14. Oct, 2016

Blog

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.