The game of hockey was born in Canada. Conflicting claims surround the origins of the game, but it is generally accepted that the rules of the game were first codified and the sport itself first flourished in Montreal. A hockey game was first advertised in the Montreal Gazette
in 1875 and the word "puck" appeared in the newspaper for the first time one year later. The game rapidly took root in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and soon after, throughout the young country.
In 1893, Canada's Governor-General, Lord Stanley of Preston, donated a silver bowl to be awarded to the top senior amateur team in the country. This Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup soon came to be known by the name of its patron.
By the turn of the century hockey was played in every part of Canada. Even before 1910, openly professional players were competing for the Stanley Cup. Accounts of the exploits of storied teams such as the Ottawa Silver Seven, Montreal Wanderers and Renfrew Millionaires filled newspapers of the day. The National Hockey League was established in 1917 and by the end of its first decade, stood alone as the game's number one professional circuit.
As the game in Canada become increasing professionalized, the Allan Cup had been donated in 1908 to honor Canada's senior amateur champions. In 1914, the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association was created and in 1920 the CAHA was accepted by the International Ice Hockey Federation as Canada's representative in international hockey. Canada competed at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium and was represented by the Allan Cup champion Winnipeg Falcons who easily won the gold medal at the event later considered to be the first World Championships. The Toronto Granites won gold as well at the first Winter Olympics in 1924, outscoring their opponents 110-3. Hockey Hall of Fame member Harry Watson scored 36 goals at that tournament. Canada's gold-medal streak came to an end in 1933 when the National Sea Fleas, managed by future Toronto Maple Leaf owner Harold Ballard, lost 2-1 to the United States at the World Championships in Prague.
By using top amateur club teams, Canada was able to remain the dominant nation in international hockey until 1954. That year, the Senior B East York Lyndhursts were defeated by the Soviet National Team when the USSR made its debut at the World Championships. Senior clubs continued to carry Canada's colors into the early 1960s with teams like the Penticton Vees and Whitby Dunlops still able to defeat the Soviets. However, the Trail Smoke Eaters would be the last Canadian senior amateur club to win the World Championship when they captured the title in 1961.
In the early 1960s, Father David Bauer, coach of the 1961 Memorial Cup-winning St. Michael's junior team in Toronto, presented a plan to develop a Canadian national hockey team. The CAHA accepted Bauer's proposal and the "Nats" were launched at the University of British Columbia. The Nats were a good club, but the Soviet hockey system was in full flower during the 1960s. The best finish by Father Bauer's squad was a bronze medal at the 1968 Olympics.
Canada withdrew from international competition in 1969. Hockey Canada was created that year to improve Canada's performance in international play. Beginning with 1972's famed eight-game series with the Soviet Union, professional players began to participate in some international events. Canada dominated play during the history of the Canada Cup tournament (1976 to 1991), an event which let Team Canada employ its very best professional stars.
Hockey Canada and its successor, Canadian Hockey, have operated successful National Junior and National/Olympic team programs, as well as a highly successful National Women's Team that has emerged victorious in every Women's World Championship to date. Canada has won 10 World Junior Championships since 1982 and Team Canada earned silver medals at the Olympics in 1992 and 1994. A team stocked mainly with NHL players brought Canada its first world title since 1961 at 1994 World Championships and Canada won the world title again in 1997. However, the loss to the United States at the World Cup of Hockey in 1996 and the disappointing performance of the 1998 Olympic Men's Team coupled with the first-ever loss on the international stage for the Canadian women at those games have stung Canada's national pride. Some of the lustre returned as the Women's National team continued its dominance at the IIHF Women's World Championships following the Olympic loss. The Canadian juniors, with medals in 1999 and 2000 have seemingly recovered from a speed bump that saw them finish in eighth place in 1998 after five-straight gold medal finishes.