Hockey: Canada’s beloved game

Getting into hockey is par for the course in Canada. Here's the low down on the nation’s favourite game.

Ice hockey

Considering the fact that ice hockey is so very popular in Canada, it's not surprising that ice hockey has its roots in lacrosse, a game devised by Canada's aboriginal population. While some sources say that the game is derived from the field hockey that was played in Europe and brought over with the settlers, others point out that the rules for ice hockey are very closely aligned with those of lacrosse.

Ice hockey was played informally in Canada for many years and grew quickly as more people became interested, but it wasn't considered an official sport until the first hockey association was formed. The association began in Kingston, Ontario in 1885 and had but four teams. Popularity escalated and soon teams from most of the population centres of the time were playing regular games.

The English Governor General of Canada, Lord Stanley of Preston initiated the awarding of top honours to the prevailing team each year. The award he offered came to be known as the Stanley Cup and it is still the coveted reward for professional Ice Hockey teams today.

Many adjustments have been made to the game over the years. The number of players on the ice has changed, as have some of the rules and procedures. The uniform, including equipment, has changed over the years as well. Until the 1950s the hockey stick was straight, without the characteristic curve we see today. Helmets were not even required until the 1979-1980 season. All aspects of equipment and floor markings have gone through changes of one kind or another.

NHL

The National Hockey League (NHL), or Ligue Nationale de Hockey (LNH), is the primary hockey league in the world today. With 30 teams on board, it has come a long way from the four teams in the beginning. The league is divided into two conferences with 15 teams each and three divisions of five teams each.

Although Canada has only six teams in the NHL as opposed to 24 teams from the United States, the top two teams in Stanley cup wins are the Montreal Canadiens with 24 and the Toronto Maple Leafs with 13. The other two Canadian teams are the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary flames, who have won a total of six additional cups for Canada.

Ice hockey has become a national obsession and a point of pride for the Canadians. New franchises pop up as the game becomes even more popular, ensuring the popularity of the game for years to come.

 
 

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