Húh on Ice

14. Oct, 2016

I think it is absolutely a terrific idea to link together the accomplishments of the Icelandic football team last summer, and the fantastic story of the Winnipeg Falcons Hockey team. For the roots of the two may lie deeper than anyone suspects. The folowing text is based upon information gathered from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and elsewhere.

The Winnipeg Falcons (Their story in a Video) were a senior men's amateur ice hockey team based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Winnipeg Falcons won the 1920 Allan Cup. That team went on to represent Canada in the 1920 Olympic games held in Antwerp, Belgium. There the Falcons, soundly beating all their opponents, won for Canada the first ever Olympic Gold Medal in ice hockey and changed the way Hockey was played from there on.

The Winnipeg Falcons hockey team was founded in 1911 with a roster of entirely Icelandic players who had not been able to join other Winnipeg teams due to ethnic prejudice. In their first season, 1911–1912, they finished at the bottom of their league. The next year, Konnie Johannesson and Frank Fredrickson joined the team. That team turned out to be a winner in the league.

The game of Ice Hockey that the young Icelanders took so readily to, can at least in part be traced back to a game played the Mi'kmaq Indians of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

The Mikmaq (also Micmac) are a First Nations people indigenous to Canada's Maritime Provinces and the Gaspé Peninsula of Quebec. They call this region Mikmaki. Others today live in Newfoundland and the northeastern region of Maine. the Mikmaq, a First Nations people of Nova Scotia, had from time immemorial played a stick-and-ball game. Canadian oral histories describe a traditional stick-and-ball game played by the Mikmaq in eastern Canada, and Silas Tertius Rand (in his 1894 Legends of the Micmacs) describes a Mikmaq ball game known as tooadijik.

Windsor (Nova Scotia, Canada) claims that it is the birthplace of the ice hockey. This is citation from their site: There is near-irrefutable evidence that it was in Windsor that the game the world knows as ice hockey had its humble origins as early as the year 1800, on Long Pond. It is in the writings of Thomas Chandler Haliburton that the first known reference to a form of ice hockey can be found: the boys of Windsor’s King’s College School adapted their British game of hurley to the ice. And hurley-on-ice developed over time into the internationally popular game of ice hockey, still considered by most Canadians as their national sport.

In fact, this theory is strongly connected with the theory that ice hockey is a game adopted from Mi’kmaq Indians. The main difference is that Mi’kmaq Indians are not explicitly mentioned in this theory (but the place is still the same, Nova Scotia, Canada).

Since the nineteenth century, the Mikmaq were credited with inventing the ice hockey stick. The oldest known hockey stick was made between 1852 and 1856. Recently, it was appraised at $4 million US and sold for $2.2 million US. The stick was carved by Mi’kmaq from Nova Scotia, who made it from hornbeam, also known as ironwood.

As it happens Canada's Maritime Provinces is where the Norse explorer; Leifur Eiríksson, and others who followed in the wake of his ships, are known to have settled around the year 1000. The Mi'kmaq´s may indeed well be the "Skrælingar" that are so frequently mentioned in the Icelandic Sagas.

Dating to around the year 1000, L'Anse aux Meadows is widely accepted as evidence of pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact. It is notable for its possible connection with the attempted colony of Vinland established by Leif Erikson around the same period or, more broadly, with Norse exploration of the Americas. It was named a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1978.

And the Norse/Icelanders played Ísknattleikur; a similar game to Icehockey, that  had been played for a thousand years or more by the Norse, as documented in the Icelandic sagas. Today, no one knows exact rules of Knattleikur, but some information has survived from the Viking Age in Iceland  around the 9th century..

We know that players were divided into teams, each with a captain. The game demanded so much time that it was played from morning to night. It was a spectator game, with tournaments drawing huge crowds from all over Iceland.
Game-play involved a hard ball that was hit by a stick, although players could also use their hands. Body contact was allowed in the fight for the ball where the strongest had the best chance to win. Thus, intimidation was a vital ingredient; several wars of words have been recorded in the old sagas. There were also penalties and a penalty box.
It is conjectured by some that the playing field was lined, usually played on a flat ice covered surface, e.g. a frozen pond (though bumpy, landbased ice, svell, is also mentioned).
The players may have used "ísleggir" or "Iceleggs" which were cattle bones that they tied to their shoos.
Weather the Norse people that befriended the North American natives in the 10th and 11th century really taught them the game of Ísknattleikur or the Micmacs developed their own, is not known, but it could so easily have happened.
14. Oct, 2016
One of the most rugged and beautiful, and most importantly, untouched lava fields in Iceland, is the one called Berserkjahraun. (Berserk-lava). It is located on the northern side of Snæfellsnes peninsula, and just as you come down the mountain highway crossing over the peninsula at Vatnaleið, it it comes into view.
I love this area, the colorful and variably shaped mountains around the lava field, but perhaps most of all the stories and legends associated with this part of the land. One of them tells of how the lava field got its name.
Most people have heard of the phrase, going Berserk. 
One of the extraordinary features of the lava field is a ancient road (1200 meters long) that cuts into the field. Many believe it to be the oldest man made artifact in Iceland, still in it's original form. And the story of why its was build and why the field came to be named after the Berserks, is recorded in one of Iceland's Saga the Eyrbyggja. It also explains the old burial mound, and the ancient sheep pen still visible in the lava field.
Most people have heard of the phrase "Going Berserk". Berserkers (or berserks) were champion Norse warriors who are primarily reported in the Old Norse literature to have fought in a nearly uncontrollable, trance-like fury, a characteristic which later gave rise to the English word berserk. These Viking champions would often go into battle without mail-coats; the word "berserk" meant going into battle wearing only wolf or animal skins.Berserkers are attested to in numerous Old Norse sources.
The Saga tells us about two Swedish berserks, Halli and Leiknir, who Vermundur the Slim, farmer at Bjarnarhofn, brought to the country from Norway in 982. Vermundur’s brother, Styr the Slayer, was a powerful wretch, who Vermundur wanted to stand up to, and figured he would be able to do so with the aid of the Berserks The problem, however, was that Vermundur could not keep the berserks busy enough to subdue their rage and saw no other solution than to ask his brother to take them off his hands. Styr the Slayer obliged reluctantly and soon found himself in a dilemma in spite of continuous killings. Then Halli, one of the berserks, fell in love with his daughter and asked for her hand in marriage.
Styr the Slayer went to his friend, Snorri the chieftain, at Helgafell to seek advice. When he came back, he told the berserks that he would give Halli his blessing after they had finished clearing a path through the rugged lava field, build a boundary fence across it, and a sheep pen in it. The Berserks went berserk and finished the tasks in a remarkably short time. Before they did however, Styr the Slayer prepared an underground sauna for them and covered it with thick boards of wood. When the Berserks returned tired and sweaty from their work, Styr invited them to relax in the sauna and they accepted. The hole was covered properly, big boulders put on the boards and excessive quantities of boiling hot water poured through the opening styr had prepared, on to the hot stones below. It soon became unbearably hot in the hole, but in spite of the heat, the berserks managed to break out. They were however much too weak to defend themselves against Styr the slayer. He had spread wet and slippery bull hides on the ground around the hole and succeeded in killing both the Berserks. Their bodies were taken into a depression in the lava field, where they were buried close to the bridle path as can be seen up to this date.
The Berserks are probably also responsible for the legends of werewolves we have all become so fascinated with of late. The Úlfhéðnar (singular Úlfheðinn and means Wolf warrior), is another term associated with berserkers and mentioned in the Vatnsdæla saga, were Berserks said to have worn the pelt of a wolf when they entered battle.
Úlfhéðnar are also sometimes described as Odin's special warriors: that is men who went without their mail coats and were mad as hounds or wolves, bit their shields as they slew men, and neither fire nor iron had any effect upon them. This was called "going berserk".
Yet another connection the Berserk have with Iceland is the infamous Berserk mushroom. The Berserk were by many suspected of obtaining their trance like state, by consuming some kind of a psychedelic drug. The obvious candidate is the berserk mushroom or Amanita muscaria that grows in several places in Iceland