“Canada’s National Game” was conceived over a century ago on frozen ponds, rivers and lakes across Canada. There are many conflicting arguments as to the exact origins of the game; however, most experts agree that the game was born outside on a frozen body of water, here in this country.
The earliest of games were indicative of the times. Players wore blades strapped to shoes and used sticks formed from tree branches. The game had plenty of other peculiarities. It wasn’t unusual to have up 30 players aside, and the first puck (invented in Kingston, Ontario in 1860) was stamped not of rubber, but hand carved out of wood. The first rules came to be in 1879 by students of Montreal’s McGill University. But they were basic rules, not much different than today’s pond hockey.
In the early 20th century, hockey evolved from the pond into man-made arenas and went on to experience many rule changes, more equipment, leagues, contracts, unions, TV deals, etc. Pond hockey on the other hand has not changed much from its original form – the use of limited equipment (skates, stick, puck), the objectives, rules and most notably the fact it is played outdoors on a frozen pond. The game requires speed, agility, strength, finesse, teamwork and the courage and desire to battle the deepest chills of winter.
There are no face-off circles. In fact there are few stoppages in play, except when goals are scored, the puck goes out of bounds or a player is called for an infraction. In all of those cases possession of the puck in turned over to the opposing team. There are no blue lines and no off-sides, making for lots of dramatic rink-length passes. In the Canadian National Pond Hockey Championships there will be no refs on the ice, only rink side officials. There are no goalies, leaving the job of protecting the 6′ by 10″ nets up to the defense. It all adds up to an exceptionally exciting brand of hockey, something every recreational player and fan needs to experience!
Pond hockey has been played in Canada and around the world by people of all ages for many years. And there’s been resurgence in recent years transforming it to a more mainstream sport. It was this resurgence that allowed The Canadian National Pond Hockey Championship to be born. This is pond hockey at its best – the way mother nature intended it to be.