Check out the basic foundations of ice hockey, it's fitness benefits, and how to get involved in the sport.

Ice hockey is a powerful and fast moving sport, where the puck (which is the equivalent of the ball in field hockey) can be hit up to a speed of 100mph (160kph).

The game has more than its fair share of thrills and spills, and at the competitive and professional levels there are plenty of punch-ups — which seem to be part of the game’s attraction to spectators!

History of the sport

Ice hockey originated from the versions of hockey-like games which were brought to North America by European immigrants and adapted for the continent’s icy conditions. Early examples of ice hockey saw matches being played on frozen rivers, lakes and ponds with the players using cheese cutters strapped to their boots.

It has been suggested that the first ice hockey game to use a puck rather than a ball took place in Canada in 1860, and that the first set of rules were drawn up in 1879. The first US Hockey organisation was then formed in 1893.

By 1920, ice hockey had established itself as an Olympic sport, and today it continues to be the most popular sport on ice. It is most popular in countries that have sufficiently cold weather for natural, reliable, seasonal ice cover to be present. The major playing nations are the United States, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Slovakia and Sweden — and these countries have dominated competition at the Olympic level over the decades since ice hockey was introduced.

Health and fitness benefits of ice hockey

Ice hockey is great for...

  • Developing key arm and leg muscles.
  • Improving agility in the hands and feet.
  • Boosting mental strength and focus.
  • Developing flexibility and reflex times.

Want to try it yourself?

Ice hockey is a huge sport, so most ice rinks will host games between local teams and often have clubs that you can join. It might be worth learning how to ice skate before joining any clubs, as it’s pretty hard to stay upright without the pads and hockey stick.