When I think of ice hockey, I think of bearded Canadians, slick-haired Americans, and rocket-armed Russians. The National Hockey League has a wide variety of nationalities pulling on Jerseys in front of thousands of fans on a nearly nightly basis. North Americans and Eastern Europeans occupy near enough all the roster spots in the NHL. While British presence has never been strong in the NHL, the sport's popularity has grown on home soil over the last century or so.
Where did it all start for us on this side of the big pond? Well, according to the Oxford University Blues and Cambridge University Ice Hockey Club, they first played a Varsity game in St. Moritz against one another way way back in 1885, a date recognised by the Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF). So when did we go from fresh-faced teenage uni students playing against rival unis to an Established league system featuring multiple teams with players who don’t have to fit homework in between practices? 12 years later, Britain has three ice hockey teams all playing out of Princes Skating Club, Niagara, Brighton, and the Royal Engineers. Then, in 1903, a group of Expats hailing from the Great White North decided they were bored of tea parties and Croquet and they did something about it. The earliest known league format ice hockey competition in England and in Europe was contested between five teams playing out of two ice rinks in London. The league was won by the London Canadians ice hockey team in 1904. Sadly, the league did not continue play. Instead, the runners up Princes Ice Hockey team and Oxford Canadians (LCs successors) began undertaking European Tournaments. In 1910, England and Scotland played one another on the ice for the first time. Three years later, the British Ice Hockey Association was created, overseeing the organisation of the 1913-14 season, with Cambridge University, the Oxford Canadians, Princes, Manchester, and the Royal Engineers. 1914 saw the outbreak of the first world war and most of the players will have been conscripted to fight for their country. 1923 comes along, five years following the Armistice, and the great sport returned to the UK.