It is generally accepted that the game began its modern era because of a game that was played by Englishmen on the frozen expanse of Kingston Harbour, Ontario in 1860.

This was the first time a puck instead of a ball was used and so is accepted as the origin of the game as completely divorced from field hockey. These first players were Crimean war veterans from the Royal Canadian Rifles.

In 1879, W F Robertson and R F Smith – both students at McGill University in Montreal – devised the original rules and regulations. A square rubber puck was used with nine players to each side.

The first team was formed in 1880 and called the McGill University Hockey Club. The game was taken to Ottawa in 1885.

With the climate of Canada excellent for winter sports, ice hockey spread and developed across Canada but didn’t gain a foothold in the USA until the advent of refrigerated rinks.

Ice hockey is played in over 55 countries worldwide from Andorra to Yugoslavia. The world governing body, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), was organised in 1908, with Great Britain being a founder member.

In 1903, Great Britain had a five-team league and the first Scottish game was in 1908 in Crossmyloof, Glasgow.

The British Ice Hockey Association (BIHA) was formed in 1914 and was wound down in 1999, when it was taken over by Ice Hockey UK.

The first European Championship was won by Great Britain in 1910 and the first World Cup was won by Canada in 1920. Great Britain were Olympic champions in 1936.

Two linesmen and one or two referees – depending on the league – control the game. A game is divided into three 20-minute periods of actual playing time, divided by two intervals of usually around 15 minutes. When a whistle is blown the clock stops.

Six players from each team are on the ice at any one time. The line up being; netminder, two defencemen and three forwards. These players can be changed at any time as the game is played at such a speed.

A team is usually made up of between 17 and 22 players. This consists of two netminders, four to six in the defence and three to four lines of forwards.

The netminder will usually remain unchanged throughout the game, but it is quite common for him to leave the ice during the last seconds of a game.

This means there is no goalie and six outskaters on the ice in a risk-all effort to score. This usually happens at the end of a game where teams are separated by a single goal and can be very exciting.

Play begins with a face-off when the referee drops the puck in the centre circle between the sticks of the two centres. Other face-offs happen after a goal is scored and at other times after misplay. The puck only becomes dead when the whistle blows or it is hit over the barrier.

A goal is scored when the puck enters the net or goes across the goal line propelled by a stick. If the puck is kicked or thrown into the net there is no goal. Goal judges sit behind each goal and switch on a red light when a goal is scored. The goals are 1.22m (4′) tall and 1.83m (6′) wide.

The puck is circular, made of solid vulcanised rubber, is 7.62 cm (3″) in diameter, 2.54cm (1″) thick and weighs 143 grams (5½ ounces). A player may stop the puck with hand, body or skate at any time in any position. The puck must not be pushed forward except by skate or stick.

The space between goals is divided by blue lines into three zones; defence, neutral and attacking zones – each is a third of the playing area.

An attacking player may only enter the attacking zone behind the puck or puck-carrier. A pass cannot be made to an attacker from a team-mate who is outside the attacking zone. This is known as being offside and the whistle will be blown and a face off taken.

Players are penalised for infringements of rules by being sent off the ice for two or more minutes according to the severity of the offence and no substitute can be made for the duration of the penalty, which he serves in a special penalty box.

A netminder does not serve their own penalty but a team-mate must sit in the box for most penalties given against them, except if they are thrown out of the game.

Offences include charging, elbowing, boarding, tripping, checking from behind, high sticks, interference, roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct.

Ice hockey players wear specialised equipment, which is specifically designed for safety. Players are well padded – they wear knee pads, shin, hip, elbow and shoulder guards, thick gauntlet-type gloves, long stockings that fit over the knee pads, padded shorts that lace up at the front and sweaters in team colours over everything.

Boots are stronger and different from figure skating boots. They have lower ankle support, reinforced toes and padded tongues. The blade has a plain point, is straight and narrow and now hollow ground. The two upright stanchions are higher on a hockey skate changing the centre of gravity.

Ice hockey, the world’s fastest team game, is full of skilful stick handling, tactics, speed and grit.