Hockey is a fast-paced, highly physical sport that has been around for ages – or since the late 19th century to be a little more specific. On March 3, 1875, the first-ever organised indoor ice hockey match took place in Montreal, Quebec, Canada at the Victoria Skating Rink. Just like most team sports, however, it was far different from what we watch today on our televisions.
Back in the day, each team consisted of nine players battling over a wooden puck on the rink. Other than the basic Hockey sticks and skates, the rest of the equipment seen and used today by players was non-existent. Since the sport’s roots trace all the way back to the Great White North, jerseys leant towards protecting athletes from the cold rather than safeguarding them from various physical injuries.
It is reported that the skates back then literally only had blades attached to the bottom of the soles. Furthermore, when it comes to protective gear, one of the first types of equipment was a pair of makeshift shinguards made of strips of leather with reinforced wood or cane. Slowly but surely, more and more players saw the importance of proper safety kit.
In the early 1900s, aside from being a crucial player in Vancouver’s Stanley Cup run, Fred “Cyclone” Taylor was also one of the first athletes to incorporate shoulder and back protection. From there, many hockey players began adapting the concept, while equipment manufacturers implemented and refurbished the idea to fit the ever-changing needs of players.
Fast-forward to today; Hockey players – both amateurs and professionals – use exceedingly sophisticated equipment that offers total protection without compensating performance and comfort. Typical designs feature flexible and light materials so athletes can play at a high level and be safe from harm at the same time.
Goaltenders, for their part, are the ones most exposed to some of the greatest dangers that Hockey presents. They are constantly on the receiving end of high-speed shots, which is why their protective gear has extra padding. George “Whitey” Merritt of the Winnipeg Victorias was the first goalie ever to wear leg pads. During the 1896 Stanley Cup Challenge game, he introduced cricket pads as a form of protection, which later on helped his team shut out the Montreal Victorias 2-0. Soon, goaltenders began using masks, which also had a way of putting fear into their opponents, as well as offering various forms of protection.
It is quite impressive how Hockey – as a whole – has evolved throughout the decades. It has become a major sport in the United States, and one of the big four, so much so that many companies have used it as a marketable venture to reach new audiences.
One such firm is Hasbro, the makers of the iconic Monopoly board game, which has sold millions of units across the world. Hasbro recognised Hockey’s global and regional reach. Thus, it created offshoots such as the Detroit Red Wings-themed board game, which can be seen on Monopoly City. While Hasbro has also branch out into to other ventures, lending its name and games to an online slots version of Monopoly on Slingo, it recognises the vast market sports games appeals to. If anything, it shows Hasbro’s confidence in hockey on a whole to create games inline with one of America’s most loved sports. And it also represents how Ice Hockey has now become a viable franchise for the likes of EA Sports as well to market their products to the masses and return a healthy profit in the process.
From hand-carved sticks, makeshift skates, and wooden pucks, to adapted cricket pads, intimidating goaltending masks, and Monopoly board games, Hockey – its equipment and the sport itself – really has come a long way. It is a testament that the game – just like its players – evolved with time, contributing greatly to its longevity and overall appeal.
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