That Awkward Moment Canada Learns That Ice Hockey May Have Been Invented In Britain

  • Rick Chandler

From the day they emerge from the womb (occasionally already wearing toques), Canadians are taught two things: their bacon is superior to all other bacon, and hockey was invented there.

As to the latter, that happened in the 1870s. But then what of this recently-released letter from Charles Darwin (yes, that Charles Darwin), who writes to his son in an English boarding school of playing ice hockey in 1825?

Sorry Canada: it looks like ice hockey first evolved in your parent country. London Daily Mail:

Darwin’s letter was sent to his then 13-year-old son William, who was boarding at Shrewsbury School at the time, on March 1, 1853.

“My Dear Old Willy… have you got a pretty good pond to skate on? I used to be very fond of playing at Hocky [sic] on the ice in skates,” he wrote.

The evolutionary theorist had himself attended the school as a boarder between 1818 and 1825 himself, and it is thought his reference to enjoying “hockey on the ice” relates to this time.

If that is the case, ice hockey would have been played in Britain at least 50 years earlier than the first officially recognized match in Canada, where is it now a national sport and general obsession.

The Darwin letter appears in a new book by Canadian Jean-Patrice Martel of the Society For International Hockey Research. The book’s title? “On the Origins of Hockey”. Ha.

If you’re Canadian and having trouble believing this, please note that there is independent verification.

Martel also found an entry in the Lincolnshire Chronicle dated February 16, 1838 that backs up claims the ice hockey was being played in Britain in the first half of the 19th century. And what a game it was.

The entry reads: “On Saturday last, an amusing scene took place on a splendid sheet of ice which covered Croxby Pond.

“A large party from the neighboring residence of Geo. Alington, Esq., of Swinhop House, drove up in sledges to the pond.

“The ladies were drawn upon the ice in traineau, while the gentlemen performed various feats upon their skates: after going through several quadrilles, reels and playing a warmly contested game at hockey, the party partook of a cold collation, and again stepping into their sledges, glided swiftly away.”

That’s pretty much exactly the way it happened Monday in Game 4 in the Kings’ 5-2 win over the Blackhawks.