The Origin of Ice Hockey, Skates and Rink Maintenance

Ice hockey evolved and developed from the concept of field hockey that was played in Europe for hundreds of years. A McGill University student named J.G.A Creighton, as many of us know took the modern day version of ice hockey from its roots in Canada. He was the dubbed the 'grandfather' of ice hockey regulations since his rules were used in the first game of ice hockey played in Montreal in 1875. Around the 18th century the first rink or playing area for ice hockey was used in a game common at the time in Scotland called 'curling'. The original team line up consisted of 30 people on each side and their answer to a goal was frozen stones on both ends of the field which is known to us as goal lines.

The rules of ice hockey were drafted at McGill University in Montreal in 1879 and by 1893 the sport of hockey had made its way to the United States and by the turn of the century in the 1900s hockey had slowly made its way to various parts of Europe and England. This also brought the birth of the first ice rink (mechanically-refrigerated) was built in 1876 called the Glaciarium, this place was built about 30 years before hockey had really implemented itself as a popular sport in England.

Ice hockey in its infancy needed maintenance because the ice would be rough and difficult to skate on and they didn't have a zamboni machine, which was later invented in 1939 by Eureka, Utah native Frank Zamboni and later released, for commercial use in 1942 and since then more than 8,000 Zamboni resurfacing machines are used by professional, college, university, and recreational ice facilities to keep their rinks maintained. This was a long way from the birth of the automatic refrigerated rink, which required people to hand scrape the rink, which was time consuming. Until the Zamboni machine cut that time down drastically by being able to drive the length of a rink and have it smoothed out in virtually 15-20 minutes before and after use. The University of Minnesota was the recipient of the 8,000th Zamboni machine in 2005.

It wasn't until 1867 when a factory foreman by the name of John Forbes developed the first steel bladed skate at the Dartmouth, Nova Scotia-based factory Starr Manufacturing Company and the prototype was a clip on design, but 13 years earlier James A. Whelpley had came out with the first "official" ice skate that was designed for long distance skating called the "Long Reach Skate".

This skate got its name after an area along the St. John River in New Brunswick where James Whelpley and his family owned a factory that manufactured the skates. The skate along with Forbes' later modification of the skate had steel blades on them with the exception of Forbes' design that was changed to make the blade shorter for rink skating. Over the years more modifications followed to what we have as the modern skate today that's manufactured by companies like CCM (Canadian Cycle and Motor Company-established in 1889 out of Weston, Ontario, Canada)-the main supplier of hockey gear for many college, university, semi and pro hockey teams for their skates, and other Canadian-U.S. based companies like Bauer Sports to make the skates that are purchased by hockey enthusiasts all over the world today. Many hockey buffs are usually very selective in their skates because they want the best and top of the line skates since a serious hockey player will pay good money for skates.

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