These days we have all manner of hockey variants, all of which share the common factor of being played with a stick and a projectile.
Field Hockey began to enjoy a swift rise in popularity during the mid-1700s, before evolving to become Ice Hockey in colder areas of the world, rising to prominence by the 1800s. Meanwhile, those two games also led to the development of roller hockey, famously played by Charlie Chaplin at Arcadia roller rink in Manchester, England, before he became a movie star.
As we focus on each of these three hockey variants, let’s take a look at the leading competitions and the most dominant with a curved stick in their hands.
FIH Pro League – Field Hockey
Featuring both Men’s and Women’s championships, the FIH Pro League was founded in 2017 to replace the previous FIH Hockey World League. This league ultimately ran for just three seasons, having served as a qualifier for the 2014 and 2018 Hockey World Cups, plus the 2016 Olympic Games. The new competition format also aims to be more inclusive over time, granting the opportunity for additional national teams to participate.
Domestic and national club competitions largely remain amateur or semi-professional. So, the idea of the FIH Pro League was to raise the professionalism and profile of international field hockey, featuring elite national teams from around the world. Furthermore, this has provided the chance for fans to enjoy more games between the top sides, beyond the World Cup and Olympic Games.
Netherlands are the reigning Women’s FIH Pro League champions, beating Australia in a tense 2019 final that went to a penalty shootout. Germany beat Argentina in the third-place match by the same method. Australia took the 2019 Men’s FIH Pro League title with a 3-2 victory against Belgium, while the Netherlands triumphed 5-3 against Great Britain for third place. Both tournaments featured games at the fantastic purpose-built Wagner Stadium in Amsterdam.
The first professional Ice Hockey teams and competitions were founded in Canada, ideally suited to the chilly conditions of the Great White North. However, the sport has become phenomenally popular around the world and particularly in North America, where the game is typically played at impressive indoor arena ice rinks.
The Stanley Cup was first awarded to Montreal Hockey Club in 1893, while the National Hockey League (NHL) was founded in 1917, featuring just four Canadian teams. The sport quickly expanded to include teams from south of the border in the United States. It then spread even further south to the warmer southern states as technology improved, with the construction of purpose-built venues that could maintain ice rink temperatures.
Indeed, ice hockey spread all the way south to the Sunshine State of Florida, which is the home of Tampa Bay Lightning, the most recent Stanley Cup champions of the 2019-20 season. Early in the 2020-21 season, the latest NHL odds at Betway have Tampa Bay amongst the favorites to retain their title, although they will face stiff competition from Colorado Avalanche. The Las Vegas Golden Knights are also a strong competitor, who are located in the Nevada Desert of all places.
Although roller hockey remains popular where the sport first originated in England, southern Europe is where the game enjoys the greatest following and participation these days. Founded in 1965 as the European Cup, the modern-day Rink Hockey Euroleague is the most successful professional competition, with the strongest teams hailing from Spain, Portugal, and Italy.
While soccer is by far the most popular sport played throughout Europe, many of the leading clubs also have teams competing in many other sports. Amongst them is the Futbol Club Barcelona Hoquei team, which plays at the 8,000 capacity Palau Blaugrana indoor arena. The club also regularly hosts ice hockey, basketball, handball, and futsal, along with occasional boxing and other martial arts events.
By far the most successful team in the Rink Hockey Euroleague, FC Barcelona Hoquei have won 22 titles over the years. Hardly surprising, given that north-western Spain is a hotbed for all hockey variants. FC Barcelona has a competitive ice hockey team, plus the city is also home to the hugely successful Real Polo Club de Barcelona field hockey team.
Grab a Stick and Get Playing!
There has never been a greater variety of stick and projectile sports, not to mention how popular each format has become in recent decades. No matter which kind of hockey you prefer, whatever the surface and type of projectile being struck, it’s fun to participate. That’s reason enough to get out there and get playing.