Ice hockey, as we know it today, is definitely the product of Canada. In the 1850's, the first logged games of ice hockey were played, and in the 1870's, the first set of ice hockey rules were written by a group of students at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. These rules set up the use of a puck replacing a ball and decided the number of players to be nine per team.
1880 brought the organization of the first amateur hockey league. Over the next several years, ice hockey's popularity spread over all of Canada. It was around 1893 that ice hockey debuted in the United States.
Ice hockey boasts the oldest sports trophy in North America. It had become so widespread in Canada that a perpetual trophy was presented by the Governor General of Canada to be awarded to the top hockey team. Lord Stanley of Preston was the name of the Governor General, and the trophy became known as the Stanley Cup.
Not many changes have been made to the initial rules set forth in the 1870's. The main ones have been the decrease from nine players to six and the progression of new and better equipment. In the early 1900's, netting was incorporated as a part of the hockey goal in order to keep the puck corralled and to make it easier to determine that the puck had indeed gone between the goal posts.
There have been several ice hockey leagues throughout the years. The two best known are the National Hockey Association formed in 1909 and the National Hockey League which came into being in 1917 in Canada. The United States became a part of the NHL in 1924.
Though ice hockey has had its ups and downs, it is a very popular sport today. It is an established part of the Olympics program in both men and women's categories.