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Story: Hockey

Hockey has been played in New Zealand since the second half of the 19th century. The gold medal won by the men’s team at the 1976 Montreal Olympics remains New Zealand’s premier achievement in the sport.

Story by Geoff Watson
Main image: Young hockey players at Clyde Quay school, Wellington, 1955

Story Summary

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Hockey is a sport in which teams of 11 players pass and flick a ball around a field, using a curved stick, with the aim of scoring goals.

Early days

Modern hockey emerged in England in the second half of the 19th century. Informal games were played in New Zealand from the early days of European settlement, and a Dunedin Hockey Club was set up in 1876. From the 1890s hockey was played regularly in Canterbury, and the first men’s inter-provincial match was between Canterbury and Wellington in 1898. Women played hockey from the 1880s, with a women’s inter-provincial match held in 1899.

Men’s and women’s national hockey associations were set up in 1902 and 1908.

Participation

Before the First World War hockey was the most popular women’s sport, but in the 1930s netball overtook it. Hockey remains a minor sport for both men and women, but is played around the country. In 2010, 44,000 people played winter hockey and 17,000 played summer hockey.

Māori tournaments took place from the 1930s, and there has been a National Maori Hockey Tournament since 1992. Hockey is popular with Indian New Zealanders – it is played in Indian sports clubs, and many players of Indian descent have represented New Zealand.

International hockey

Hockey was the first team sport played at international level by New Zealand women, who competed against a touring English women’s team in 1914. Men’s international hockey began in 1922. Between the world wars, three Indian teams toured New Zealand, and thousands of people watched the matches.

New Zealand teams have competed well at international level. The men’s hockey team won an Olympic gold medal in 1976. In the 2000s the national teams were known as the Black Sticks.

Recent developments

Artificial playing surfaces were introduced to New Zealand hockey from the mid-1980s, and made the game much faster. These surfaces were much more expensive than grass fields. Hockey equipment also became more specialised and expensive.

In 1989 the men’s and women’s associations combined as the New Zealand Hockey Federation (now Hockey New Zealand).

Well-known people involved with hockey have included coach Cyril Walter and players Ramesh Patel and Jenny McDonald.

How to cite this page:

Geoff Watson, 'Hockey', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/hockey (accessed 17 January 2018)

Story by Geoff Watson, published 5 Sep 2013, updated 27 Jan 2015