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The Origins of Hockey

Hockey, the national winter sport of Canada. Our love for the rink has grown immensely throughout the decades, but did you know that hockey is not a Canadian invention? It was not even the national winter sport of Canada until 1994. Prior to this the national winter sport of Canada was lacrosse.

Hockey has been around for centuries and has come in many different shapes and forms. For instance, the people of ancient Greece, Egypt, and Persia would play their version of hockey with sticks and a ball on grass. This is where field hockey comes from. Stick and ball games were also played by Indigenous peoples long before Europeans came. French settlers, named the Indigenous version “lacrosse,” the word originating from the Iroquois people who inhabited the land of Québec.

Selkirk and Hockey
Greek marble relief or a "hockey-like game" (c.500 BC) - Source:

The hockey game we know today was created at McGill University in 1875. In England, field hockey became popular between the 1790s-1800s. There were instances of it being played on ice throughout the early years of the 1800s, but it was most commonly played at school. Queen Victoria’s husband Albert played in the 1840s which sparked their eldest son, Bertie’s interest in the sport.

Hockey made its way over to Canada through migration. Evidence of the game being played as early as 1825 can be seen in letters from Sir John Franklin while he was trying to find the Northwest Passage. The game did not take on full popularity until March 3rd, 1875. In this game the ball was replaced with a wooden disc because the disc was less likely to fly off the ice. This disc would later be replaced by the puck.

McGill Hockey game played March 3, 1875 - Source:

Hockey in Selkirk 

Manitoba’s Junior Hockey League was founded back in 1918 and Selkirk was one of its original members. It did not take the Selkirk Fishermen long to win their first Turnbull Cup only two years after the league was formed. That same year, in 1920, the team was named Western Junior “A” Champions where they were rewarded the Abbott Cup. Unfortunately for the team they would not win the Memorial Cup for the National Championship because they were defeated by the Toronto Canoe Club Paddlers. This would land them in the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame that year.

Selkirk Fisherman from 1919-1920
Selkirk Fishermen 1919-1920 - Source:

The Selkirk team that we all know today was founded in 1966-77 and was called the Selkirk Steelers Junior ‘A’ Hockey Club. They won eight MJHL championships between 1974-87 with the 1973-74 season being their best. That same season they were inducted into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of fame. They were also inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.

Hockey has been played in many different shapes and forms all over the world. The game that many Canadians love has come a long way before becoming our national winter sport.  The heat that we have been having this summer has gotten many people excited for the winter and the start of the new hockey season.

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