Hockey is not the first sport that comes to mind when one thinks of the Irish, but it seems that we played a part in the development of the game despite the general lack of skating ability among our home population.
A new TV documentary is set to explore this link and has called for contributions in the form of home videos or photos of hockey games throughout the 1920s and 1960s in particular.
Today, around 4.5 million Canadians claim some kind of Irish ancestry, a massive 15 percent of the population. Presented by All Ireland-winning hurling manager Ger Loughnane and produced by Fócas Films for TG4, “Puc na nGael” (Puck of the Irish) will look at the familiar tale of Irish triumph, as those escaping the famine arrived in Canadian towns and cities, sick, hungry, and unwanted, but rose up to play a prominent part in Canadian society.
Although is may be a very bold statement to make, “Puck of the Irish” will explore whether there is any truth to the stories of Irish people as far back as the 1800s playing our national sport of hurling on the ice in Canada and whether this in turn evolved into hockey to make the game easy to play on the slippery surface.
Even if the Irish are not completely responsible for the origin of hockey, there’s no denying the impact the Irish have had on the game as we know it today. Without Irish input hockey would be devoid of numbers on jerseys, the blue line, forward passing and many other tactical innovations that may seem small but are all integral parts of hockey today.
Several early hockey stars and players who helped influence the game's development and growth could claim Irish heritage including Harry Trihey, Frank McGee, King Clancy, Frank Ahearn, Conn Smythe, Frank Patrick, and, lest we forget, two of Canada’s most famous hockey teams – the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs – were both founded by Irish Canadians.
Even the National Hockey League has Irish roots!
Through “Puck of the Irish” viewers will meet with contemporary Canadian and American stars of the NHL such as Ryan McDonagh, Morgan Rielly, Brendan Gallagher, Mike Condon, Jimmy Hayes, Kevin Hayes, and Patrice Bergeron and attempt to find out once and for all if the Irish really did invent the Canadian national sport.
If you or your family have any video to share, you can contact Eamonn Ó Cualáin via email at [email protected]