The Origins of Hockey, Part Two: Like Cats and Dogs

by Jas Faulkner, Nashville Correspondent

Saint Rick of Reilly once wrote something to the effect that other cities’ fans are obnoxious while the homers in your own town are simply  energetic. Modern day hockey fans can point to the cheering that takes place when the Star Spangled Banner is sung at the Mad House or the Ole Ole fueled madness that follows a great night at Bell Centre as examples of the deathless Berserker spirit that lives inside every fan.  Francis Bouillon and Mike Komisarek might ask everyone to behave; but can we help it? As the old Verizon ad campaign once glibly observed, “Hockey fans aren’t like other fans.” In hockey, “Warrior” isn’t just a brand of equipment, it’s a  philosophical stance towards competition that goes to the bone.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the games at hockey’s European roots are more than just rugged and manly.  They’re downright epic.  Bruce McDonald of Glamorgan Walks wrote that during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, bando was the game of choice in Cynffig (near Bridgend in Wales). Matches were played on a course that had one goal at the Cynffig River and the other at the Sker Rocks two miles away. In 1817, a record crowd of around 3,000 people turned out to watch Margam and Newton Nottage play. They’d probably be right at home singing “Ole Ole!” along with their modern day counterparts.

Bando? Yeah, it was a manly game but the ladies loved it, too!

Mrs. Janet Davies brandishes her prized bando stick.

Just as Mrs. Davies would testify, the audience for bando was made up of equal numbers of men and women.  While women were usually expected to stay demurely on the sidelines, they earned their place in the game’s lore as well.  Emma Lile of the National Museum of Wales recounts an incident on the NMW site:

…women were keen spectators, and there is evidence that at a bando match played once in the Vale of Glamorgan the wife of one of the players concealed the ball with her petticoat until her spouse arrived to retrieve it.

Bando is  part of a family of stick and ball games that are usually played with curved wooden sticks  made from ash or elm and  a single object whose possession was contested by opposing teams. Variants included “Ci a Chath” and  “Cati and Dogi” which might be played with a ball made of wood or sewn leather or, as was sometimes the case with Cati and Dogi, a short length of thick wood that was whittled off at both ends.

Going at it like catis and dogis…

One of the most prevalent games, bando,  has also enjoyed the lengthiest social currency.  Bando, or cati bando  as it is sometimes called,  is still played both as a recreational activity and as an historic curiosity in Wales.  In it’s heyday, bando games were played by teams who represented parishes or counties.  Players  trained in their free time and games were often hotbeds of betting and acting out old regional grudges.

A bando stick on display at St Fagans Museum in Wales. (photo courtesy of Bruce McDonald)

So what were bando matches like?  Imagine an amalgam of hockey as we know it and the Caucus Race from “Alice In Wonderland”.  Too many men on the ice?  No such thing!  Overtime?  There’s never enough time as it is!   High sticking?  What are ya, a buncha prissies?  There were no time limits,  no standardized rules and no set limitations on the playing space or number of players.  Violence was inevitable, with the players often getting as rowdy as their supporters.

As English influences crept into all corners of the British Isles,  bando was eventually replaced by cricket and football.  Clubs and balls are often kept as civic and family treasures and stories of those wild games get wilder with each retelling.

Next up!  The sticks and balls and catis and dogis get packed up for a trip to the  wild, woolly frontiers of Canada.  O Canada indeed!  If you thought things were fun in Glamorgan, wait until you try a game of bando on ice!

See ya here, on Facebook and Tweet me up, chooches!  (And don’t forget to “Like” THW on FB.  After all, we think of you as our BFFs!  TTFN!)

Heartfelt diolch yn fawr iawn to Neil Bennett, Dr. Emma Lile, the Dove Family, and to Bruce McDonald for allowing me the use of his picture of Janet Davies. His website, Glamorgan Walks, is as lovely as the country he describes. Even if you can’t get to Wales, his descriptions of the history and attractions at Glamorgan County are the next best things to being there.

Jas Faulkner



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