Why Ice Hockey Is Much More Than Just A Game For Canadians

Few nations around the world can match Canada when it comes to passion for sports. While many sports have gained popularity over the decades, none quite match the sense of pride which surrounds ice hockey, which is officially recognised as the official winter sport of Canada.

Hardly surprising, given that Canada is also the birthplace of contemporary ice hockey. Although similar games were played in Europe and travelled across the Atlantic with settlers, the modern game we know today was developed in Montreal. The first organised indoor game was played at Victoria Skating Rink in 1875, amongst McGill University students.

McGill University Hockey Club was the first ice hockey club to be founded in 1877, then as more clubs were established, nascent competitions followed. Perhaps the most important step for contemporary hockey came in 1888, at the Montreal Winter Carnival. While observing the ice hockey tournament, Lord Stanley of Preston, then Governor General of Canada, noted that no trophy was awarded to the winning teams.

In 1892 Lord Stanley commissioned a silver bowl that would be presented as a trophy, recognising the best team in Canada. Originally known as the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, the first winner in 1893 was Montreal Hockey Club, who dominated the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada. This iconic trophy would later become known as the Stanley Cup.

As ice hockey continued to evolve and spread elsewhere around the world, Canadian teams inevitably became dominant on the international stage, proudly defeating all challengers. This fearsome reputation stems back to the 1920 Olympic Games, when ice hockey debuted as an Olympic sport at the Summer Games held in Antwerp, Belgium.

Needless to say, the Canadian ice hockey team won gold at the 1920 games, and with the creation of the Winter Olympic Games in 1924, they have continued to dominate the international scene. No other team can come close on the Olympic stage, with Canada’s men and women having won 13 hockey golds. Furthermore, an enduring rivalry was established with the United States.

Just to underline how passionate Canadians are about ice hockey, one game registered the biggest-ever TV audience. In 2010 when Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics, more than 16.6 million Canadians tuned in as their team beat the United States, adding yet another gold medal to their collection. Beating the southern neighbours wasn’t only about doing so as hosts, it was a matter of national pride for Canadians.

Interestingly, despite the National Hockey League (NHL) and Stanley Cup being founded in Canada, no team from north of the border has won the championship since 1993, when the Montreal Canadiens beat the Los Angeles Kings. Since then, proud hockey fans of the Great White North have been forced to endure a Stanley cup drought.

Although several Canadian teams came close, reaching the Stanley Cup Finals before ultimately being vanquished, the franchises from the United States have now dominated the NHL for almost three decades. Nevertheless, this could all change if the Toronto Maple Leafs can match their expectations, as they are viewed as one of the best teams in the NHL.

Should the Maple Leafs manage to lift the iconic Stanley Cup this year, irrespective of the habitual rivalries with fellow Canadian teams, it’s fair to say that a whole nation will be heaving a huge sigh of relief. Canada is proud to be a hockey nation, this is much more than just a game to them, which means it’s about time the Stanley Cup returned to its eternal spiritual home.

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