Lightning and a second version of the Ottawa Senators, began play in 1992, and the Board of Governors also awarded franchises to Anaheim and Florida.

Despite its growing popularity, the NHL suffered through a series of crises during the 1990s, including franchise relocations, the financial and legal problems of various NHL owners, and a damaging lockout in 1994–1995 that shortened the regular season to 48 games. The lockout temporarily halted the momentum that Bettman had kindled, but during the late 1990s the league still managed to expand into new markets and attract new fans. The Nashville Predators began play in 1998; Atlanta also received an expansion franchise, the Thrashers, in 1999. For the 2000–2001 season, Minneapolis-St. Paul, which had lost its team when the North Stars moved to Dallas in 1993, got the Minnesota Wild, while the Blue Jackets began play in Columbus, Ohio. Although continuing to prosper, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the NHL was threatened by the financial instability of small-market Canadian teams, dramatically escalating player salaries, and the prospect of another protracted labor dispute.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bernstein, Ross. Frozen Memories: Celebrating a Century of Minnesota Hockey. Minneapolis: Nordin Press, 1999.

Diamond, Dan, et al. The NHL Official Guide and Record Book. New York: Total Sports Publishing, 2000.

Diamond, Dan, et al., eds. Total Hockey: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Hockey League, 2d ed. Kansas City, Mo.: Andrew McMeel, 2000.

Falla, Jack, et al. Quest for the Cup: A History of the Stanley Cup Finals, 1893–2001. Berkeley, Calif: Thunder Bay, 2001.

McFarlane, Brian. The History of Hockey. Champaign, Ill.: Sports Publishing, 1997.

McKinley, Michael. Etched in Ice: A Tribute to Hockey's Defining Moments. Vancouver, B.C.: Greystone, 2002.

———. Putting a Roof on Winter: Hockey's Rise from Sport to Spectacle. Toronto: Douglas and McIntyre, 2000.

Mark G.Malvasi

See alsoRecreation ; Sports .

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Hockey." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Hockey." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/hockey

"Hockey." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/hockey

hockey

hockey claims a very ancient pedigree since there are tomb-drawings and classical reliefs showing men hitting a ball with curved sticks. Variations were certainly played in the medieval period but, like most games, it was formalized and regulated in the 19th cent. Blackheath had a hockey club before 1861 and Teddington introduced the hard ball into the game in the 1870s. The National Association was formed in 1886, mainly by London clubs, and the first women's hockey club was founded at Wimbledon in 1889. Wales played Ireland in 1895 and men's hockey entered the Olympics in 1908. The game was introduced into India by British army officers and flourished exceedingly. The Federation of International Hockey was established in 1924.

J. A. Cannon

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"hockey." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"hockey." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hockey

"hockey." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hockey

hockey

hockey (field hockey) Game played by two teams of 11 players, in which a hooked stick is used to strike a small, solid ball into the opponents' goal. The field of play classically measures 91.47 × 54.9m (300 × 180ft), usually grassed. There are two 35-minute halves. To score, a player must be within the semi-circle marked out in front of the goal. Body contact is forbidden and a ball cannot be hit above shoulder height. The modern game dates from the formation of the English Hockey Association in 1875, and has been an Olympic sport since 1908. Recent developments in the UK include the introduction of a national club league system. See also ice hockey

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"hockey." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"hockey." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hockey

"hockey." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hockey

hockey

hock·ey / ˈhäkē/ • n. 1. short for ice hockey. 2. short for field hockey.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"hockey." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"hockey." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/hockey-0

"hockey." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/hockey-0

hockey

hockey XVI (?). of unkn. orig.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"hockey." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"hockey." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/hockey-1

"hockey." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/hockey-1

hockey

hockeybrickie, Dickie, hickey, icky, mickey, Nicky, picky, quickie, rickey, Rikki, sickie, sticky, tricky, Vicky •milky, silky, Wilkie •Chinky, dinky, Helsinki, inky, Kinki, kinky, minke, pinkie, pinky, slinky, stinky, stotinki •frisky, risky, whisky •Dzerzhinsky, Kandinsky, kolinsky, Nijinsky, Stravinsky •doohickey • smart-alecky • garlicky •colicky • gimmicky • panicky • finicky •plasticky •crikey, Nike, psyche, spiky •choccy, cocky, flocky, gnocchi, hockey, jockey, oche, pocky, rocky, schlocky, stocky •conchae, donkey, honky, shonky, wonky •Brodsky •Malinowski, Minkowski, Stokowski, Tchaikovsky •Chomsky • Trotsky • droshky •jabberwocky •balky, chalky, corky, gawky, Gorky, Milwaukee, pawky, porky, talkie, walkie-talkie •Sikorsky • Mussorgsky

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"hockey." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"hockey." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/hockey

"hockey." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/hockey