Researchers uncover earliest-known picture of a hockey player

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Sport historians Carl Giden and Patrick Houda discovered a book over two centuries old that includes a detailed description of field hockey and an illustration of boys on skates with a flat puck – which was called a “bung” at the time.

The portrait was printed in 1797, but the historians believe that the scene is from December 1796, when Greater London’s rivers and ponds were frozen due to unusually cold weather.

“In 1797, the word ‘hockey’ had been used in London and its surroundings for about 50 years, replacing the medieval term ‘bandy ball,'” the researchers wrote. “The artist’s intention must have been to picture a pair of skating hockey-players. Later similar paintings are not known until the 1850s.”

The book also makes references to the word “hockey” and now, according to Giden and Honda, represents “the first known contemporary use of the word ‘hockey’ — predating later records by about 25 years.”

Richard Johnson, who is the author of the book the image was first printed in, “claims he played the game at school during the 1740s,” according to the researchers.

You can view original texts from Johnson’s book, as well Giden and Houda’s research notes here.

(Photo credit: Carl Giden and Patrick Houda.)