Although the sport is now much more organized, for many, their first experience remains the same as for those who first played street hockey, or road hockey, now more often known as 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 street 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 Central and Eastern Europe in 1989, international exchanges flourished, and included cross-Atlantic competitions as early as 1991, leading to the establishment of the International Street & Ball Hockey Federation in 1993, and the bi-annual World Junior and Senior Championships. The people playing the game number in the millions, with hundreds of thousands playing in organized leagues.
Since its inception, the ISBHF has worked towards unifying nations from around the world to share their experiences, development efforts, and news. In essence, creating a worldwide street hockey network, where information can be found to create or improve programs, evolve rules, develop skills, interact in friendly competitions, and promote the sport at the local, national, and global levels.
The first international tournament occurred in 1994 in Oshawa, Canada, followed by Bratislava, Slovakia’s hosting of the inaugural European Championship in 1995, and opening World Championship in June of 1996. The first World Junior Championship, for players Under-20, was held in Kralupy, Czech Republic in 2000. After staggered staging of WC’s in 1996, 1998, and 1999, they settled into a bi-annual routine on odd numbered years, with the WJC’s played on even numbered years.
Acting as the International governing body, the ISBHF organizes World and Continental Championships for national teams, as well as a variety of club team events each year. A series of regulations and common rules have been developed to manage international tournaments, and the interaction between members. The ISBHF also works with the International Ice Hockey Federation to further the grass roots development of hockey.