The history of hockey is almost as messy as some of the fights on the ice of pro hockey rinks. Some historians trace the game back to hurley, an Irish field game that was played year round with a ball and a stick. Other historians say the game derived from Lacrosse and other field games played by the Micmac Indians in Nova Scotia. Yet another school of thought says hockey developed in Northern Europe were field hockey was played on frozen lakes in the winter. This eventually developed into the English game of bandy.

Did you get all of that? Before we argue about who is correct and send the others to the penalty box, let’s just agree that hockey was probably influenced by several earlier stick and ball games. We’ll then pick up the history of the sport in the mid 19th Century.

Hockey game around 1879 in Massachusetts – image supplied by James Laverance

O Canada
Canada is without argument the homeland of modern hockey. British soldiers stationed at Hallifax and Kingston played the first recorded hockey games in the mid 1850s. In the early 1870s students at Montreal’s McGill University drew up the first known set of ice hockey rules. These rules established the use of the puck rather than a ball and set the number of players per side at nine. The puck used by these early McGill players was square rather than round.

The first amateur hockey league was organized in Kingston, Ontario in 1880. During the next decade ice hockey quickly became popular in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and other Canadian cities. By the end of 1893, there were more than 100 hockey clubs in Montreal alone. About that same time, the first hockey games in the United States were played at Yale and John Hopkins Universities.

The Oldest Trophy in North American Sports
Ice hockey had become such a phenomenon in Canada that in 1893, the Governor General of Canada donated a permanent trophy to be presented to the best hockey team. The Governor General’s name was Lord Stanley of Preston and the silver bowl inlaid with gold that he donated became known as the Stanley Cup. The original cup cost $48.57 and is now mounted on a large base to allow room to inscribe the names of winning teams. Today, the trophy is insured for $75,000.

The Stanley Cup is the oldest prize that North American Athletes vie for. It has been awarded each year since 1893 with the exception of 1919 when the competition was stopped by an influenza outbreak among the Seattle Metropolitan. The Montreal Amateur Athletic Association team won the first two Stanley Cup competitions.

Stanley Cup Winners

1893Montreal AAA
1894Montreal AAA
1895Montreal Victorias
1896Montreal Victorias/Winnipeg Victorias
1897Montreal Victorias
1898Montreal Victorias
1899Montreal Shamrocks
1900Montreal Shamrocks
1901Winnipeg Victoria
1902Winnipeg Victoria/Montreal AAA
1903Montreal AAA/ Ottawa Silver Seven
1904Ottawa Silver Seven
1905Ottawa Silver Seven
1906Ottawa Silver Seven/Montreal Wanderers
1907Kenora Thistles/ Montreal Wanderers
1908Montreal Wanderers
1909Ottawa Senators
1910Montreal Wanderers
1911Ottawa Senators
1912Quebec Bulldogs
1913Quebec Bulldogs
1914Toronto Blueshirts
1915Vancouver Millionaires
1916Montreal Canadiens
1917Seattle Metropolitans
1918Toronto Arenas
1919No Decision
1922Toronto St. Pats
1923Ottawa Senators
1924Montreal Canadiens
1925Victoria Cougars
1926Montreal. Maroons
1927Ottawa Senators
1928NY Rangers
1929Boston Bruins
1930Montreal Canadiens
1931Montreal Canadiens
1932Toronto Maple Leafs
1933NY Rangers
1934Chicago Blackhawks
1935Montreal Maroons
1936Detroit Red Wings
1937Detroit Red Wings
1938Chicago Blackhawks
1939Boston Bruins
1940NY Rangers
1941Boston Bruins
1942Toronto Maple Leafs
1943Detroit Red Wings
1944Montreal Canadiens
1945Toronto Maple Leafs
1946Montreal Canadiens
1947Toronto Maple Leafs
1948Toronto Maple Leafs
1949Toronto Maple Leafs
1950Detroit Red Wings
1951Toronto Maple Leafs
1952Detroit Red Wings
1953Montreal Canadiens
1954Detroit Red Wings
1955Detroit Red Wings
1956Montreal Canadiens
1957Montreal Canadiens
1958Montreal Canadiens
1959Montreal Canadiens
1960Montreal Canadiens
1961Chicago Blackhawks
1962Toronto Maple Leafs
1963Toronto Maple Leafs
1964Toronto Maple Leafs
1965Montreal Canadiens
1966Montreal Canadiens
1967Toronto Maple Leafs
1968Montreal Canadiens
1969Montreal Canadiens
1970Boston Bruins
1971Montreal Canadiens
1972Boston Bruins
1973Montreal Canadiens
1974Philadelphia Flyers
1975Philadelphia Flyers
1976Montreal Canadiens
1977Montreal Canadiens
1978Montreal Canadiens
1979Montreal Canadiens
1980NY Islanders
1981NY Islanders
1982NY Islanders
1983NY Islanders
1984Edmonton Oilers
1985Edmonton Oilers
1986Montreal Canadiens
1987Edmonton Oilers
1988Edmonton Oilers
1989Calgary Flames
1990Edmonton Oilers
1991Pittsburgh Penguins
1992Pittsburgh Penguins
1993Montreal Canadiens
1994NY Rangers
1995New Jersey Devils
1996Colorado Avalanche
1997Detroit Red Wings
1998Detroit Red Wings
1999Dallas Stars
2000New Jersey Devils
2001Colorado Avalanche
2002Detroit Red Wings
2003New Jersey Devils
2004Tampa Bay Lightning
2005Carolina Hurricanes
2006Anaheim Ducks
2007Detroit Red Wings
2008 Detroit Red Wings
2009Pittsburgh Penguins
2010Chicago Blackhawks
2011Boston Bruins
2012LA Kings
2013Chicago Blackhawks
2014LA Kings
2015Chicago Blackhawks

From Amateur Game to Professional Sport
The beginning of the 20th Century brought a new dimension to ice hockey—the professional player. The first professional league formed in 1904 in the United States. The Pro Hockey League was started in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and lasted three years. In 1909, the National Hockey Association was founded in Montreal. Beginning in 1912, professional teams were allowed to compete for the Stanley Cup.