There are many conflicting theories on when and where the game of hockey started but
for all accounts the game evolved out the Irish field game called Hurley.
Hurley is played year round in Ireland on a field with a ball and stick.
The game of Hurley was played regularly in the fields of Nova Scotia back in the early 1800's
But when winter came around Hurley was to difficult to play because of
the rough ground caused by snow so the game was eventually moved onto the ice.
This new game called "Hurley on Ice" basically started at King's College in Windsor,
Nova Scotia just outside of Halifax and became very popular on the East coast for
the first 50 years of the 1800's.
The New Game (1850-1900)
This Hurley on Ice was also called Rickets and Shinny but was eventually called Hockey somewhere in the later part of the 1800's. There is a story that a Royal Canadian Rifles officer stationed in Nova Scotia named "Hockey" for years had his men play this game and that's how the name of Hurley or Shinny changed to Hockey. In the early 1870's an engineer named James Creighton taught his friends at McGill University on how to play this new game of hockey he learned while living in Nova Scotia. The stage was set in Montreal in the mid 1870's for the first organized hockey game that was played inside a rink. Eventually James Creighton wrote up new rules called the "Halifax Rules" which had 9 players on each team. Hockey became very popular in Montreal at that time and James Creighton who had a law degree decided to move on to Ottawa and eventually became the Law Clerk of the Senate. He then started Ottawa's first organized hockey team called the Rideau Hall Rebels in the late 1880's. Also around this same time the first organized amateur hockey league started in Kingston, Ontario and had 4 teams.
The Stanley Cup (1892)
In 1892 Lord Stanley, Earl of Preston and Governor General of Canada decided to
donate a cup that could be challenged by amateur hockey teams in Canada.
The first Stanley Cup winner was the Montreal AAA (Amateur Athletic Association) in 1893.
By the end of the 1800's hockey was becoming the national sport of Canada because
almost all regions of the country were playing this new sport. The equipment used
in hockey was also evolving with skates that strapped to your boots in the first
50 years of the century to skates that were clamped or screwed into your boots in
the later 50 years of that century. Other equipment used in the 1800's was light
shin pads, wool shirts and socks and solid wood sticks.
New Century (1900-1950)
This new century saw the invention of the tube skates which eventually evolved into the present day skates and also netting that was not used in the last century was also invented. This new netting was first used by Maritimers at the turn of the century who threw it over both posts in order to catch the puck and also to show the puck past between both posts. Also the number of players allowed on each team went from 9 to 7 (3 forwards, 2 defenseman, 1 rover and 1 goalie). It stayed this way until the NHL was formed and the rover position was dropped which meant 6 players aside.
From the turn of the century to 1917 saw many professional leagues formed like the International Pro Hockey League, National Hockey Association (NHA) and the Pacific Coast League (PCL). All these leagues eventually folded which lead to the creation of the National Hockey League (NHL) in 1917.
The National Hockey League started out with 5 franchises, Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Toronto Arenas, Quebec Bulldogs and Ottawa Senators. The Toronto Arenas won the Stanley Cup in the first year. The National Hockey League eventually gained control of the Stanley Cup in 1926 and from then on it could only be won by NHL teams instead of other league champions challenging for this cup.
The Original Six (1942-67)
By 1942 after seeing many teams come and go from the NHL the league settled in with 6 franchises, the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks. These 6 teams stayed this way until the 1967 expansion and have become fondly known as "The Original Six."
Present Day (1950-2001)
The last 50 years of this century saw the invention of the curved stick in the late 50's by Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita which before was always straight. Goalie masks also came into vogue when in the late 1950's Jacques Plante took a shot off the face during one game and decided in the following season he would where a mask. Hockey helmets were not worn on a regular basis until the early 1970's and were eventually mandated by the NHL for the 1979-80 season.
NHL Expansion (1967)
The NHL added six new teams in the 1967 expansion and they were the Minnesota North Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, California (Oakland) Seals, St. Louis Blues and the Los Angeles Kings. In 1970 the Vancouver Canucks and Buffalo Sabres were added.
In 1972 saw the formation of the World Hockey Association (WHA) which became an instant rivalry to the NHL. This new league was signing away some of the top NHL players like Bobby Hull and Derek Sanderson. But like most new leagues without any history and solid fan support eventually died out in 1979.
Wayne Gretzky (1979-1999)
He was arguably the best player ever to play organized hockey. His stats are almost mind boggling when you compare them to players today or players from the past.
Wayne Gretzky played 20 seasons in the NHL and won the Scoring Title (Art Ross) 10 times, MVP (Hart) 9 times, the Stanley Cup 4 times and was the only player to have a 200 point season and he did it 4 times. His all time career stats were 894 Goals, 1963 Assists and 2857 Total Points.
More Expansion (1972-2000)
The NHL continued to expand in 1972 when two more teams were added (New York Islanders and Atlanta Flames). In 1974 saw another two teams added (Washington Capitals and Kansas City Scouts). In 1976 the California Seals franchise moved to Cleveland (Barons) and Kansas City moved on become the Colorado Rockies. In 1978 saw Cleveland Barons merged into the Minnesota North Stars. In 1979 the NHL absorbed the remaining WHA teams (Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets, Hartford Whalers and Quebec Nordiques. In 1980 the Atlanta Flames moved to Calgary and in 1982 saw the Colorado Rockies move on become the New Jerseys Devils. From the late 1970ӳ to the early 1990ӳ saw the league with just 21 teams and 4 divisions called the Smythe, Norris, Patrick and Adams. The Eastern Conference was called Prince of Wales and the West the Campbell Conference.
The 1990's saw 9 new teams added to the National Hockey League and which now has 30 teams, 2 conferences and 6 divisions for the start of the 2000-01 season. San Jose Sharks were added in 1991, Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992, Anaheim Mighty Ducks & Florida Panthers in 1993, Labor stoppage in 1994, Quebec Nordiques moved to become the Colorado Avalanche in 1995, Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix in 1996, Hartford Whalers relocated in Raleigh (Carolina) in 1997, Nashville Predators were now the 27 team in the NHL in 1998, Atlanta Thrashers came in 1999, and in 2000 the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild were the last expanded teams for the NHL.