November 26, 1917: The National Hockey League (NHL) is founded. The Montreal Canadians, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators, Quebec Bulldogs, and Toronto Arenas began play on December 19, 1917 with both Montreal teams winning their first games. The Canadians beat Ottawa 7-4 and the Wanderers edged out Toronto 10-9. Hockey, both field and ice, have been around for millennia. The modern form of ice hockey comes from Montreal. The first recorded organized indoor game was played there on March 3, 1875.
It became a college sport when McGill University Hockey Club was founded in 1877. The college teams aged and next the Amateur Hockey Association (AHA) of Canada was formed in 1886. The National Hockey Association (NHA) was founded in 1909 for Professionals. There were business disputes, owner and player disagreements and the NHA was abandoned and the NHL created at a meeting at the Windsor Hotel. The teams struggled financially at first but on the ice, they were supreme. They lost the Stanley Cup once, in 1925.
The NHL began expansion efforts for the 1924-25 season and looked across the border to Boston, admitting the Bruins as the first US team. The teams expanded to ten by the 1925-26 season. The Great Depression and WWII decimated the League and by 1942 they were once again reduced to six teams: Montreal Canadians, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Black Hawks, Boston Bruins, and New York Rangers. These teams are called the Original Six and were the only teams in the NHL for a quarter century. Today there are 30 teams in the NHL, 24 from the US and six from Canada.
The players’ equipment has changed over the years. Gear originally was rudimentary and consisted of skates and a hockey stick with team members wearing matching shirts. Early skates were shoes with a blade attached and sticks were tree branches. Eventually shin guards were donned but added little protection so players stuffed newspapers or magazines behind them. Goalies began wearing masks in 1959 with Jacques Plante taking heat for the sissy move. The last maskless goalie played in 1973. Players began wearing helmets, usually while recovering from head injuries, in the early 1970s. The last helmetless player was Craig MacTavish who retired in 1997.
“Hockey captures the essence of Canadian experience in the New World. In a land so inescapably and inhospitably cold, hockey is the chance of life, and an affirmation that despite the deathly chill of winter we are alive.” – Stephen Leacock
“Ice hockey is a form of disorderly conduct in which the score is kept.” – Doug Larson
“By the age of 18, the average American has witnessed 200,000 acts of violence on television, most of them occurring during Game 1 of the NHL playoff series.” – Steve Rushin
“How would you like a job where, every time you make a mistake, a big red light goes on and 18,000 people boo?” – Jacques Plante
“My other car is a Zamboni.” – Hockey Saying
This article first appeared at examiner.com in 2009. Editor’s update: In both Canada and the US, the game is called simply hockey, however in countries that also play field hockey, to distinguish the two games, it is called ice hockey. As played today, the teams usually consists of four lines which are made up of two forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie. The five members (forwards and defense) skate up and down the rink while the goalie protects the net from a score as the hockey puck passes inside. The goaltender has more specific padding than those skating around the rink. Hockey is Canada’s national winter sport. The game is mainly played in North America and Europe. There have been 177 medals awards by the IIHF World Championships and of those, 163 have been won by seven nations. Those countries are Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, and the US. In the Olympics, 66 medal have been awarded and only six did not go to the above seven countries. All 12 and 36 INHF World Women’s Championships have gone to the seven countires with every gold medal in both competitions going to either Canada or the US.
Also on this day: Instant Camera – In 1948, Polaroid produced an instant picture camera, first sold on this day.
KV62 – In 1922, Howard Carter opened King Tut’s tomb.
Water – In 1805, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct opened.