Hockey Origins Reference Database

by the members of the Hockey Origins Research Group

Hockey, like many sports, evolved over centuries and was influenced by several games, pastimes, groups and individuals from various countries.

While many Canadian communities have long and rich histories involving the sport, and have undoubtedly contributed to the game's evolution, it is important to rely on documented facts when considering claims on the birthplace of the game.

Many activities that could be considered as precursors to modern hockey have been played on ice under a variety of names; Hockey, Hurley, Hurling, Bandy, Shinty and Shinny, to name a few.

The Origins database contains hundreds of references to "stick and ball" type games dating back to ancient Egypt, and traces the evolution of play up to ice hockey as we know it today.

Search by groupings such as country, source and game type Browse all references


1773 - First contemporary use of the word hockey

In 1773, a book with the curious title Juvenile Sports and Pastimes, to which are prefixed, Memoirs of the Author: Including a new mode of Infant Education, by Richard Johnson (pseud. Master Michel Angelo), was published by Thomas Carnan, in London, England.

This work includes the first known contemporary use of the word "hockey" - predating later records by 20 years - and also has the first known illustration of the game.

1773 - First contemporary use of the word hockey and illustration of the game
1797 - Earliest known depiction of a hockey player on ice

In 2010, a collector from the United States discovered the earliest known print or painting depicting not only hockey on skates but also the use of a bung (puck) on the ice.

The hand-colored stipple engraving has the inscription"London Published by J Le Petit 22 Suffolk Street, Middlesex Hospital 1st Sep 1797"and measures 4 3/8 (height) x 3 11/16 (width) inches.

It is on wove paper with no watermark and was found in an antique shop in Maine, USA.

Earliest known depiction of a hockey player on ice - A 1797 print by London publisher Joseph Le Petit Jr. believed to have been painted by Benedictus Antonio Van Assen
1825 - Hockey on the Ice - Sir John Franklin - NWT, Canada

Sir John Franklin is best remembered for his surveys of the Arctic, having made four journeys to the region and mapping over 3000 miles of the northern Canadian coastline.

During this time, he made three references to skating and hockey on the ice at Fort Franklin (now Deline) during October of 1825.

Winter view of Fort Franklin 1825-1826, from a watercolour by Sir George Back (1796-1878)
Things to keep in mind when consulting these references

Referring to only one or few references can easily lead one to draw incorrect conclusions. It is important to review as many related references as possible to have a better understanding of the general context.

Some references are included only to show that a word was in common use and did not need to be explained to the reader. Example: Exotic travellers comparing native stick and ball games with bandy or hockey.

Even fictional works are of value as they explain the contemporary view of a subject in relation to the use of terms and how a game was practised.

A word of caution regarding memories; to be credible, terms (i.e. hockey) used in these works need to be supported by other contemporary sources from the years referred to.