There’s that time in every hockey fan’s life when the buzzer has sounded for the final time of the season and the ice has been put away so Bon Jovi and Elton John can make their annual concert stops. The quiet is bound to get some people thinking, especially the little short people with too few years under their belts and too little to do except ask the big people nearby questions. One of those questions is bound to be that dreaded five-word query that you can’t hand off to the next available adult.
Not that one.
I’m talking about the moment your sproglet looks up at you and asks:
Where does hockey come from?
If you’re in Nashville or Dallas or Columbus, you can always stall them by saying it comes from a magical land to the north called Canada, where the money has cute woodland creatures on it and the Barenaked Ladies run free. But that would be the easy way out, and it is also a good reason for your brothers and sisters to the north to chuckle bemusedly at their southerly kin. So we’re not going to be taking the easy way. However, I can promise it will be fun. So. Where DOES hockey come from?
Let’s start at the beginning…
Ogg have stick. Ogg happy!
The urge to hit small, roundish, sometimes obnoxious things with a stick is something that has been with us since the very beginning. Developmental anthropologists have noted that primates who closely resemble our ancestors make and use tools and weapons and have been observed employing sticks and round objects for play. Cave paintings, glyphs of various flavors and accounts from early explorers all point to the universal drive to hit small, round things with sticks.
Why? Why not? It feels good. It’s a great outlet for aggression. It fosters healthy competitive spirit and esprit de corps among humans. It’s fun. Evidence of stick/chase/ball games can be found in cultural artifacts of early peoples of nearly every part of the world. In this series, we’ll look at some of those versions, especially the ones that developed in the Western Hemisphere, and how they contributed to the evolution of the game.
So did the cro-magnons play three periods against the neanderthals? Not exactly. Hockey as we know it is still quite some time away from Ogg’s whack-a-critter game.
Next up, we skip ahead a few thousand years and see how a game that kept Welshmen from fighting like cats and dogs might have given hockey a boost that was quite the cricket ticket!