Do you think hockey was invented in Canada? Think again

Adam Proteau
19th Century hockey

Just about everyone acknowledges Canada as the birthplace of hockey, but a new book claims the sport wasn’t invented there or anywhere in North America. Instead, a trio of hockey historians are claiming the game originated in Britain – with an iconic scientist as one of its earliest participants.

In a new book titled On The Origins Of Hockey, Society for International Hockey Research (SIHR) members Carl Giden, Patrick Houda and Jean-Patrice Martel present information pointing to Britain as the place hockey first was played. Conventional wisdom has posited Canada as the sport’s birthplace with the first game occurring in 1875, but Giden, Houda and Martel have discovered evidence the first games took place as far back as the 1790s.

Moreover, they’ve found famous naturalist Charles Darwin enjoyed the game as a player. In a letter to his son, William Erasmus Darwin, dated March 1, 1853, Darwin recalled playing games on a frozen riven in Shrewsbury, England (just east of the Welsh border) in the 1820s.

“My dear old Willy,” Darwin wrote, “Have you got a pretty good pond to skate on? I used to be very fond of playing Hocky (sic) on the ice in skates…”

Darwin, most famous for his groundbreaking theory of evolution, was one of a number of prominent Brits whom the trio of SIHR researchers identified as some of the earliest hockey players in Europe; King Edward VII was another, as was Albert, Prince Consort to Queen Victoria. The researchers also discovered how the name “hockey” came to be: in the first games in England, the puck was made from a cork bung that was commonly used as a stopper in beer casks; at that time, Hock Ale was a popular drink. Put the two together and you can see how the word came into the common vernacular.

So next time any Canadian starts boorishly boasting their countrymen invented hockey, feel free to direct them to read the book Martel, Giden and Houda have put together and expect a little humility to follow.