No other nation is more associated with the sport of hockey than Canada. Indeed, the modern version of ice hockey played worldwide and at the Winter Olympics owes its development to Canadians.

But where was the game actually invented? Who played the first match of ice hockey? The true answer is lost to the mists of time. Ice hockey almost certainly began as field hockey. In other words, it was a game played on solid ground with some form of a ball that players knocked around with sticks.

Stick-and-ball games are known to have been played for thousands of years. For example, when Europeans first arrived in the Americas, they found Native Americans playing a stick-and-ball field game that is now called Lacrosse. Playing versions of “stick-and-ball” on ice most likely first emerged in some northern European cold-climate country.

But if it’s the game of hockey we all recognize today, one need only hearken back to Canada in the late 1800s.

The rules of modern hockey were devised by a Canadian lawyer, journalist, and engineer named James Creighton. He organized the first official hockey match in Montreal in 1875. It was played at the Victoria Skating Rink and each team had nine men. Today, hockey teams feature only six players per team on the ice at one time unless one is sitting out for a penalty.

This first game was also the first to use what we call a “puck” rather than a “bung,” a ball-like object. The first puck was made of wood. Today they are made from vulcanized rubber. By the way, the word puck likely comes from the Scottish Gaelic word “puc” or the Irish Gaelic “poc” which translates to “punch” or “deliver a blow.”

The first hockey club was formed in 1877. This was the McGill University Hockey Club of Montreal. The Quebec Hockey Club (The Bulldogs) followed in 1878, and the Montreal Victorias emerged in 1881. The standard size of a team went from nine to seven in 1980.

The sport grew rapidly in popularity, especially in Canada. By 1883, there were already enough teams to play a “world championship.” This occurred at the Montreal Annual Winter Carnival in 1883.

Thus, the game of hockey was off and running — or we should say — off and skating.