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History Of Hockey

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

History of the Game—The game of hockey as now played may be considered to have originated in the year 1883, the first attempt to establish the game under a definite code of rules being successfully undertaken by the Wimbledon Club in that year. The game had of course existed in various forms for a very long time, but how long no one can well say, as there do not appear to be any records preserved. In Ireland it was long known as Hurley, and in Scotland as Shinty. In England it was played a good deal round London in the seventies, but seems to have died out for some years before the Wimbledon Club was formed in 1883. Since that date it has prospered and developed to such an extent both in the number of clubs all over the country and in the skill displayed in the game, that players of twelve or fourteen years ago, who have given up their interest in the game, would scarcely recognise it now. Combination was then a thing unknown. The side consisted, it is true, of the same number of players, viz., eleven, but of these eight were forwards, two so-called half-backs, and a goalkeeper. The disproportion between attack and defence seems absurd, but the game then consisted almost entirely of scrimmages between the two sets of forwards varied by occasional individual dribbling which the half-backs generally proved equal to checking. As the idea of combination developed, the number of backs was increased, making the proportions more equal. First a third half-back was introduced. After that one of these three was placed behind the other two as a back. Next the forwards were reduced to six, the half-backs again numbering three, and finally a second back was added, making the numbers of attack and defence practically equal, the forwards numbering five, with three half-backs, two backs and a goalkeeper. This arrangement of the side did not become general until the season of 1889-9o, so it will be seen that the changes mentioned were only gradually introduced, but they have undoubtedly conduced to the improvement and development of the game.

The Hockey Association was formed in 1886 and from that date has been the recognised authority for the control of the game. In the North of England the game was not taken up until the year 1887, and for some years it was confined to Manchester and Liverpool and the neighbourhood. At the present time, however, it is spreading fast in Yorkshire and the other Northern counties. The Northern Counties Hockey Association was formed in the winter of 1889-90, but has always been under the control of the Hockey Association. Most of the counties in which the game is played have their own associations, which are affiliated to the Hockey Association, but they exist for little more than the arrangement and control of inter-county matches, and the details connected with them. Ireland has taken up the game in the last few years, as well as Wales, and inter-national matches first took place in the season 1894-95, Ireland playing England and Wales. These matches have now become regular fixtures. Wales has not yet encountered England, as the game has not yet made enough progress in the Principality. The oldest clubs in the South of England are Wimbledon, Molesey, Surbiton, Teddington, and Ealing, and in the North, the Western (Eccles), Didsbury, Bowdon, and Kersal.

Conditions of Play—The game is played on a ground 100 yards long and 60 yards wide. The width may vary from 50 to 60 yards, but it has been found that the full width allowed conduces to the best game. The goals are 12 ft. wide and 7 ft. high, and should always be fitted with goal nets, which prevent any disputes as to whether a shot has gone between or out-side the posts. Fifteen yards in front of the goal a line parallel to the goal-line is marked, also 12 ft. long, and from each extremity of this line, taking each goal post as a centre, is described a segment of a circle terminating at the goal-line. This constitutes what is, roughlyspeaking, a semicircle in front of the goal, and the attacking side cannot score a goal unless the ball was last hit by one of them inside this line. The object of this is to prevent a goal being scored by indiscriminate hitting from any part of the field. The game is started by what is called a bully in the centre of the ground. The centre forward on each side strikes with his stick, first the ground, then his opponent's stick thrice, after which proceeding the ball is in play. When the ball is driven over the goal-line by one of the attacking side, a bully takes place 25 yards from the goal-line in a direct line from where the ball passed over it. When a defending player hits the ball over his own goal-line, or the ball glances off him or his stick and goes behind the line, the penalty is a corner hit. This is a free hit by the attacking side from the corner flag, usually hit by the outside forward or a half-back, whilst the other forwards range round the circle line. The defending side must stand with feet and sticks behind the goal-line until the ball is hit, when they may run out. The attacking side cannot score a goal from a corner hit, unless the ball has been first stopped dead on the ground, or been touched by one of the defending side. A penalty bully is given for deliberately unfair play by the defending side in their own circle. It consists of a bully between the offender and any one player of the attacking side. The rest of the defending side must stand behind their goal-line, and the rest of the attacking side may range round the circle, but neither side may enter the circle or play the ball until it has been hit outside the circle again by one of the players taking part in the bully.

The Players—Of the five forwards the most important is of course the centre forward. He is the connecting link between the two sets of wing players, and is responsible for the combination of the front rank as a whole. He should be a fast and thoroughly unselfish player and a first-rate shot at goal. He must always be careful to keep his place, or he will interfere with his wings. His passes to the other forwards are of two kinds, the short pass to either of the inside wing players, or the long pass well forward to the outside men. He must use his draught.

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