TORONTO - The mother country that gave Canada warm beer, Coronation Street and Benedict Cumberbatch, can now lay claim to originating and exporting our cool national sport.
Yes, there's some new, compelling and no doubt controversial evidence that hockey came from over 'ome and was played, with basic rules, much earlier than 1875 in Montreal, generally accepted as the first official match.
Before you dismiss it all as hum-buggery (how many English players have won the Hart Trophy, anyway?), check the extensive work put in by a trio of hockey historians in Sweden and Canada. They will present their findings Saturday at the annual meeting of the Society for International Hockey Research in Penetanguishene, Ont.
Swedish medical doctor Carl Giden, countryman and sportswriter Patrick Houda and Montreal computer analyst Jean- Patrice Martel, 53, are putting their research on the table, ahead of a new book on the subject.
"So many people have such strong view that hockey's birthplace is Canada," said Martel, who heads up SIHR's Montreal chapter. "But my Swedish colleagues have kept looking the past 20 years and were always finding conflicting information. So they kept going. A couple of people had pointed them to the British origins, a totally different direction. But then they started to find hundreds of references. And a lot of the British ice hockey clubs had old books about where their teams had started. It was fascinating."
Gilden and Houda not only found the sport had flourished as far back as the 17th or 18th centuries, but that it was commonly called hockey. They even turned up some celebrity testimonials.