Ice hockey has been played in New Zealand for over 60 years. Many of the early games were played on the frozen ponds in the South Canterbury mountains and teams were made up of local farm workers who had regular access to the ice. The first organized hockey tournament in New Zealand was held at Opawa near Albury in 1937. Teams competed for the Erewhon Cup, which had been presented by Wyndham Barker to the Mt. Harper club before being turned over to the newly formed New Zealand Ice Skating Association in 1937. This new association was formed at a meeting following the inaugural tournament in Opawa. Though it was initially established for the organization of hockey, it soon became more concerned with speed skating and figure skating. Despite this fact, hockey continued to be played in an organized fashion in New Zealand. The exception was during the war years of 1939 to 1945 and from 1978 to 1982 when poor winters caused a lack of ice and no competitions were held. In the early days of hockey in New Zealand, teams from Mt. Harper, Windwhistle, Tekapo, Irishman Creek, Fairlie, Opawa, Mt. Hull, and Canterbury were regular competitors.
In 1954, the New Zealand Ice Skating Association formed an Ice Hockey Committee to administer the game. Vic Hahn was appointed chairman and the Erewhon Cup series was divided into three sections (Otago, South Canterbury, and Canterbury) to cut down on travel. It was later decided that all Erewhon Cup competitions would be played on outdoor rinks. In 1957, a new competition confined to South Canterbury provided additional interest in the game. The McKerrow Memorial Cup had been donated in the memory of Graham McKerrow, a prominent New Zealand hockey player who drowned.
Another noteworthy year was 1963 when a team from the Hakoah Club in Melbourne, Australia made the first international visit to New Zealand for a series of games at Christchurch and Tekapo. The Australian journey also marked the first time a hockey game was televised in New Zealand when Hakoah played the Hawks of Christchurch and beat them 8-6.
New Zealand became a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation on May 2, 1977. On September 14, 1986, each of the country's 19 ice hockey associations and clubs met at Tekapo in order to form a new federation to help develop the game more fully. The New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation was the tangible result of these sessions. The inaugural club competition for the Norm Hawker Shield was held at the Big Apple rink in Christchurch. The tournament featured ten teams and took place from June 19-21, 1987. The Manuwai Warriors of Auckland won the title. That same year, a national competition for Provincial Select teams was held and won by Canterbury. Also in 1987, the New Zealand National Team made its debut in the "D" Pool World Championships. The first official game took place in Perth, Australia on March 13, 1987 and resulted in a 35-2 loss to South Korea. The national team gained valuable experience but did not reappear until the 1995 "D" Pool World Championships.