Women, men and hockey
Before the First World War hockey was the leading team sport for women, with 21 provincial associations in 1914. However, by the 1930s netball was the most popular women’s sport. It was seen as ideal for urban women because it was a non-contact sport and required comparatively little space. Hockey, by contrast, was a more vigorous game with a higher risk of injury to players. Women’s hockey retained a presence in the main centres. It was particularly strong in some country areas, and Eastern Southland (based at Gore) won the K Cup five times in a row between 1934 and 1938.
When men’s hockey was revived in the mid-1890s, rugby was well established as the leading men’s winter team sport. Hockey, by contrast, has remained a minor sport, albeit one with a nationwide following. In 2010, 44,000 people played winter hockey (with almost equal numbers of males and females) and almost 17,000 played summer hockey. The 2007–8 Active NZ survey found that over 68,000 adults had played some form of hockey in the preceding 12 months.
Hotbed of hockey
The Karori Hockey Club in Wellington, formed in 1899, produced a string of national championship-winning teams. Fifteen active club members, including four future national representatives, lived in the suburb’s Chamberlain Road alone. In the early 20th century few private houses had telephones. To find out where their team was playing on Saturday, club members knew to go to Karori village the previous Thursday and check the window of Knighton’s fruit and lolly shop, where a notice announcing the team lists and fixtures was displayed.
Hockey is played by all ethnicities and has a long tradition of Māori and Indian participation. Māori tournaments can be dated back at least to the 1930s. Margaret Hiha, one of New Zealand’s finest players, took a leading role in establishing the National Maori Hockey Tournament in 1992. The National Maori Hockey Council – Te Kaunihera Haupoi Maori o Aotearoa oversees Māori hockey in New Zealand. In 2012 New Zealand Maori Hockey applied to the Federation of International Hockey for the right to enter Māori teams in international tournaments, including those involving New Zealand national teams.
Indian sports clubs with hockey teams were established in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch between 1935 and 1937, following the tour of New Zealand by All-India. Many players of Indian descent have represented New Zealand since Ramesh Patel’s selection in 1972. In 1981 the New Zealand men’s team at the Inter-continental Cup included four players of Indian descent. The National Indian Tournament is contested at Queen’s Birthday Weekend.
Beginnings of international hockey
When the England women’s hockey team toured New Zealand in 1914, drawing the series 1–1, with one match drawn, hockey became the first team sport played at international level by New Zealand women. (The first women’s cricket and netball internationals took place in 1935 and 1938 respectively.) However, the next women’s hockey international was not until 1935, when a New Zealand women’s team competed at the All-Australia Hockey Carnival in Melbourne, defeating Australia 2–1.
Feeding the team
The 1926 New Zealand tour by the Indian army hockey team attracted unprecedented numbers of spectators. The team included players of varying religious affiliations and castes, and their diets posed catering problems for their hosts. The national Hockey Association advised that ‘the five Sikhs in the team eat only the male of animals, such as sheep and fowls … The other Indians eat either male or female sheep and fowls, but they will not eat what the Sikhs kill … Some place where they can light fires and cook their meals will be necessary.’1
Men’s international hockey began in 1922, when New Zealand defeated Australia 5–4 at the Palmerston North sports ground. Tours by the Indian army team in 1926, the All-India team in 1935 and the Prince of Manavadar’s team in 1938 were the highlights of interwar hockey. Many thousands of spectators watched these teams which, in 1926 and 1935, included Dhyan Chand, widely regarded as the world’s best hockey player.
Outstanding international performances
Since the Second World War both the New Zealand men’s and women’s hockey teams have generally been competitive at international level. The men’s team performed respectably at most Olympic Games between 1956 and 1972 before winning the gold medal in 1976, beating Australia 1–0 in the final. Women’s hockey was not played at the Olympics until 1980 but the New Zealand women’s team performed creditably at International Federation of Women’s Hockey Association (IFWHA) tournaments. They were the best-performing team at the 1963 tournament, where they won all their games, and remained consistently successful during the 1970s.
Both the men’s and women’s teams struggled in the late 1980s and 1990s but recovered in the 2000s, performing creditably at international level. The New Zealand women’s team won an Olympic qualifying tournament in 2000 and finished seventh at the Sydney Olympics. The men were silver medallists at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, a feat matched by the women in 2010.
In 2011 the men finished fourth at the Champions Trophy (hosted by New Zealand for the first time), and they won the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia in June 2012. They performed below expectations at the 2012 London Olympic Games, finishing ninth. The women took the bronze medal at the 2011 Champions Trophy and finished a creditable fourth at the 2012 Olympics, narrowly missing out on the final when they were defeated in a penalty shoot-out by eventual gold medallists the Netherlands. At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, the women's team won gold and the men silver.