A History of Hockey

The roots of hockey are buried deep in antiquity.

Hockey-like games involving sticks and balls have been played for thousands of years by people such as the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Irish, the Scots and the Indians of South America.

Historical records show that a crude form of hockey was played in Egypt 4,000 years ago, and in Ethiopia around 1,000 BC. Various museums offer evidence that a form of the game was played by Romans and Greeks, and by the Aztec Indians of South America several centuries before Columbus landed in the New World.

The National Archaeological Museum in Athens holds a square marble slab measuring 60 cm x 20 cm with four bas-reliefs of ancient sporting events. One of these shows Athenian youths playing field hockey. These bas-reliefs date back to 514 BC and show that a type of hockey was being enjoyed in Greece at that time.

This type of hockey, called "ÊÅÑÇÔÉÆÅÉÍ" (Keritizin) in ancient Greece, was very popular. Called such names as "paganica" by the Romans, "hurling" by the Irish and "shinty" by the Scots, the name "hockie" seems to have been first recorded in Ireland in 1527 and probably comes from the French word "hoquet" meaning "shepherds crook".

Hockey in England in the 17th and 18th century consisted of whole villages playing the game with the objective of hitting the ball into the opposing villages' common ground. Teams often consisted of 60 to 100 players and games occasionally lasted several days or so with injuries such as broken arms and legs not uncommon. Umpires could only arbitrate a decision if called upon to do so by a player from one of the teams. (a situation that sounds familiar even in these days!)

In 1852 the sports master of Harrow, an English Public School, advised his pupils that, among other things, no more than thirty players per team were allowed on the field at any one time. In those early days, team formation consisted of having more forwards than defenders, a situation that persisted up until the late 1800's.

The game that we know today emerged at Eton College in England in the 1860s when the first rules were written down. Further rules were written in 1875 when the first Hockey Association was formed. The game was played on a field nearly 200 metres in length and all players chased the ball for the whole of the game. In 1886 the Teddington Cricket Club effectively lead a movement which resulted in the British Hockey Association being formed which included amongst its rules a striking circle for hitting goals.

Changes in rules and play quickly developed from this beginning and by 1889 the pyramid system - five forwards, three halves, two backs and a goalkeeper - became the accepted method of playing hockey.

In 1890 the English, Irish and Welsh hockey associations formed the International Rules Board and umpires were given power to make decisions without waiting for players to appeal for a free hit - something that a large number of players have yet to learn. See 1892 Hockey Rules .

Hockey, or "Field Hockey" as it is also known, is now played in every continent with many nations competing in the three major competitions - The Olympic Games, The World Cup and The Champion's Trophy.

Hockey was first played at the Olympic Games in 1908 when men's teams were included. Women's hockey was not included in the Olympics until 1980. Hockey was played at the Commonwealth Games for the first time in 1998 (until 1998, the Commonwealth Games were mainly individual sports - swimming, athletics, boxing, etc.. 1998 saw the introduction of four team sports and hockey was one of the four.)

The first Olympic Hockey Competition for men was held in London in 1908 with England, Ireland and Scotland competing separately. After having made its first appearance in the 1908 Games, hockey was subsequently dropped from the 1912 Stockholm Games, and reappeared in 1920 in Antwerp before being omitted again in Paris in 1924. The Paris organisers refused to include hockey on the basis that the sport had no International Federation.

The Fédération Internationale de Hockey (F.I.H.)

Hockey had made its first steps toward an international federation when in 1909 the Hockey Association in England and the Belgium Hockey Association agreed to mutually recognise each other to regulate international hockey relations. The French Association followed soon after, but this was not considered sufficient for recognition as an international federation.

Mr. Paul Léautey, a Frenchman who would become the first President of the FIH, was motivated to action following hockey's omission from the program of the 1924 Paris Games and hockey took its most important step forward when the International Hockey Federation, the world governing body for the sport, was founded in Paris in 1924 at his initiative.

Mr. Léautey called together representatives from seven national federations to form the sport's international governing body, the Fédération Internationale de Hockey sur Gazon. The six founding members, which represented both men's and women's hockey in their countries, were Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Hungary, Spain and Switzerland.

The women's game developed quickly in many countries and in 1927, the International Federation of Women's Hockey Associations (IFWHA) was formed. The founding members were Australia, Denmark, England, Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, the United States and Wales. After celebrating their respective Golden Jubilees -- the FIH in 1974 and the IFWHA in 1980 -- the two organisations came together in 1982 to form the FIH.

The growth of the International Hockey Federation from its early beginnings has been most impressive. Denmark joined in 1925, the Dutch men in 1926, Turkey in 1927, and in 1928 -- the year of the Amsterdam Olympics -- Germany, Poland, Portugal and India joined. India's addition marked the membership of the first non-European country.

By 1964, there were already fifty countries affiliated with the FIH, as well as three continental associations -- Africa, Pan America and Asia -- and in 1974, there were 71 members. Today, the International Hockey Federation consists of five Continental associations -- Europe and Oceania have since joined -- and 119 member associations, the most recent addition being the Bahamas Hockey Association which was admitted during the November 1996 FIH Congress.

Today, the work of the International Hockey Federation is accomplished through the efforts of the FIH President, Secretary General and Treasurer, working together with an Executive Board, the FIH Council, a number of instrumental Committees, and the professional staff in its Brussels headquarters.

In many ways, the FIH serves as the "guardian" of the sport. It works in co-operation with both the national and continental organisations to ensure consistency and unity in hockey around the world. The FIH not only regulates the sport, but is also responsible for its development and promotion so as to guarantee a secure future for hockey.

Hockey in Australia

Hockey, as a sport, had been spread around the world by English soldiers and sailors while carrying out their duties in expanding and defending the British Empire, and early colonial Australia was no exception.

By 1900 there were already a number of local mens hockey clubs scattered throughout the states and competitive hockey was being played in private girls schools in Australia,   The first men's association, the South Australian Hockey Association, was formed in 1903. In 1910 the All Australian Women's Hockey Association was formed as the national association for women's hockey, and in 1925 the formation of the men's hockey national body, the Australian Hockey Association was carried out.

Australia's first Olympic appearance in hockey was the men's team which competed in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and finished fifth. Men's teams have subsequently won a Bronze and three Silver medals at Olympic Games.

The first Australian women's hockey team to compete in the Olympics was in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics where it finished fourth. The women's team won the Gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and again at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

The Game

Hockey is predominantly played as a winter sport by two teams of eleven players (ten roving players and a goalkeeper). The aim of hockey is to score more goals than the other team and to do this players use their hockey sticks to propel the ball toward the team's goal. Players may run several kilometres in the course of the game. Hockey is essentially a non-body contact game (which is sometimes difficult to believe!) and rules restrict the amount of body contact and tackling that is permitted.

The hockey field or pitch is a rectangular field 60 yards wide and 100 yds long (54.90m by 91.50m).

Hockey games are played in two 35 minute halves with a five to ten minute break at half time. Two umpires control the game (one on each side of the field) and to score a goal you must shoot from within the circle (actually a semi circle) and the ball must pass wholly across the goal line.


The hockey stick is approximately one metre long with a curved end, is flat on one side and rounded on the other. The stick is made from hardwood (metals are forbidden) and usually has a laminated handle. Fibreglass is now widely used as a binding agent in the wooden stick. Hockey sticks may have different weights, curves and lengths but there is a maximum weight of 28 ounces and the stick must fit through a 2" diameter ring

The ball  can only be played with the flat side and edges of the stick, but there are many situations when it is necessary to turn the stick over with the end pointing downwards in the "reverse stick" position. There are no left-handed hockey sticks, but hockey players who are natural left-handers can still be very successful players.

The ball is the same size and weight as a cricket ball and is covered by a thin shell of dimpled plastic to keep it waterproof. Although white is the traditional colour, other colours may be used - bright orange is often used on sand filled artificial turf fields.

Field players usually wear only shin pads and mouthguards for protection but goal keepers wear a considerable amount of protective clothing including chest and arm protectors, gloves, leg pads and kicking boots, helmets, etc.

The rules and equipment for both men and women are the same

Versions of the game of hockey.

Minkey, a modified version of hockey designed for mixed teams of girls and boys at primary school level is played on a field one-quarter the size of a regular hockey field with only six players a side. Because of the smaller field and modified rules young players have much more contact with the ball.

Minkey was developed by the Australian Hockey Association and along with other programs developed by AHA and others, was used by the newly created Australian Sports Commission as a basis for many of the programs they developed for other sports.

Half-Field hockey, which has seven players, and is played on half the normal field. Suitable for Under Nine's because of the smaller field, Half-Field hockey is also played by Seniors as the restricted area makes for a faster, more controlled, training environment

Indoor Hockey - played as the name suggests - indoors. Normally on a basketball court or similar, although the rules governing the size of the court and the goals are well defined. Rules forbid hitting the ball or raising it off the ground unless actually having a shot at goal. Several places also play "Indoor/Outdoor" hockey - indoor sized courts and goals with indoor rules on one of the outdoor artificial turf fields.