UMPIRES RULE: A yesteryear look at the origins and history of hockey ">

FEATURE: A yesteryear look at the origins and history of hockey

Hockey Circle Magazine

One of the most missed hockey magazines of yesteryear in the southern hemisphere was the ‘Hockey Circle’. For decades before the invention of the computer and internet Hockey Circle kept hockey enthusiasts informed and entertained with articles and news about what was going on in hockey. Recently I had the luxury of spending over a day going through old archived copies with great delight, especially because I could identify with a lot of players of the magazine’s era. It was these special moments it was decided to choose some of featured articles and share with a new audience in 2018.

The article chosen was done by René Frank, the Belgian, and former long serving President of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) from 1966 to 1983. His article was entitled the ‘Origins and History of Hockey’, which was published in July, 1972. Because of the length of the article some of his work is reinstated as a synopsis. It was because this famous contributor to world hockey development wrote it that it is worthy of sharing.

1908  1894

There is no doubt that different games requiring the use of a ball and stick have been practised in the world for thousands of years. E.A.C. Thompson, in his history of Hockey in the published also in the ‘Hockey Circle’ four decades before provided pieces of evidence of the existence of a rudimentary kind of hockey in Asia since the most ancient times. T.S.C. Dagg, in his interesting work “Hockey in Ireland (1944) establishes the hypothesis that polo (pulu: ball in Tibetan) as first practised in Persia might be the oldest sport played with a stick. Polo extended to the East through Tibet, India, China, and Japan. Also to the West through Asia Minor, Greece and Egypt. Consequently, hockey, golf, and cricket would be nothing but spurious descendants of polo.

Athenian Bas-relief

Evidence that a game similar to hockey was probably included in the Pithian, Isthmian and Nemean games is provided by a bas-relief discovered (see above) discovered in 1922on a wall built during the epoch of Temistocles from514-449 B.C.  This bas-relief shows two young men crossing their sticks over a ball as in the process of making a bully.

On the other hand excavations carried out in Egypt resulted in the discovery inside a Pyramid of a fresco showing two themes, one of them with two men of athletic build holding a stick as in the process of making a bully, similar to the Greeks described above.

So far as Western Europe is concerned the fact is that a game akin to hockey, the ‘Gouret’ is of French origin dating back to 1333 and evidence which is to be seen at the Copenhagen Museum where again two young men can be seen each with a stick in their hands and performing the gestures and steps of the bully. This may be regarded as medieval hockey and beginning of European hockey. The French players appear to have been the best of Europe at the time, judging from the assertions of Prieur and Lanet in their work ‘Le Hockey sur Gazon’ published in 1925, although the French doubt it.

The origins of hockey in England and Ireland are older than those of ‘Gouret’. The first document referring to a game played with a stick and ball is an Irish document dated 1272 B.C. This game being called ‘Canan’ and later ‘Hurling’ or ‘Hurley’. It is not possible to state the exact time when Hurley started playing in Scotland and England. The first English document referring to a game which might have been hockey dates back to 1175. There is further evidence found on the glass windows of Canterbury Cathedral (14th century). It shows a young man hitting a ball with a hockey stick. Another six centuries passed when then ‘Shinty’ (‘Hurley’ variations occurring in Scotland and England) was transformed into what is currently known as hockey.

Modern hockey is an English development. It may be assumed to have started around 1840epochduring which a number of hockey clubs were founded in the surroundings of London and in other countries, the first of them being Blackheath H.C. However the rules of the game caused each match to result in endless discussions. This situation resulted in the creation in 1876 of a ‘Hockey Union’ whose basic task was to standardise the rules which only partially attained its objective. Only ten years later could the ‘Hockey Association’ be founded which since then has been the supreme hockey authority in England. The Hockey Association first of all devoted itself to codifying the rules and succeeded in having its first draft accepted by all clubs in the country within a few years.

Finally in 1900 the Hockey Associations of England, Wales and Ireland founded the ‘International Board’ which is the only organisation to codify and modify the rules. It was the British during the last years of the 19th century that then propagated modern hockey in numerous countries, especially in their dominions and colonies, e.g., India.

This game to which so many generations have contributed has succeeded through the centuries to become a global sport which faces challenges both now and a head in a highly competitive professional sport arena.

Thank you René Frank for your enduring part in getting hockey to where it is today.

Source: adapted Hockey World Magazine

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