Street Hockey was appropriately described by Toronto Star writer Mitch Potter as, "the recessive gene that makes us Canadian.....the precise point on the genetic double-helix spiral that equates road hockey with spontaneous, innocent fun.....a truly cultural phenomenon that harkens to Canadians on the street and their memories of childhood."
Although Street Hockey was not originally intended to have been played in manufactured concrete structures, governed by administrative authorities with established rules and regulations in highly organized leagues that provide it's participants with local, provincial and national championship competitions. The sport is now much more organized, for many, their first experience remains the same as for those who first played ball hockey. It simply involved a few friends or family members, an open area, such as a roadway or parking lot near their home, some rocks or bricks to mark the goal posts, a tennis ball, old hockey sticks, and the game was on.
The official version of street or ball hockey is a relatively young sport with a very short modern history, but its roots can be traced back to similar games played with a ball and stick. The first documented history of such a game, called hurling, dates back to the second millennium BC when it was played in Ireland. The word hockey derives from a similar game played by the Native Indians in North America, firstly observed in 1572.
The development of ball hockey has closely followed that of ice hockey, as it has spread around the world in the northern (colder) climates. Formally organized street or ball hockey leagues, in its modern form, grew independently in several countries, Canada (late 1960s), the USA (early 1970s), Austria, Czechia, and Slovakia (1980s), Finland, Germany, Japan, and Switzerland (early 1990s), and more recently in other countries. Due to its close relationship with ice hockey, street and ball hockey developed with similar rules throughout these countries. After the political changes in Eastern Europe in 1989, international exchanges flourished, and included cross-Atlantic competitions as early as 1991, leading to the establishment of the World Ball Hockey Federation, and the bi-annual World Junior and Senior Championships.
The Canadian version of the game began to take its shape in the late 1960s in Toronto, Ontario, with Habitant Arena hosting a summer program in 1969, and some speculate that it may have even started the year before in the east end of the city. The oldest continuously run league is the Mississauga Ball Hockey Association, which commenced in 1971.
The first plastic orange ball was introduced by Arnold Herka, of Viceroy Rubber, to George Butterwick who was operating a Toronto league circa 1970, and the game has never looked back. The first known provincial association was formed in 1974 in Ontario by Mr. Ken White, John Forrest, Paul Coulter and Mike Bernard. The game's trailblazers could not have imagined the association's ensuing growth and development at the Minors, Womens, Mens and Masters levels of participation throughout the country. No one, however, bothered to inform the "administrative pioneers" who steadfastly moved the game "off the streets" and into rinks.
The sport of ball hockey is one of the most successful and fastest growing amateur sports organizations in Canada.