The “father” of the sport in New Zealand was the Rev. H. Mathias, who was one of the founders of a club at Kaiapoi in the late 1890s. Both Ashburton and Christchurch became interested at that time. By 1900 the sport was established throughout the country. It is now played during the winter by over 12,000 youths and men.
The first representative game was played in 1898 between Canterbury and Wellington and was won by the southerners by three goals to nil. Canterbury was the pioneer province in hockey, but after the turn of the century all the main provinces from Auckland to Invercargill were fielding representative sides. Indeed, by 1903 an inter-Island match was played at Lancaster Park, Christchurch. This resulted in a draw. By 1907 Auckland was the premier province, winning the New Zealand Challenge Shield with seven representative victories in seven weeks.
The New Zealand Hockey Association was formed in 1902 by the Canterbury association and it held its first annual meeting in Christchurch the following year with representatives from Canterbury, Wellington, Nelson, Taranaki, and Manawatu being present. Two months later Auckland, Wairarapa, and Thames joined up. In the same year the association was recognised by the Hockey Association of England, at that time the international controlling authority of the game. There are now 24 associations affiliated with the national body. The total number of players exceeds 12,300, with Auckland and Canterbury, the strongest provinces, having well over 2,000 players each. The Hockey Association has had only seven each.
The premier hockey trophy, the Challenge Shield, has since 1907 been won by Auckland, 21 times, Wellington, nine times, and Canterbury, eight times. Otago's name does not appear on the trophy, but Manawatu has won it four times.