No more chuckling at the British hockey teams, hockey “purists.” They might just have more hockey cred than even Canada, based on some new evidence dug up by two Swedish researchers. Carl Giden and Patrick Houda uncovered a picture in a book dating from 1797, featuring a British youth skating on the frozen bank of the Thames River during a cold snap. The picture pretty much shows the kid skating with a hockey stick and a puck — it’s hard to mistake him doing anything else.
From the duo’s research:
“In 1797, the word ‘hockey’ had been used in London and its surroundings for about 50 years, replacing the medieval term ‘bandy ball,’ ” the researchers write in an article recently added to their ever-expanding online compendium of hockey history. “The artist’s intention must have been to picture a pair of skating hockey-players. Later similar paintings are not known until the 1850s.”
The first known image of any sort of hockey was a woodcutting of field hockey dating from 1776 that Giden and Houda also discovered. The organized game is a precursor to hockey, but the first organized match with rules and the like happened in Montreal in 1875, nearly 85 years after the picture of the youth on the Thames.
For some odd reason, the thing that strikes me, the actual historian, the most about this article is that the puck called a “bung.” We could be making jokes about Ilya Bryzgalov’s “bung hole,” people. Think about the missed opportunities.