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With over a billion followers all over the world, hockey is a glamourous sport. What is it that makes the game unique? Unlike its major counterparts like basketball, football and baseball, it is played on a giant slippery ice sheet. The point is, hockey players are seriously skilled athletes. All that speed and agility combined with staying upright on ice is truly remarkable. However, hockey is not played on ice alone. There is also field hockey, played mainly in Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa. When it comes to the US, Canada and Northern Europe, hockey refers to Ice Hockey. It is a team sport in the true sense of the phrase as there is no monopolisation by individual players. It is a contact sport played on a rink where two teams of six skaters each, try and shoot a rubber puck into the other team’s goal using sticks.
It is believed that Ice Hockey evolved from the stick and ball games played in the 1800s in the United Kingdom. The early forms of the game ‘Bandy’ have apparently influenced the initial design of ice hockey. When ice hockey and other similar winter games were introduced in North America, what they had were a number of informal rules. Later on, the rules were codified and ice hockey was made into an organised game. it can be seen that Montreal is where the sport of contemporary ice hockey initially developed. Thus, it is referred to as the birthplace of the game. The first organised game was played in Montreal using a circular piece of wood in 1875. The first ice hockey club, The McGill University Hockey Club, was established in 1877. By 1883 there were enough teams to hold the first “world championship” which was won by the McGill team itself.
The most popular ice hockey league in the world is the National Hockey League (NHL) of the United States and Canada. It was formed in Canada with four teams and later expanded to the US. The fact that it is the fifth wealthiest sports league in the world by revenue shows the acceptance the game has had. The best teams of the league include Tampa Bay Lightning, Colorado Avalanche and New York Islanders. The second most popular is the Continental Hockey League (KHL) in Eurasia. It came into being as the successor to the Russian Super League. At present 24 member clubs from Russia, China, Belarus, Latvia, Kazakhstan, and Finland compete in the league.