Games played with curved sticks and a ball can be found in the histories of many cultures. In Egypt, 4000-year-old carvings feature teams with sticks and a projectile, hurling dates to before 1272 BC in Ireland, and there is a depiction from approximately 600 BC in Ancient Greece where the game may have been called kerētízein or kerhtízein (κερητίζειν) because it was played with a horn or horn-like stick(kéras, κέρας) In Inner Mongolia, the Daur people have been playing beikou, a game similar to modern field hockey, for about 1,000 years.
Most evidence of hockey-like games during the Middle Ages is found in legislation concerning sports and games. The Galway Statute enacted in Ireland in 1527 banned certain types of ball games, including games using “hooked” (written “hockie”, similar to “hooky”) sticks.
…at no tyme to use ne occupye the horlinge of the litill balle with hockie stickes or staves, nor use no hande ball to play withoute walles, but only greate foote balle
By the 19th century, the various forms and divisions of historic games began to differentiate and coalesce into the individual sports defined today. Organizations dedicated to the codification of rules and regulations began to form, and national and international bodies sprung up to manage domestic and international competition. Ice hockey also evolved during this period as a derivative of field hockey adapted to the icy conditions of Canada and the northern United States.
Ice hockey is played on a large flat area of ice, using a three-inch-diameter (76.2 mm) vulcanized rubber disc called a puck. This puck is often frozen before high-level games to decrease the amount of bouncing and friction on the ice. The game is contested between two teams of skaters. The game is played all over North America, Europe and in many other countries around the world to varying extent. It is the most popular sport in Canada, Finland, Latvia, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia.
The governing body of international play is the 72-member International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). Men’s ice hockey has been played at the Winter Olympics since 1924, and was in the 1920 Summer Olympics. Women’s ice hockey was added to the Winter Olympics in 1998. North America‘s National Hockey League (NHL) is the strongest professional ice hockey league, drawing top ice hockey players from around the globe. The NHL rules are slightly different from those used in Olympic ice hockey over many categories.
Ice hockey sticks are long L-shaped sticks made of wood, graphite, or composites with a blade at the bottom that can lie flat on the playing surface when the stick is held upright and can curve either way, legally, as to help a left– or right-handed player gain an advantage.
Various stick and ball games similar to field hockey, bandy and other games where two teams push a ball or object back and forth with sticks were played on ice under the name “hockey” in England throughout the 19th century, and even earlier under various other names. In Canada, there are 24 reports of hockey-like games in the 19th century before 1875 (five of them using the name “hockey”). The first organized indoor game of ice hockey was played in Montreal, Canada on March 3, 1875 and featured several McGill University students. The contemporary sport developed in Canada from these and other influences. International ice hockey rules were adopted from Canadian rules in the early 1900s.
Ice hockey is played at a number of levels, by all ages.