Story: Hockey

Page 1. Origins of New Zealand hockey

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What is hockey?

Hockey (sometimes called field hockey to distinguish it from ice hockey) is a team sport, with 11 players per team. The distinctive feature of the game is the way the ball is trapped, passed, hit, dribbled and flicked with a curved stick. Teams are awarded one point for each goal scored, and the team that scores the most goals in each game is the winner. Games are generally played in two 35-minute halves, and in the 2000s took place mostly on artificial surfaces. Club hockey is generally played between April and September. Many associations also run summer hockey competitions – typically six-a-side teams playing in a smaller area, often one-third the size of a full-sized field.

Origins of hockey

The modern form of hockey emerged in England during the second half of the 19th century. In 1886 the Hockey Association, which administered men’s hockey, was founded. Its version of the game, including 11 players and a goal-scoring circle, became the standard form of hockey. In 1895 the All England Women’s Hockey Association was formed after women were refused affiliation to the Hockey Association.

Hockey hooligans?

A letter to the New Zealand Times in the early 20th century complained, ‘I have been compelled to ride on several occasions in the same railway carriage with a team of female hockey players journeying to take part in matches in the suburbs and I dread a repetition of the experience. For the time being these girls … apparently consider that armed with a hockey stick and wearing some particular coloured ribbon they are privileged to do as they please and annoy other passengers … Parents would be well advised to insist on a chaperone accompanying teams of which their daughters are members.’1

Beginnings in New Zealand

Informal games of hockey appear to have been played in the early years of European settlement. Nelson newspaper the Colonist referred to a match played in 1861. Hockey was not universally welcomed, and in the 1870s and 1880s newspapers reported hockey-playing larrikins disturbing the peace. Dunedin may be the earliest place hockey was played regularly; the Dunedin Hockey Club was formed in 1876 but appears to have been defunct by the mid-1880s.

Reverend H. Mathias, the Anglican vicar of Kaiapoi, played a leading role in the revival of hockey in Canterbury from the mid-1890s. Clubs were formed in Ashburton and Christchurch and the region’s earliest recorded inter-club match, a 5–0 victory to Kaiapoi Hockey Club over the Papanui Rovers, occurred in 1895. By 1897 Christchurch had a Thursday competition for working-class teams and a Saturday competition for players from the professional classes. The first men’s inter-provincial match occurred in 1898, when Canterbury defeated the home team, Wellington, 3–0 at Athletic Park.

First national association

By the 1900s hockey was played in the main centres and many smaller towns. In 1902 representatives from six provincial associations formed the New Zealand Hockey Association (NZHA), which administered men’s hockey. By 1910, 17 provinces were affiliated to the NZHA. The trophy for men’s provincial supremacy, the Challenge Shield, which was still contested in the 21st century, was first presented to Auckland in 1907.

First women’s hockey teams

Women’s hockey can be traced back to at least the 1880s, when it was played at Sydenham School and the High School of Otago. The Hinemoa club in Kaiapoi, formed in 1896, may have been the first women’s hockey club, reportedly playing the first women’s match in New Zealand when it defeated Christchurch 6–0 in 1897. The earliest women’s inter-provincial match may have been in Christchurch in August 1899 when ‘a hockey match between lady representatives of Wellington and Christchurch was played at Mrs Rhodes’s residence, Elmwood’2. Christchurch won 1–0.

The New Zealand Ladies’ Hockey Association (which became the New Zealand Women’s Hockey Association in 1934) was formed in 1908 during the inaugural national women’s hockey tournament at Days Bay, Wellington. Hawke’s Bay became the first holders of the Izard Cup. The K Cup was first contested in 1924. In 2012 it remained the top prize in women’s provincial hockey.

  1. Quoted in Geoff Watson with Wilf Haskell, Seasons of honour: a centenary history of New Zealand hockey 1902–2002. Palmerston North: Dunmore Press in association with the New Zealand Hockey Federation Inc., 2002, pp. 25–26. Back
  2. Star, 11 August 1899, p. 4. Back
How to cite this page:

Geoff Watson, 'Hockey - Origins of New Zealand hockey', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 19 June 2024)

Story by Geoff Watson, published 5 Sep 2013, updated 1 Jan 2015