Hockive Facts

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As competitions were very much frowned upon, certainly in Britain, up until the 1950s it could be that this earliest hockey trophy might be a rather modern piece of silverware. However, whilst officialdom may have frowned upon leagues and cups, the competitive hockey players certainly found ways of playing for points and cups.

Modern players might find it difficult to believe that, as recently as the 1960s, hockey was totally amateur and no reward whatsoever was allowed. Contravention of this would undermine a player’s amateur status and could see them barred from participation in hockey under the auspices of the governing Hockey Associations.

It is a fact that the successful England women’s team that attended the first Women’s Hockey World Cup in The Netherlands in 1948 had to smuggle their winners’ medals back in their luggage. The report in the women’s magazine of the day, Hockey Field, made no mention of a competition or medals and instead described it “a festival”. It has only really come to light in the last few years following the discovery of a medal in one of the players’ belongings.

The 1908 Olympics was the first international hockey competition but there are no trophies in the Olympics and, as the amateur status at that time was absolute, there was no problem with the players receiving medals. Incidentally, it is believed that only gold medals were awarded in 1908 as there is no evidence of silver or bronze ever existing.

There was competition in this pre-WW1 era though. In the women’s game, the publication Ladies Field put up a cup which was played for on a percentage basis of the clubs’ results. However, to take part your club could not be a member of the All England Women’s Hockey Association (AEWHA). This led to some confusion when we first discovered that one team, Merton LHC, had won this trophy multiple times. Merton, we presumed, hailed from south-west London; but we now know they were in fact from Dublin. This was pre-Partition of 1922 and the Ladies Field Cup embraced clubs from anywhere in the British Isles.

The men also enjoyed competition in this era, albeit within the Armed Forces. Britain had a lot of men under arms at this time and competitive sport was a good way to satisfy their combative needs. A lot of military trophies still exist and some have transferred into civilian competitions.

Hockive Fact 23 St Leonards TrophyPerhaps the most enduring competitions came about as a result of WW1 and the need to recruit millions of women into munitions and industry. It was deemed that sport would be good recreation for these women and various sports leagues were set up in many industrial centres throughout Britain. Some of these leagues still exist today and have celebrated their centenaries. They were so well organised that in the 1930s that they formed national teams and the England Ladies Hockey League Association played international matches against the other Home Countries – for trophies!

In summary, we cannot state with absolute conviction which is the oldest trophy in hockey. The Ladies Field Cup dates from the 1890s so could well be considered a contender for the oldest hockey trophy. We also know of a splendid shield trophy (c.1888) from St Leonards School in St Andrews, Scotland, which was awarded for 'Goals' – a hockey-like stick and ball game – and is still awarded today (right; reproduced with permission from St Leonards School, St Andrews). It is perhaps more accurately two silver trophies from the Calcutta Hockey Club, a tankard dated 1864 and a salver dated 1865, which are now held in the National Army Museum, London.

“But” I hear you say, “that predates organised hockey here in England – let alone out there in the Empire” – and you would be right. In this instance, the word ‘hockey’ on these trophies means ‘polo’, which is sometimes referred to as ‘hockey on horseback’. Nonetheless, we believe that these trophies are the oldest in the world to bear the word ‘hockey’!

Hockive Facts: An Introduction

Hockive Facts: An Introduction

The world of hockey has many interesting and odd facts. In this series we hope to bring you some unusual and occasionally bizarre facts. The aim is to capture hockey at every level, definitely not just international, so if you know of any unusual or odd facts relating to our...

Hockive Fact 23: The Earliest Hockey Trophy

Hockive Fact 23: The Earliest Hockey Trophy

As competitions were very much frowned upon, certainly in Britain, up until the 1950s it could be that this earliest hockey trophy might be a rather modern piece of silverware. However, whilst officialdom may have frowned upon leagues and cups, the competitive hockey players certainly found ways of playing for...

Hockive Fact 22: The First Hockey Player To Die In World War 1

It is a fact that many thousands of hockey players fought in WW1, many from the very start. However, the question of who was the first hockey player to die during the Great War may never be truly answered considering the unbelievable carnage that took place from day one. It...

Hockive Fact 21: After 88 Years A Trophy Appears

In 1951 the All England Women’s Hockey Association (AEWHA) arranged the first of its 41 London internationals to be played at the old Wembley Stadium. The programme for the day proudly announced that this was the first time a women’s team game had been played at the famous Empire Stadium....

Hockive Fact 20: A Match Or No Match?

The records of international hockey, both men’s and women’s, are littered with many matches, the authenticity of which has been hotly debated over the decades. Conversely, there are many matches that have been played between ‘allegedly’ international teams that have not been recorded. This aspect of hockey’s history is one...

Hockive Fact 19: Palmerston HC - An Amazing Club Record

Founded in September 1893 and disbanded in 1907, it is safe to say that in the short period of its existence the Palmerston Hockey Club established a record which has never been surpassed by any other hockey club in the country. In six successive seasons the 1st XI only lost...

Hockive Fact 18: Early Irish Hockey – ‘The Brotherhood’!

Ireland has many claims to fame as far as hockey is concerned. The island’s traditional stick and ball game of Hurley can be dated back to very early times. It is little surprise therefore that when the organised game of hockey began to appear in the second half of the...

Hockive Fact 17: The Legal Size Of A Hockey Stick

Most players know that, to be legal, a hockey stick has to be able to pass through a two inch ring, or 52mm in modern parlance. However, this was not always the case as, in the very early days of hockey, the width allowed was 2 ½ inches. This was...

Hockive Fact 16: The Greatest Ever English Hockey Player?

Hockive Fact 16: The Greatest Ever English Hockey Player?

This is potentially a very subjective claim but can anyone put forward a stronger case than this one for Stanley Howard Shoveller (1881-1959)? To be the best amongst one’s contemporaries is perhaps the first requirement for this accolade. There cannot be much doubt about that. Shoveller played for his school...

Hockive Fact 15: England vs Wales In 1890s

In Hockive Fact 9 we recorded that England men’s first four international matches were all against Ireland in the 1890s. We therefore asked why they had not played Wales in those four years, especially as Wales had featured in the first ever hockey international against Ireland in 1895. We now...

Hockive Fact 14: The Early Rules Of Hockey

Hockive Fact 14: The Early Rules Of Hockey

It is perhaps difficult for us today, playing to a strict code of rules laid down by the sport’s governing body, to appreciate that, in the early days of hockey, rules were very fluid as the sport was quite literally evolving through the last decade of the 19th century. We...

Hockive Fact 13: What Is A Hat Trick?

The simple answer to this is of course the scoring of three goals. However, when Stanley Shoveller scored eight goals against Belgium at the Antwerp Olympics in 1920, how many hat tricks was it? Some might say two and two thirds hat tricks. However, others argue that it is in...

Hockive Fact 12: Golf Or Hockey, Which Came First?

This fact may not give a definitive answer to the question but it certainly adds a little detail. In a book entitled Ernest Bracebridge or Schoolboy Day by WHG Kingston published in 1860, the author gives details of both sports being played in school in the mid 19th century. Do the academic...

Hockive Fact 11: King George V Played Hockey – He Said So!

Hockive Fact 11: King George V Played Hockey – He Said So!

There are very few records of royalty playing hockey and even fewer of reigning monarchs. However, this reference relies entirely on what King George V said when he attended the international match between England and Ireland at Beckenham in 1921. Having met the teams, he proceeded to tell those in...

Hockive Fact 10: The Age Of The Train

A match between Ludlow and Bromyard was played on 29 October 1898. This was the age of the train: all these early matches involved train travel which presented both problems and pleasures. Arrival time reduced the Bromyard game on the 29 October 1898, for instance, to twenty minutes each way. But...

Hockive Fact 9: The First Four England International Matches

The first four international matches that were played by England men were all against Ireland. They were in 1895, 1896, 1897 and 1898. As this was around the 'birth' of international hockey it is not altogether surprising to discover repeat fixtures against the same opposition because hockey was not being...

Hockive Fact 8: The Irish Flag

Hockive Fact 8: The Irish Flag

There are 132 nations affiliated to the International Hockey Federation (FIH) and 131 of them play under their own national flag. The one exception is Ireland because they play their international hockey representing the whole island of Ireland; that is to say the four provinces of Ireland including Ulster, which,...

Hockive Fact 7: The Amalgamation Of Men's And Ladies' Clubs

In the 1970s there were still a lot of separate Ladies' and Men's clubs. Many men's clubs went on to form ladies' sections, whilst many ladies' clubs amalgamated with a local club. For the purposes of this story, Wimbledon Ladies' Hockey Club and Staines Hockey Club were separate clubs a...

Hockive Fact 6: The Lonely 'Foreign International' Match

In the 1930s the Hockey Association, which ran all men’s hockey in England, had a rule that England should only play one 'foreign international' match a year. With the Home Countries playing each other regularly this meant that England international players of the era would play a maximum of four...

Hockive Fact 5: Hockey And The 1912 Stockholm Olympics

Hockey was not included in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. So as not to miss out completely, Germany decided to host an alternative tournament in Hamburg. They invited six other countries to join them but only England and Austria accepted and attended. We believe that England won both of their games...

Hockive Fact 4: The First Seawater Take Off

Hockive Fact 4: The First Seawater Take Off

The first person to fly a plane off seawater was Oliver Schwann, a very keen hockey player and one of the 'founding fathers' of the Royal Navy Hockey Association. He was also responsible for setting up The United Services Hockey Club which most people in hockey know of, rather confusingly,...

Hockive Fact 3: The Season That Never Was

Across the bottom of page 3 of the last issue of Hockey Field magazine for the season 1938/39 (specifically, 8 April) there was printed a statement in bold type that read: “THE FIRST ISSUE FOR SEASON 1939/40 WILL BE SEPTEMBER 30”. Of course, that was not to be as WW2 began that...

Hockive Fact 2: The First Olympic Hockey Tournament

Hockive Fact 2: The First Olympic Hockey Tournament

In the first ever Olympic Hockey Tournament at the London Olympics of 1908, The Home Nations – England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales – all took part separately. They were joined by France and Germany but it was the Home Nations that reached the medal play-off games. The bronze medal match...

Hockive Fact 1: Hockey Stick Pencil Fish

Hockive Fact 1: Hockey Stick Pencil Fish

There is a tropical fish called Hockey Stick Pencil Fish, (Latin name nannostomus eques). It is a native of the Amazon basin, Western Colombia and Guyana and they can be seen in the aquarium at Regent’s Park Zoo. Needless to say, its name, derived from the Greek for 'small mouth',...


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