SEOUL, South Korea – Although the exact origins of ice hockey are much disputed, ice hockey is thought to have first developed in the 19th century in Canada. Scholars agree that the rules for ice hockey were first codified at McGill University in Montreal, in 1879. Since then, Canada has been synonymous with the sport. In 1893, Canada’s Governor-General, Lord Stanley, donated the Stanley Cup to the annual champions of ice hockey competitions in Canada. It remains the oldest trophy in team sports in the world.
Canada is still recognized as a leading force in this sport. Not only is Canada the reigning Olympic gold medal champion in both men’s and women’s ice hockey, but Canada has over 600,000 registered players, more than any other country, and it is the spectator sport of choice of Canadians.
Ice hockey also has a long history in Korea. The Korean Ice Hockey Federation was formed in 1928 and a Korean ice hockey championship has been held since 1946. There are reports that Canadian missionaries active in Korea before and during this time also played the game.
Today, ice hockey is increasing in popularity in Korea. With Pyeongchang hosting the Winter Olympics in 2018, it seems likely that this sport will further grow and that Korea will emerge as one of the leading countries in Asia in the sport. Two Korean-born players have already made the National Hockey League, the highest level of play in the sport: Richard Park and Jim Paek.
Canadians’ enthusiasm for hockey was in evidence during the Korean War, in which 27,000 Canadian troops participated in defence of freedom. Many of these troops were surprised to find in Korea a climate not much different from that which they had left in Canada, with cold winters meaning frozen rivers where they could play their favourite sport.
In honor of the 60th anniversary of the armistice, and the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and South Korea, the Canadian Embassy – in collaboration with the City of Seoul, the Pyeongchang Olympics Organization, the Korea Ice Hockey Association, and our sponsors – are proud to commemorate that involvement. On 3 February, 2013 at 0930, the Embassy, with the help of a locally-based hockey group â the Geckos â will be organizing a demonstration game on the ice rink at Seoul City Square, as part of the final day of the skating season in Seoul City.
The teams will be wearing the colours of the Canadian teams which squared off on the ice of the Imjin River, almost 61 years to the day. We are also pleased to arrange with the City the opportunity for citizens to work with some of Korea’s best hockey instructors and share the enjoyment in this winter sport which unites Korea and Canada
There will also be an exhibition of photographs made available by Library and Archives Canada. These photographs demonstrate the enthusiasm for the game that the troops carried with them to Korea. Playing hockey in the midst of the terrible events must have been one way to bring a bit of home to the troops, amid the trying conditions of the war.
Text and photos courtesy of the Canadian Embassy Korea.
Special thanks to Kurt deVries and to www.hockeykorea.com
Further reading: Canada National Post- Hockey games in Ottawa, Seoul will honour morale-boosting matches played by troops during Korean war
‘Imjin Gardens’ is the scene of a hockey game between teams of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery
officers and ‘Van Doos’ officers, Korea, 1 Mar. 1952