Hockey is a popular sport, especially in the countries in the northern hemisphere who enjoys cold winters. One reason for the sports popularity is of course geographic: without natural ice it is hard for large parts of a country’s population to ice skate. Nevertheless, ice hockey is played in more or less all the countries of the world. However, the sport is most popular in Europe and North America.
History of ice hockey
The sport was probably born from simple outside winter games of sticks and balls in the United Kingdom in the 18th and 19th century. These games were then transferred to United States and Canda through migration. Early on, the sport had names like shinny and ice polo. However, in Canada, the first variant of the modern hockey was born: In Winsor 1875, a game played on a rink, with a puck was played. Amateur leagues of hockey was created in the 1880s and professional ice hockey originated in 1900. In 1920 the sport appeared in the Olympic Games in Belgium. Canada won the gold, United States silver and Czechoslovakia the bronze. In International Competitions “the big six” have won the most of the medals:
Canada, Czech Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia), Finland, Russia, Sweden and the United States.
However, upcoming teams such as Switzerland are becoming better than better. In the 2016 World Cup there will be a mixed European team consisting of players outside of the big six.
Modern ice hockey
The modern version of the sport has similar rules all over the world, with some differences such as off-side rules and rink sizes. There are a number of professional hockey leagues, the North American NHL (National Hockey League) being the most prestigous one. The Russian/European KHL (Kontinental Hockey League) is the economic largest competitor. Many European countries have their own leagues, and recently a European “Champions Hockey League” has emerged where club teams from different European nations are facing each other.