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Ice hockey’s origin is veiled by the snows of time, but it is fair to say that it evolved from a game that has been known for centuries in Northern Europe: field hockey. Modern ice hockey has a much clearer beginning point. The Canadian James Creighton devised rules for the first game, played in 1875 in Montreal, Canada. This led to the first organized game played indoors between two 9-player teams at Victoria Skating Rink. James Creighton and other McGill University students competed to control the origin of the puck: a flat piece of circular wood. This was used instead of a bung or ball.

In a couple of years following Creighton’s creation of rules, the first club for ice hockey was founded. This McGill University Hockey Club had its start in 1877. The following year saw the formation of the Quebec Bulldogs in 1878. In 1881, the Montreal Victorias came into play.

Changes were underway as these clubs formed. In 1880, the sides went from nine players down to seven. Sufficient growth in the number of teams that had been formed led to ice hockey’s first world championship, held in 1883 at the annual Winter Carnival of Montreal. This tournament was won by the McGill team, which received the Carnival Cup. Other changes included the naming of the positions.

1888 saw the attendance of the Montreal Winter Carnival hockey tournament by Lord Stanley of Preston, the Governor-General of Canada, whose children favored the sport. He was impressed enough with the game that, upon seeing no recognition for Canada’s best team, he purchased a trophy: a silver bowl. This led to the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, later to be called the Stanley Cup. Stanley’s family continued its patronage of the sport; his son Arthur assisted in organizing Ontario’s Hockey Association, and his daughter Isobel was among the first women to participate in ice hockey.

Modern ice hockey is among the sports of the Olympics. Barring penalties, the number of players that each team has on the ice at a time is down to six. The wooden disk has been replaced by a vulcanized rubber disk that is the puck. It is the world’s most popular ice sport played in teams.