Marika Rovanova shared the picture: Czar Alexander III: 1ston the right, 1strow. Nicolai II: 4thfrom the right, 2ndrow.
The picture above: The Royal Czar family of the Russian Empire late 1880 or early 1890 from the Anichova palace, St Petersburg. The Romanovs enjoy pastime hockey with the ball, the National sport of Russia. Czar Peter the Great played ball hockey on the river Neva, St Petersburg. Bandy was a popular pastime sport in European royalty: British, German, Swedish and Russian royal families played bandy.
The picture below: On January 30, 2018, Duchess Kate and Duke William of Cambridgeshire paid tribute to the bandy sport in Vasaparken in Stockholm. The Nordic countries, led by Sweden, preserved the rules that got its modern form in Cambridgeshire 18c.
Shakespeare refers to bandy in his masterpieces. Another famous idiom of Shakespeare is: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. Bandy has throughout history gone by various names. Hopefully, the reader does not get too confused about the various names used in the text on the web page. The name has caused several misunderstandings in literature and among decision makers. Historic evidence of bandy has been confused with ice hockey.
Bandy is the official name, but the sport has gone by other names. The essay will primarily refer to bandy but also use ball-hockey or hockey-with-the-ball when this best serves the historic context.
The historic pattern was that team sport on the ice got names from kin summer sports. The most common is hockey, the summer Olympic sport that is governed by the Federation of International Hockey (FIH).
In old literature and chronicles, on the British Isles, bandy also has gone by other kin-related summer sports names. These are shinty or shinney on the ice (Scotland) and hurley on the ice (Ireland). Bandy might have got its name from bando played in Wales. The name may possible origin from the Teutonic word “bandja” that means a curved stick. The word “bandy” (pl. bandies) refers to the stick.
The same applies to hockey (FIH). The hockey is the stick. So when a fastidious FIH hockey player hears bandy and ice hockey people call their stick, a bandy-stick, and an ice hockey-stick, they find it superfluous. And a confirmation of their proprietary ownership to the word hockey. Federation of International Hockey (FIH) owns the official name hockey. In the majority (of the 206 IOC member) nations, hockey refers to FIH. In some winter sports nations ice hockey, governed by IIHF, is popularly shortened to hockey. And hockey (FIH) added with a prefix to field-hockey. Confused! Well, there is more coming below.
Both Candian rules hockey (IIHF) and Anglo-Russian-rules hockey (bandy) used the official name ice hockey. Following 1924, when the IOC decided to include IIHF, the Nordic Federations used the official name bandy. The Norwegian federation changes the name. The Soviet Union and later Russia, however, kept the official name hockey-with-the-ball.
In 1955 the official IF name became bandy. The Federation of International Bandy (FIB) governs the bandy sport.
Ice hockey was included in the Summer Olympics 1920 in Antwerp because the host had a small sheet ice. The activity in Candian rules hockey in Europe was not broad. Bandy players were recruited. A legend tells that some European teams prepared and trained for English rules hockey (bandy) before they went to play ice hockey in the Games. Only to discover that Canadian rules hockey was something completely else.
Winter Sport Heritage
The 3rdPrinciple of Olympism claim global universality symbolized by the five rings. The Olympic narrative is the revival of the Games in ancient Greece. Therefore all sports want to trace their roots to ancient Greece. In winter sports this is a fallacy.
The IOC was established in 1894. The superpowers at the time were European Empires. The IOC Members were children of their time. The worldview was that Continental Europe was the center of the World. This worldview influenced the sports programme. Since 1924, the winter sports programme has been surprisingly fixed. It is still very much based on continental European heritage. Few winter sports have managed to grow universal across many continents. The reasons are climate, topography, heritage or too expensive purpose-built venues. To reach real ongoing activity, the programme needs to adjust. It needs the diversity provided by affordable heritage sports from outside continental Europe.
Of the 12 leading winter sports nations, 6 are continental Europeans. The Netherlands dominate speed skating with not so many (20) speed-skating ovals. Germany the sliding sports with 4 of the 10-20 operative sliding venue worldwide. The grand Alp area has 5 nations, but the geographic size is about the size of south Norway. Of the Alp inhabitants, 625 000 live in the tourist municipalities with the necessary topography, climate and skiing facilities. The recruitment base for snow sports is not broad. Ice sports infrastructure is easier to deploy everywhere with larger underlying recruitment base. Even in the Alp nations, ice hockey is the largest sport.
Winter sports history has its main watershed elsewhere. Winter sports have its stronghold in the north, in the Sub Arctic Climate Zone. Activity was (and is) strongest along the northern belt of the northern hemisphere stretching from North America, the Nordics, and into Eurasia. The overwhelming majority of Winter sports athletes are in 6 of the 12 leading nations: The 2 North Americans, the 3 Nordic countries and the former Soviet Union, particularly Russia. The winter sports programme would benefit from more events from the northern belt. Moreover from sports that use ice infrastructure doable in urban areas and in the warmer climate. The best option would be an ice sport that belongs to the vast ball-sport family. Bandy has all of this.
As most ancient and medieval evidence hockey refers to curved shaped sticks and a ball, bandy can claim to be the oldest team hockey sport on ice.
Skates made of animal shack bones 2000 BC and irrigated ponds are found in Hungary, although yet no final proof of ball hockey on ice using skates. Most concrete evidence suggests ball hockey on plains or frozen ponds without skates.
Historians suggest that the oldest branch of ball-sports is hockey sports. The ball and a curved stick describe them. Curved shaped crooks (the shepherds crook) were used as a stick. In summer time it was played on plains, and wintertime on frozen ponds. Bandy’s twin summer sports hockey (FIH), Ireland’s hurley, Scotland’s shintey, and Wales’ bando can in a way claim to be the oldest team sports. This is based on e.g. the mural illustration of ball hockey found in excavations in Egypt originating 2600 BC.
Unlike in ancient Greece, the most common ancient Chinese sports were ball games. Buda (field hockey) was played in the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD). Buda later developed into Chinese golf. The Daur people in the north played Beikuo (field hockey) for 1000 years. In 2004 FIFA recognized that football originates from China. Cuju (soccer) appeared in the Warring State period (476-221 BC) to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD). The inflatable ball was invented 200 AD. This innovation is probably the greatest sports innovation in history.
Football on ice emerges in China. When the 2000-year-old cuju (soccer) faded, the Manchurians in the north created football on the ice. This was during the Manchurian Qing Dynasty (1644-1912 AD). But cuju on ice appears to be without a stick.
In North Asia, bandy is the main winter heritage sport. To include bandy in the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics would have been a great tribute to both Chinese ball-sport history and North Asia’s winter sports heritage.
Evidence suggests that ball hockey on the ice was played without skates, or by using simple skates made of animal shack bones. Indigenous tribes in North America played with curved sticks. They pressed the stick into a curved shape using animal sinew. It was considered cheating keeping the sinews on the stick. According to the legend, this was the start of lacrosse. The Vikings on Iceland (Knattleikur) played ball hockey with curved sticks. 1st evidence of ball hockey skates appears to be 1000 AD found in Russian monasteries.
Joseph Strutt’s book from 1801: Sports and Pastimes describe a game called bandy appear on the British Isles from 14c.
West Europe, particularly the British Isles, would later develop ball hockey on modern skates, which today is known as bandy. Interchangeably, depending on the Isles’ geographic area, it was called hockey on ice, hurley on the ice, shintey on ice or simply bandy.
The 18 And 19 Century
Many sports got their modern rules codified in the era of the British Empire. The same applies to bandy. Evidence from Cambridgeshire in England suggests formal competition bandy from the mid 18c. No written codes are found, but historians suggest that there were standard rules agreed upon prior to each competition. With regular bandy matches from 18c, bandy can demonstrate coherent sport-competitions for at least 250 years.
During 19c, bandy was played between bandy clubs like Bury Fen, Virginia Waters, Winchester, and Northampton. Well-known football clubs like Sheffield United (1855) and Nottingham Forest (1865) even had bandy in their names. Oxford University claims that the 1st Varsity Match held 1885 in St Moritz between the Oxford and Cambridge University was with bandy rules.
Charles Goodman Tebbutt from Bluntisham in the Fens codified modern bandy rules. He came from the bandy stronghold in Cambridgeshire, England in 1891/92. Tebbutt campaigned successfully and European nations adopted the rules. In 1891 Tebutt’s club, Bury Fen played a team from Haarlem in the Netherlands. Following this, the Amsterdamsche Hockey en Bandy Club (AH&BC) was established 1892 and the Netherlandsche Hockey en Bandy Bond 1898. Four Dutch (field) hockey clubs still keep bandy in their official name e.g. Breda Hockey en Bandy Club (BH&BC) established 1905.
Prior the Great War eight continental European nations competed in European Championships up until 1913 in Switzerland. In parallel, the Nordic countries participated in the Nordic Games.
At the same time, Canadians rules hockey emerged in North America. Governor General of Canada, Frederick Stanley commissioned the famous trophy 1892. The USA joined Canadian Rules hockey but had back in history played ball hockey. Simplified one can say there was Canadian rules hockey in North America and Anglo-Russian rules hockey (bandy) in Europe and the Asian part of the Russian Empire (later USSR). As mentioned, both sports (confusingly today) used the official name ice hockey.
Canadian hockey was well organized and established the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) 1908. The IIHF managed to get a bridgehead in the Summer Olympic in Antwerpen 1920. Antwerpen had a small sheet ice venue.
Bandy was part of the Winter Olympic precursor The Nordic Games 1901 – 1926. But it is fair to say that international bandy was not as well organized internationally compared to that of ice hockey.
Subsequent the IOC decision 1924 to not include bandy in the Chamonix Games, the Nordic national ice hockey federations changed their official name to bandy. USSR however, kept the name hockey with the ball. More importantly bandy lost entire nations and its players to ice hockey.
Bandy has a strong history and tradition. The IOC decision in 1924 to exclude bandy was influenced by the rivalry between Sweden and the IOC. The Olympic Winter Games undoubtedly dominate winter sports. Outside the Games, it is almost impossible to develop a winter sport. Moreover, following the Russian revolution, the USSR ceased its participation with the IOC until 1949. The USSR was an important winter sports nation with bandy as its main heritage sport. This did not help the bandy sport either.
Outside the aegis of the IOC, bandy was surprisingly strong until the late 1960s. It was not only a large winter sport but among the larger of all sports in the USSR and the Nordics. In terms of nations it, however, lost ground in continental Europe 1924-1971. It lost continental European nations and its players to ice hockey. Facing the overwhelming resources of the IOC bandy was bent, but not beaten. These new ice hockey nations (based on bandy tradition), with the exception of Czechoslovakia, could not match the North Americans. Thanks to affordable ice and synergies with bandy, the Nordic countries, and the USSR/Russia were the only nations that could challenge the Americans in ice hockey. Thanks to bandy.
The exclusion of bandy was a huge mistake and sad because there was space for both sports. Bandy is one of the few affordable winter sports aligned the Olympic Principle # 1. The sports programme would better have mirrored the Olympic rings and its guiding principles. Ice hockey captured in a good way the North American heritage. Bandy the original continental European, British, and the contemporary Nordic and Eurasian heritage.
Norway accelerated bandy as an Olympic demonstration sport up to 1952. The backdrop gives insight into the rationale. The USSR joined the IOC 1949. No other winter sport could better reinforce the objectives of Olympism.
The winter sports universe was (and is) small compared to summer sports. Guestimate is 1 % of all athletes. Finland and Norway likely have the record with 14 % of membership base in winter sports. Real ongoing activity among competitions athletes older than 12 years is, however, smaller, also in those two Nordic countries. It’s rare that any winter sport is among the larger participation sports, including summer sports. This also applies within the 12 leading winter sports countries. The exceptions are cross-country skiing in Norway and ice hockey in Canada. Another exception was bandy. In the 1950s and 1960s, bandy was among the largest sports in 3-4 of the 12 leading nations. This is an unusual observation in winter sports. Even more astonishing is that the IOC refused to include one of the few sports that had strong fundamental backing and could help fulfill its mandate (Olympic Principles)
Despite the huge setback of Olympic exclusion, observers acknowledge that bandy has been surprisingly resilient. To sustain broad real ongoing activity in a winter sport outside the Winter Olympics is a noteworthy achievement. There is no other observation of this scale in winter sports. Voluntary work has, in an impressive way, offset the disadvantage. But the IOC decision was and is close to incomprehensible. Why should the IOC determine the evolution of sports in its member nations?
In 1971 the Netherlands rejoined bandy after some years absence. This marked the start of bandy’s regrowth. In 1980 the USA (re-) started bandy after a century absence from ball hockey. Bandy got a bridgehead into North America. Canada soon followed. North American ice hockey is huge, by all winter sports standards. The other 14 Olympic Disciplines are in size more equal to that of a European country, hence not very large. By this winter sports standard, bandy grew rapidly to a noteworthy size. Synergies with ice hockey are one explanation why bandy grew. This was another example that demonstrates the synergy potential between bandy and ice hockey. Moreover, ball-sports are popular in North America as everywhere. North America can even claim heritage to ball-hockey on ice from indigenous tribes and later until they joined Canadian Rules hockey late 20c.
North American broadcasters pay 50 % of the combined television rights of the Winter Games. Large TOP sponsors come from the USA. North American cities have the largest spectatorship at stadiums when they host the Olympic Winter Games. Two events for bandy will benefit North American ice hockey and ball-sport athletes.
FIB has currently 28 member nations. Compared to many of the Olympic Disciplines, bandy has better reached the stringent 1973 Olympic Charter criteria: Real ongoing activity on 3 continents and 25 nations. This is done on own machine. And without the huge resources provided to sports in the Olympic Games.
Data reveal that many Olympic Disciplines have not reached this 45-year-old criterion. They list surprisingly many National Federation sections (NFs) that organize Disciplines at the national level. But the majority of the athletes are in very few NFs. Close to 97 % of all athletes are registered in 65 NFs (out of 1300). Ice hockey, alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, and bandy have most NFs in this size stratum. Close to 99 % are in 159 NFs. On average 10 NFs on each of the 16 Disciplines (including bandy), but they are not evenly distributed. Many Disciplines have very few NFs with real ongoing activity. Some Disciplines have in reality none.
FIB organizes 15-18 events annually. Athletes from 4 continents meet 2019. Over 30 000 active athletes, 13 years or older, compete to qualify among the 2400 quota of athletes. The major activity in bandy, as all ball sports, is still domestic within each country. Many winter Olympic Disciplines have little domestic activity. Essentially all activity is international portraying larger size than reality. The Olympic Charter requires real ongoing activity also nationally. Domestic activity is important for healthy lifestyles and a key incentive for the authorities to apply for the Winter Games.
Current WCS senior qualifications alphabetically:
Division A, Men
A Pool: Finland, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Sweden. B Pool: Germany, Holland, Norway, and the USA
Division B, Men
Canada, China, Czech Republic, Estonia, Great Britain, Hungary, Japan, Latvia, Slovakia, Somalia, Switzerland, and Ukraine. Previous participants: Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia.
Women WCS: China, Finland, Japan, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the USA. Previous participants: The Netherlands and Canada.
Lithuania has participated in youth WCS. Other members: Afghanistan, Armenia, Colombia, and India.
21 Century – The Future
The IOC decision in 1924 to exclude bandy was influenced by the rivalry between Sweden and the IOC. Moreover to circumvent bandy 22 times the subsequent 94 years was at the best very strange. All skating sports and the skating public would have benefited from the affordable infrastructure used by bandy. Bandy share competition venue with speed skating, as the interior of a speed skating oval is the appropriate size for a bandy surface. A speed skating oval without interior ice contradicts logic and represent a lost legacy value. A large ice sheet will give a true legacy value.
Empirical evidence the last century concludes that ball sports tend to grow. In the Summer Games, there are 7 ball sports, but the Winter Games has none. Ball sports are by far the larger category of sport. The reasons are de facto youth appeal, low cost for athletes and low-cost scalable infrastructure where people live. Most importantly, the ball fascinates. Bandy shares the very same features. The Winter Games has not tapped into the ball-sport growth. No summer ball sports have a better concept on ice (or snow) than bandy. Bandy is the winter ball-sport.
The logic of winter sport is to use skates or skis to take advantage of the underlying element of ice or snow. The purpose is to create leverage, speed, and agility on snow or ice. One can, of course, show-case ball sports on snow or ice without skis or skates, but it will contradict the logic of winter sports. Any other summer ball-sport will have a huge challenge getting significant participation. Bandy is the winter ball-sport.
No European or Asian ice hockey country has the capacity to build 4500 indoor ice hockey rinks as North America. The pattern is that the larger European ice hockey nations that have excelled, also are bandy nations. The prime reason is more available affordable large sheet bandy ice. The key to growing winter sports is affordable ice, something bandy provide. If ice hockey shall grow further, it is destined to have bandy along its side.
Back to the future: In 1954 USSR bandy players won IIHF WCS in ice hockey. Two years after they won ice hockey Olympic Gold. In this way, bandy players triumphed in North Americas own ice hockey backyard.
With bandy on the sports programme, ice hockey players will get the opportunity to do the same in bandy. This will create a popular tailwind. It will set the stage for significant attention, attendance and audience. The massive ball sports crowd will follow bandy in the Games. Olympic bandy matches from 2026 and later will with certainty draw spectators and audience.
In prospect: It’s time to let bandy strengthens the Games.