International Hockey Wiki
Flag of Canada.svg.png
Continent North America
Population 33,476,688
Registered players 572,411
Referees N/A
Rinks 7,486
National teams Men's
Women's U18
National federation Hockey Canada
IIHF since April 26, 1920
IIHF ranking 4
Top league National Hockey League1
Current champion Montreal Canadiens

1The NHL contains teams from both Canada and the United States, the last Canadian champion was the Montreal Canadiens in 1993-94)

Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Ottawa is the capital and Toronto is the largest city.

History of hockey in Canada[]

The early years[]

Ice hockey appeared in Canada early in the 1800s. The original game was pretty much adaptation to European sports of hurley, shinty or field hockey to the winter conditions of the new home of Irish, Scottish and English settlers, respectively. In 1825, Sir John Franklin wrote that "The game of hockey played on the ice was the morning sport" while on Great Bear Lake during one of his Arctic expeditions. In 1843, a British Army officer in Kingston, Ontario, wrote "Began to skate this year, improved quickly and had great fun at hockey on the ice." A Boston Evening Gazette article from 1859 makes reference to an early game of hockey on ice occurring in Halifax in that year.

While both Kingston and Windsor, Nova Scotia have been claimed by individuals at one point or another as the birthplace of hockey, Montreal is usually acknowledged as the birthplace of modern ice hockey. On March 3rd 1875, a group of students of McGill University in Montreal played the first organized indoor game at the Victoria Skating Rink. Two years later, several McGill students, including James George Aylwin Creighton, Henry Joseph, Richard F. Smith, W.F. Robertson, and W.L. Murray codified seven ice hockey rules.

The sport quickly gained in popularity and official hockey clubs began to appear. The first was the McGill University Hockey Club in 1877; in 1881, the Montreal Victorias were founded. The sport was featured in Montreal's annual Winter Carnival from 1883; McGill won the first "Carnival Cup". In 1886, the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada was founded as a league for the teams that took part in the carnivals.

Amateur hockey[]

In 1888, Lord Stanley of Preston, the new Governor General of Canada, attended the Montreal Winter Carnival and watched hockey games. He was impressed by what he saw on the ice, and his sons and daughter became hockey enthusiasts. Four years later, after noting the lack of recognition for the best club in the country, he purchased for a reported ten guineas a decorative bowl to silversmiths from Sheffield intended as a trophy. The bowl, initially known as The Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup and more famously later as the Stanley Cup, was first awarded in 1893 to the Montreal HC. If it was originally intended as a challenge cup for champions of various leagues across the country, it became the de facto championship trophy of the National Hockey League in 1926, and de jure in 1947.

Professional hockey[]

Professional leagues emerged from amateur leagues. In 1904, the predominantly U.S.-based International Professional Hockey League (IPHL) hosted the first Canadian professional team, the Canadian Soo. The league hired many amateur players away from Canada, causing the amateur leagues to convert to all-out professionalism or allow professional players in order to compete for the top players. The first Canadian professional league was the Manitoba Professional Hockey League (MPHL), formed in 1905 from member teams of the amateur Manitoba Hockey Association. The Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association (ECAHA), formed from prior amateur hockey leagues, emerged in 1906. The ECAHA allowed teams to have professional players from the start, despite its name. In 1907, the Ontario Professional Hockey League was formed. The competition for players increased salaries, a factor in the demise of the IPHL in 1907 and the temporary end of professional hockey in the United States. In 1908, the ECAHA became fully professional, as the ECAHA's amateur teams separated from the league and competed for the new Allan Cup, a new challenge cup instituted for amateur teams. The ECAHA, now fully professional, renamed itself the ECHA. The MPHL folded in 1909, the OPHL in 1908, leaving the ECHA as the only 'elite' professional league in Canada.

In northern Ontario, silver mining had made small towns affluent, and mines in the area hired professional players for their ice hockey teams. By 1910, several teams in the area had hired enough professional players from the ECHA, that the teams, notably the Renfrew Creamery Kings, wanted to join the ECHA and compete for the Stanley Cup. Rebuffed by the ECHA, the mine owners formed the National Hockey Association (NHA) in 1910, splitting the ECHA's teams between the Canadian Hockey Association and the NHA. The CHA dissolved after less than a month, with some teams absorbed by the NHA. After one season of extravagant salaries, the NHA team owners imposed a salary cap, causing dissension amongst the players, and closed most of the teams in mining towns.

In 1911, Lester and Frank Patrick, who had played in the NHA, formed the rival Pacific Coast Hockey Association in British Columbia and took the opportunity to sign many of the NHA's players, notably Cyclone Taylor. In 1912, the NHA expanded west to Toronto, becoming a six-team league from Toronto to Quebec City. While the leagues competed for players, competition for the Stanley Cup brought them together for annual playoffs, starting in 1915. In November 1917, the NHA itself suspended operations and several NHA owners formed the National Hockey League(NHL) following a dispute between NHA team owners. The new league began play in December that year with four Canadian teams. The NHL continued the annual Stanley Cup playoffs with the PCHA.

In the west, the Western Canada Hockey League was formed in 1921 from existing teams in Alberta and Saskatchewan. The annual Stanley Cup playoffs now became a three-way championship, alternating in location between the west and the east. The PCHA would merge with the WCHL in 1924 to form the Western Hockey League before the league ceased operations in 1926. The NHL, having expanded to the U.S.A. and now with ten teams, bought out the players' contracts of the WHL and took control of the Stanley Cup, forming Canadian and American divisions.

The NHL lost Canadian teams in the 1920s and 1930s, leading to a rise in senior-level amateur teams and leagues in cities such as Quebec City and Ottawa, former NHL cities. After World War 2, several of these teams became professional in the Quebec Hockey League, which included several stars such as Jean Beliveau and Willie O'Ree. In the 1950s, with the rise of NHL television broadcasts, such as those on Hockey Night in Canada, attendance suffered and the minor professional leagues folded or merged to survive. A new Western Hockey League was formed on the west coast with teams in several cities including Vancouver. The WHL's Vancouver Canucks organization would join the NHL in 1970. Since the demise of the QHL, the American Hockey League (AHL) has had Canadian teams, starting with the Quebec Aces.

In 1972, the World Hockey Association was formed with professional teams in Edmonton, Ottawa, Quebec City and Winnipeg. Ottawa relocated to Toronto after one season, but the other teams survived until the WHA merged with the NHL in 1979. Edmonton, Quebec City and Winnipeg joined the NHL. In 1984, the Atlanta franchise moved to Calgary. In the 1990s, the Quebec and Winnipeg franchises relocated to the U.S., while Ottawa rejoined the NHL in 1992.

On 16 February, 2005, the NHL became the first major professional team sport in North America to cancel an entire season because of a labor dispute. Play resumed again in the fall of 2005. During the dispute, controversy arose over the decision not to award the Stanley Cup; some considered this decision a violation of the terms of the Stanley Cup's handover to the NHL. Following a legal challenge, it was agreed that the Cup's trustees could award the Cup to a non-NHL team.

The official museum for the NHL is the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Canada.

Senior hockey[]

From the beginning of the 1900s until the 1970s, senior hockey was immensely popular across Canada, particularly in rural towns. At a time when most households didn't have a television and few hockey games were broadcast, local arenas were filled to capacity to watch the local team take on a rival. The Allan Cup had a prestige comparable to that of the Stanley Cup. Some believed that senior hockey was sometimes played at a caliber higher than professional.

The popularity of senior hockey declined in the 1980s and 1990s. A number of long-running leagues and teams vanished. Today, many players choose to play organized recreational hockey, sometimes referred to as "commercial hockey". The popularity of the National Hockey League and junior hockey has also supplanted senior hockey in many towns across Canada.

Junior hockey[]

Junior hockey in Canada is broken into several tiers, and players aged 16–20 at the beginning of the season are eligible. Hockey Canada is enacting rules designed to limit the number of 16-year-olds allowed to play junior hockey, preferring most remain at the midget level.

Major junior[]

Major junior hockey is overseen by the Canadian Hockey League, which acts as the governing body for its three constituent leagues:

  • Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, operating in Quebec and Atlantic Canada with 17 teams
  • Ontario Hockey League, operating in Ontario, Pennsylvania, and Michigan with 20 teams
  • Western Hockey League, operating in Western Canada, Washington, and Oregon with 22 teams

The CHL currently places a cap of three 20-year-old or overage players per team, while only four 16-year-olds are permitted. While fifteen-year-old players were formerly permitted to play a limited number of games per season at the CHL level, they are now permitted to play only if they are deemed exceptional by the CHL. Three players to date have qualified under this rule: center John Tavares in 2005, defenceman Aaron Ekblad in 2011, and center Connor McDavid in 2012. CHL teams are currently permitted two "imports" (players from outside Canada or the US, generally from Europe or Russia) each, though this cap is expected to be reduced to one within a couple of seasons.

CHL teams are considered professional by the NCAA; thus any player who plays a game at the Major Junior level loses his eligibility to play for universities in the United States. He retains eligibility for Canadian universities however, and all three leagues have programs in place to grant scholarships for any player who plays in these leagues provided he does not turn professional once his junior career ends. Many of the top North American prospects for the professional National Hockey League (NHL) play in the CHL.

The champion of each league competes in an annual tournament with a predetermined host team for the Memorial Cup, Canada's national Major Junior championship.

Up until 1970, the leagues that became Major Junior and Junior A today were both known as Junior A. In 1970 they were divided into Tier I Junior A or Major Junior A and Tier II Junior A. In 1980, the three Major Junior A leagues opted for self control over being controlled by the branches of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association and became Major Junior hockey, Tier II Junior A became the top tier of hockey in these branches and became Junior A hockey.

Junior A[]

Junior A (junior AAA in Quebec) hockey is one level below the CHL. Junior A was referred to as Tier II Junior A in the 1970s, until what was called Major Junior A broke away from their regional branches in 1980 and became the Canadian Hockey League and Major Junior hockey, at this time, the term Tier II was dropped from what is now Junior A hockey. It is governed by the Canadian Junior Hockey League, which oversees eleven constituent leagues across Canada. The national championship is the Royal Bank Cup. This level of hockey was created in 1970 when the Major Junior level broke away from the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, although the affiliation was later amended.

Junior A teams are considered amateur by the NCAA, thus players intending to go to American universities tend to choose this route rather than play in the CHL. Junior A teams tend to play in much smaller markets than CHL teams, and thus play to much smaller crowds.

Junior B, C, D[]

Junior B (junior AA in Quebec) was created in 1933, to differentiate between teams capable for Memorial Cup competition and those who were not. The major championships across Canada are the Sutherland Cup in Southern Ontario, the Carson Trophy in the Ottawa District, the Coupe Dodge in Quebec, the Don Johnson Cup in the Atlantic Provinces, and the Keystone Cup which represents all of Western Canada, from British Columbia to Northwestern Ontario.

Junior C (junior A in Quebec) is generally a local based system, but is considered competitive in some regions, and serve as seeding or farm-teams for Junior B teams. Ontario Junior C Hockey has 6 rounds of playoffs (up to 42 games of best-of-seven playoff rounds) for the Clarence Schmalz Cup which was first awarded in 1938. The Ontario playdowns are played for between 6 of the Province's 7 different regional leagues. In Quebec and West of Manitoba, Junior C hockey tends to be an extension of the local minor hockey system and is sometimes called Juvenile or House League. In Ontario, Manitoba, and the Maritimes, Junior C is run independently of minor hockey systems, though with the same mostly recreational purpose.

Junior D was popular in the 1960s and 1970s in dense population centers, but fell off in the early 1990s. In Quebec, Junior D is now known as Junior B and is run strictly by minor hockey associations. The last Junior D league is the OHA's Southern Ontario Junior Hockey League, the result of the merger of the Northern, Western, and Southern Junior D leagues in the late 1980s. At 16 teams, the league renamed itself a Junior Development league in the early 1990s, and the SOJHL in 2006. In recent years, the SOJHL has been trying to get itself declared a Junior C league and on April 26, 2012, the OHA's Board of Directors approved the move of all Junior D teams in the province to be re-classified as Junior C. Starting with the 2012-2013 season, SOJHL teams will play within their League as a “C” category but playoffs for the Schmalz Cup may not be available in Year One. The teams will be amalgamated and re-aligned into other Junior C Leagues in time for the 2013-14 season.

Teams at the lower level of junior hockey tend to operate as extensions of local minor hockey systems. While some future NHLers come from the lower levels of junior hockey, they are few. There is no national governing body at these levels, only provincial.


Hockey is the most popular sport in Canada, having been named the country's national sport. The National Hockey League operates as the top level league in both Canada and the United States. Canada currently has seven teams in the NHL, compared to 23 in the United States .

Hockey Canada, formally known as the Canadian Hockey Association, is the governing body of ice hockey in the country. In 1968, the Government of Canada formed Hockey Canada to oversee all operations of ice hockey in Canada, including amateur, university and professional. The new organization became responsible for international ice hockey team selection, including Olympic and World Championships, but did not govern ice hockey play within Canada. This changed in July 1994 when Hockey Canada merged with the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, which had formed in 1914 to oversee Allan Cup play. Hockey Canada has 13 regional branches throughout the country.

Canada became a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation on April 26, 1920.

National Championships[]

  • Abby Hoffman Cup - Women's - Awarded since 1983
  • Alexander Cup - Major Senior - Awarded from 1951-1954
  • Allan Cup - Senior - Awarded since 1909
  • Edinburgh Trophy - Minor Professional - Awarded from 1954-1957
  • Hardy Cup - Intermediate - Awarded from 1968-1989
  • Memorial Cup - Major Junior - Awarded since 1919
  • Stanley Cup - Professional - Awarded since 1893
  • University Cup - Universities - Awarded since 1963

National teams[]

From 1920 until 1963, the senior amateur club teams representing Canada, were usually the most recent Allan Cup champions. The last amateur club team from Canada to win a gold medal at the World Championship was the Trail Smoke Eaters in 1961. Following the 1963 World Championships, Father David Bauer founded the national team as a permanent institution. The new permanent national team first competed at the 1964 Winter Olympics.

Before the Soviet Union began international competition in 1954, Canada dominated international hockey, winning six out of seven golds at the Olympics and 10 World Championship gold medals. Canada then went 50 years without winning the Winter Olympic gold medal and from 1962 to 1993, didn't win any World Championships. This was in part because Canada's best professional players were unable to attend these events as they had commitments with their National Hockey League teams.

Canada withdrew from official IIHF events in 1970 and the National Team programme was suspended after they were refused permission to use semi-professional players at the World Championship.

In 1972 there was an eight-game seriesy between the Soviet Union and Canada, held in September 1972 - the legendary Summit Series. It was the first competition between the Soviet national team and a Canadian team represented by professional players of the National Hockey League (NHL), known as Team Canada. It was the first international ice hockey competition for Canada after Canada had withdrawn from international ice hockey competitions in a dispute with the IIHF. The series was organized with the intention to create a true best-on-best competition in the sport of ice hockey. The Soviets had become the dominant team in international competitions, which disallowed the professional players of Canada. Canada had had a long history of dominance of the sport prior to the Soviets' rise.

The first four games of the series were held in Canada and the final four in Moscow. The Soviet Union surprised the Canadian team and most of the hockey media with an opening game victory, 7–3. Many sportswriters had predicted an overwhelming victory for Canada in the series. Canada won the next game 4–1; the third game was a tie and the Soviets won game four to take a two games to one lead after the Canadian segment. The series resumed two weeks later in Moscow. The Soviets won game five to take a three games to one series lead. The Canadians won the final three games in Moscow to win the series four games to three, with one tie. The final game was won in dramatic fashion, with the Canadians overcoming a two-goal Soviet lead after two periods. The Canadians scored three in the third, the final one scored with 34 seconds left, by Paul Henderson

Canada returned to the IIHF in 1977 after a series of negotiations between IIHF President Dr. Sabetzki and top officials of professional ice hockey in Canada and the United States. As a result, professionals are allowed to compete at the World Championship and the tournament is scheduled later in the year to ensure more players are available from among the NHL teams eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs. In return, a competition for the "Canada Cup" was to be played every four years on North American territory with the participation of Canada, the United States, and the four strongest European national teams, including professionals.

In 1983, Hockey Canada began the "Program of Excellence", whose purpose was to prepare a team for the Winter Olympics every four years. This new National Team played a full season together all over the world against both national and club teams, and often attracted top NHL prospects. In 1986, the International Olympic Committee voted to allow professional athletes to compete in Olympic Games, starting in 1988. Veteran pros with NHL experience and, in a few cases, current NHLers who were holding out in contract disputes joined the team. This program was discontinued in 1998, when the NHL began shutting down to allow its players to compete.

After not winning a gold medal for 33 years, Canada won the 1994 World Championship in Italy. Since that time, they have won in 1997, 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2015. Canada captured its first Olympic gold medal in 50 years at Salt Lake City 2002. At Vancouver 2010, Canada won the gold medal with a 3–2 win against the United States in the final. Sidney Crosby's overtime goal secured Canada the final gold medal awarded at the Games. At the 2012 World Championship in Finland and Sweden, Ryan Murray became the first draft eligible prospect to represent Canada at the World Championships.

Canada successfully defended gold at Sochi 2014, becoming the first men's team to do so since the Soviet Union in 1988 and the first to finish the tournament undefeated since 1984. Their relentless offensive pressure and stifling defence has earned the 2014 squad praise as perhaps the best, most complete Team Canada ever assembled. Drew Doughty and Shea Weber led the team in scoring, while Jonathan Toews scored the gold medal-winning goal in the first period of a 3–0 win over Sweden in the final. The architect behind the 2010 and 2014 teams, Steve Yzerman, immediately stepped down as general manager following the win.

Led by general manager Jim Nill, head coach Todd McLellan, and the late addition of captain Sidney Crosby, Canada won the 2015 IIHF World Championship in dominating fashion over Russia, their first win at the worlds since 2007. By going undefeated, their hockey federation captured a 1 million Swiss franc bonus prize in the first year of its existence. Canada scored 66 goals in their 10 games and had the top three scorers of the tournament: Jason Spezza, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall. Tyler Seguin also led the championship with nine goals. The win secured Canada’s return to number one in the IIHF world rankings for the first time since 2010.

The men's national junior team is extremely popular in Canada, even more so than the men's senior team when it plays at the World Championships. World Junior events in Canada are often sold out, television ratings are extremely high, and even events in Europe are well attended by a contingent of Canadian fans.

The Canadian junior team is one of the most successful in the world, having medalled in 29 of 39 events held since 1977, winning a record 16 gold medals. Its success can be traced back to the formation of the Program of Excellence in 1982 by the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, which created the first true national junior team. Since that time, Canada has won 16 of 34 World Junior championships – including five in a row on two occasions, 1993–1997 and 2005–2009 – and medalled in all but seven tournaments.

The women's national team has been a dominant figure in international competition, having won the majority of major women's ice hockey tournaments. Canada is rivaled by the United States, the only other winner of a major tournament. The Canadians have won gold at the last four Olympic tournaments and have finished first at the IIHF World Women's Championships a total of 10 times - including at the first eight tournaments staged between 1990 and 2004.

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