The roots of the British ice hockey go far back into history. Skates with metal blades were introduced to Britain from Holland around 1600 and in 1642 the Edinburgh Skating Club (believed to be Britain's oldest skating organization) was formed. Skating became a very popular sport in Great Britain under the reign of Charles II and the Art of Skating by Robert Jones was published in 1772. Many sketches and paintings during the 18th and 19th centuries depict people skating on frozen lakes and rivers, often using sticks and a ball or some other object. In 1876, the world's first artificial ice rinks were opened in London.
The first official ice hockey game played outside of Canada is said to have been Cambridge University versus Oxford University at St.Moritz, Switzerland in 1885. Oxford won 6-0 in a match that was fairly primitive in nature. The Stanley brothers played a significant role in the popularization of hockey in Canada. The Honourable Arthur Stanley, son of Lord Stanley of Preston (then Governor-General of Canada) formed the Rideau Rebels hockey club in Ottawa in 1888. Five years later, in 1893, he and his hockey-playing brothers helped persuade their father to present the Stanley Cup. In the same year, A.C.A Wade, one of Britain's first hockey writers, recalls playing the game at Gravenhurst in Bedfordshire, UK.
After their return to England, the Stanley brothers worked to encourage the spread of ice hockey in Britain. During the severe winter of 1895, the lake of Buckingham Palace was frozen over and a palace team which included the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), the Duke of York (the future King George V), Lord Mildmay, Sir Francis Astley-Corbett, Sir William Bromley Davenport and Mr. Ronald Moncrieff played the Stanley team led by Arthur Stanley and four of his brothers. The Palace team was well beaten by the experienced Stanley squad. However, it remains unclear as to whether or not the game that was played was truly ice hockey -- both sides were using bandy sticks. The Stanley family continued its missionary work and in 1896-97 Arthur Stanley and five of his brothers played the Niagara Hall ice rink team and defeated them easily. Two Stanley Brothers, A.F. and F.W., also played for an Old Wellingtonians team which lost to Niagara 2-0 on January 1, 1899.
Despite the importance of the Stanley family in the history of British Ice Hockey, the "Founding Father" of the sport in the United Kingdom is considered to be Major B.M. "Peter" Patton. It was he who approached Admiral Maxe, founder of the Princes' Skating Club in London, and asked for permission to form a hockey team at the rink. Permission was granted and the first game took place in February of 1897. Patton was 21 at the time and did not retire from the game until 1931 when he was 55 years old. Over the years, the team he formed often represented England abroad. The Princes played, and won, an international bandy tournament in Davos, Switzerland in 1904 and also beat France in Lyon that same year. In 1908, the Princes gave England victory in the first indoor International Ice Hockey Tournament when they defeated Germany and France in Berlin. The first official European Championship was held in Switzerland in 1910 and Peter Patton was on hand to captain England to victory. In 1913, he founded the British Ice Hockey Association (BIHA). He revived it in 1923 after it had been disbanded during the First World War.
The first English Ice Hockey League was formed in 1903-04 with five teams taking part: the Princes, the London Canadians, Cambridge University, and two teams from the Henglers Circus Ice Rink- Argyll and the Amateur Skating Club. The London Canadians won the first championship.
In 1908, England joined France, Belgium, and Switzerland in founding the Ligue Internationale de Hockey sur Glace, forerunner of the International Ice Hockey Federation. That same year, the first hockey games were played in Scotland at the old Crossmyloof rink in Glasgow. The Scottish Ice Hockey Association was formed in 1929. Some the best domestic clubs over the years were Scotland's Falkirk Lions and Fife Flyers and England's Harringay Racers and Streatham Redskins.
Britain remained a hockey power in Europe until World War II. The culmination of their success took place at the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympics when they stunned Canada 2-1 to win the gold medal. The British national team's perfomances dropped significantly after World War II. They finished fifth at the 1948 Olympics after which they failed to qualify up to and including the 1998 tournament in Nagano. The same decline was mirrored at the World Championships after Britain slipped to "B" Pool in 1952. Between 1954 and 1960 they did not participate at the tournament. Since the early 1960's they have either passed on the competition or played chiefly in "C" Pool. Britain slipped as far down as "D" Pool in 1989. In 1990 they won the "D" Pool and began a dramatic climb. After winning the "D" Pool they moved to "C": in 1991 and proceeded to claim the gold medal in 1992 and were bumped up the "B" Pool for the 1993 tournament. Amazingly, they caputred the gold medal in 1993, their first time in "B" Pool in almost 30 years; and were vaulted to "A":; just five years after last playing in "D". The fairy tale ended with a twelfth place finish in "A", but Great Britain enjoyed success at the "B" Pool level again; winning the silver in 1999 and the bronze in 2000. In 1996-97 an eight team professional league, the Sekonda Ice Hockey Superleague; began play. With franchises in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, and players from local areas and Canada, as well as several former NHLers and minor leaguers, the league enjoyed instant success with the an entertaining product and attendance numbers rising each season. The leagues popularity has resulted in league expansion for the 2000-01 season with two new teams joining the circuit.