Happy Birthday! To one of the greatest, oldest, and resilient teams (both Men and Women) in the sport! As Canada looks back and celebrates its history I thought what better to write about than how the great country has impacted the sport we all love and the greats it’s created.
The Early Years
Before the formation of the NHL in 1927, there were 12 leagues within the sport (7 professional, 5 amateurs). The oldest of which being the MWCT in Montreal dating back to 1883.
It was at this point, in 1889, when watching the Montreal Victorians play the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association that he decided to donate a cup of silver lined with gold to commemorate the championship. The cup was set to become a piece of history, symbolizing the history and talent of Ice Hockey.
At around this point in the 1890’s we also saw the first appearance of Women’s hockey played at Universities. The claim is that Ottowa, Ontario hosted the first game in 1891. Following, in 1920, came the Lady Meredith Cup donated by the Lady herself, given to the Quebec Ladies’ Hockey Association. Leading the way in Women’s hockey, Ontario hosted the first ever Women’s world championship in 1987. Although not officially backed, the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association hosted the tournament and had multiple nations contribute to the tournament.
Two out of six
Then came the ‘big six’ of which Canada contributed two of the original six hockey teams. These two teams proved themselves as a powerhouse in the league with 22 Stanley Cup wins between them in the first 27 years of the league formation.
Split between the two teams, the Montreal Canadians saw 12 wins, the Toronto Maple Leafs with 10. But what was it that gave these teams the upper hand? The magic touch?
Some of the greats
Where better to begin than with Canadian great Gordie Howe. With a groundbreaking 1,767 games played over 26 seasons and 1,850 points, the aptly named ‘Mr.Hockey’ is a Canadian legend within the sport.
Although spending most of his time in Detroit, Mr.Hockey also had the opportunity to play for team Canada against the U.S.S.R. Even better so, he got to play with his son Mark and fellow Canadian great Wayne Gretzky. However, most important of all, the patented ‘Gordie Howe Hat Trick’ consisting of a goal, an assist, and a fight. Which still to this day is a key part of any Hockey players vocabulary.
The only possible way to follow on from Mr.Hockey is the guy who broke most of his NHL records, ‘The Great One’, Mr.Wayne Gretzky. In the 20 NHL seasons played Gretzky was on the ice for 1,487 matches and accumulated 2,857 points (894 goals, 1,963 assists). Gretzky also holds the records for most goals (20), most assists (28), and most overall points (48) in international hockey. Gretzky was famous for his play-making behind the opposition net, nicknamed ‘Gretzky’s office’. Once retired the Ontario-born star was inducted into the HHOF, sealing his position as one of Canadas and Hockeys best.
Terry Sawchuk. The best goaltender in NHL history of his time. At a point where masks weren’t regulation and the sport was as dangerous as ever Sawchuck played 21 seasons and saw 447 wins. Aside from the wins, Sawchuk also saw 115 shutouts in his career, setting a remarkable benchmark for fellow goaltenders in the sport. With the premature ending to his career, Sawchuk has remained a hero to many hockey players and fans eyes. With the Detroit Red Wings retiring number 1 for ‘The Greatest Goaltender in History’ in 1994. Sawchuk will forever be remembered for his contribution to the sport.
To close this recap of Canadian Hockey we have none other than Hayley Wickenheiser. The first female to play a position in professional hockey other than a goaltender, she was also a member of the Canadian women’s national hockey team for 23 years. She is Canada’s career points leader with 168 goals and 211 assists in 276 games played.
She also took part in the Winter Olympics five times representing Canada in which she won four gold medals and one silver, as well as being the tournament’s MVP twice. It is clear why Wickenheiser is widely considered hockey’s best female player of all time.
Thank you so much for reading, I hope you have enjoyed this brief history of Canadian hockey history. Happy Canada Day.
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