Historical records show that ball-and-stick games date back to the fifth century B.C. in Ancient Greece and Persia. Ice hockey dates back to the seventeenth century in the Netherlands and Scotland.
Archaeologists have discovered evidence of ball-and-stick games in the ancient ruins of Egypt, Persia, China and Greece. In the seventeenth century, Europeans played a version of golf on ice in the Netherlands and Scotland. Accounts of early American explorers also describe Native Americans playing a version of lacrosse on ice.
In 1875, a Canadian, James Creighton, started the first indoor hockey association at the Victoria Skating Rink. The rules of the game evolved in the late nineteenth century. At first, goalies could not fall to their knees to save pucks and no forward passing was allowed. As the rules developed to more closely align today's set, the popularity of the game soared.
In 1877, McGill University created the first university level hockey team, followed by the formation of the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada. In 1889, the Governor General of Canada, Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley, viewed a game of hockey at the Montreal Winter Carnival. He was inspired to start a team, found the Ontario Hockey Association and create a regional competition originally known as the Dominion Challenge. In 1893, the competition's prize, a trophy cup, was renamed the Stanley Cup.
Hockey continued to become more popular in the early twentieth century and in 1918, the National Hockey League was formed. As of 2015, there are 30 teams in the NHL and the Stanley Cup continues to be awarded annually to the winning team of the championship series.