Ice Hockey – Canada’s Favourite Sport

Updated on Feb 23, 2024 | Canada eTA

The national winter sport of Canada and the most popular sport among all Canadians, Ice Hockey can be dated back to the 19th century when various stick and ball games, both from the United Kingdom and from the indigenous communities of Canada, influenced a new game into existence. It is as popular in Canada, both as a game and as a pastime, among people of all ages, as sports such as cricket and football are elsewhere in the world. Over time it has become quite popular internationally too and is even an Olympic sport . And in a country that is full of so many diverse peoples, cultures, and languages, hockey is a kind of unifying force that brings everyone together.

It is an integral part of Canada's national identity as well as the country’s rich culture. But if you’re visiting Canada and perhaps planning on going to a Ice Hockey game and yet you don’t know a lot about the game, well, we can help you with that! Here is a comprehensive guide on Canada's official sport of Ice Hockey that it is known worldwide for.

History of Ice Hockey in Canada

Canada’s ice hockey was a sport that the European settlers invented by using parts of various other games. It was derived mainly from the various kinds of field hockey played all over Europe, especially in England, and from the lacrosse-like stick and ball game that was originated by the Mi'kmaq indigenous people of the Maritimes provinces of Canada. The term hockey itself came from the French word ‘hoquet’ which means a shepherd's stick, an object that was used in a Scottish game in the 18th century.

All of these influences combined to contribute to the contemporary form of Canadian ice hockey, which was first played indoors in 1875 in Montreal in Canada . In Montreal itself annual ice hockey championships also originated in the 1880s and the Stanley Cup, which is the oldest trophy award in North American sports, started to be awarded to top ice hockey teams. By the twentieth century professional ice hockey leagues had been formed, even in the United States. The most important of these that is a major professional league even today, a hundred years later, and the strongest and largest association for hockey in North America as well as the rest of the world, is Canada’s National Hockey League.

Ice hockey in Canada Ice Hockey – Canada’s Favourite Sport

How is Canadian Ice Hockey Played?

Most forms of Canadian Ice Hockey are played according to the rules devised by the National Hockey League or NHL. The game is played on a 200x85 feet rink that is shaped like a rectangle with round corners. There are three sections on the rink – the neutral zone in the middle where the game starts, and the attacking and defending zones on either sides of the neutral zone. There is a 4x6 feet goal cages and a goal occurs when a shot clears the wide striped goal line on the ice in front of the goal cage.

There are two teams on skates with hockey sticks with which to shoot the rubber puck into the goal cage or net of the opposing team. The puck is passed between the players of the different teams and each team’s job is not only to score a goal but also to prevent the opposing team from scoring a goal. The game consists of 3 twenty minute periods and at the end of the game, whichever team has scored the most goals wins, and if there is a draw then the game goes into overtime and the first team to score a goal during this extra time wins.

Each team has a maximum of 20 players out of which only 6 can play on the ice at a time and the rest are substitutes who can replace the original six as and when required. Since the game can be quite brutal and violent because the players may stop the opposing players from scoring goals with physical force, each player including the goal keeper or tender has protective equipment and padding. Other than the goal tender who must remain in his position, the rest of the outfield players can move from their positions and move about the ice field as they choose to. Players can be penalised if trip their opponent with their stick, body check a player who doesn’t have the puck, fight, or cause serious injury to opposing players.

Women’s Hockey

It may seem like Canada’s ice hockey has mostly been a male sport ever since its origins, but in fact women have also played ice hockey in Canada for over a hundred years. It was in 1892 in Ontario that the first all female ice hockey game was played and in 1990 that a first world championship for women’s hockey took place . Now women’s ice hockey has also been a part of the Olympics Winter Games. There is also a separate league for women’s hockey called the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and women’s hockey teams exist at college levels as well, thus leading to more and more women participating in the game and eventually reaching the national and international leagues.

International Ice Hockey

Canada’s official sport of ice hockey is also an internationally acclaimed and played sport. From the International Ice Hockey Federation to the Winter Olympics, Canada has competed with countries all over the world, with the United States of America and Russia being the main rivals of Canada in the game.

Anybody visiting Canada for the first time would probably want to familiarize themselves with Canadian culture and society which is said to be one of the most progressive and multicultural in the Western world. Read more at Guide to Understanding Canadian Culture.

Check your eligibility for eTA Canada Visa and apply for eTA Canada Visa 72 hours in advance of your flight. eTA Canada Visa Application Process is fairly straighforward and should you need any help or require any clarifications you should contact our helpdesk for support and guidance.