European Bandy (Ice Hockey)

Bandy is a hockey sport on ice, thought to share a common origin with the Welsh game of bando. Because it is an older sport with different origins, it is distinct from modern ice hockey in quite a few ways. The development of bandy was heavily influenced by soccer (association football), and as such bears some resemblance in many ways. Some of these similarities include the size of the field and goals, the number of players, the 45-minute halves, and the use of a ball instead of a puck. The most obvious differences between bandy and soccer are bandy’s use of sticks and the field of ice.

While not particularly popular today, bandy was quite a popular sport throughout Europe in the 20th century, particularly in Britain. While its primary historical references lie within British culture, many of them suggesting the sport developed there autonomously, other factors must be taken into account. Russia claims the origins of bandy lie within its borders, and while some medieval Russian documents do reference a sport with similar characteristics, the connection is as of yet unverifiable.


Origins and History

The earliest recorded official Bandy match was held in 1875, though there is earlier evidence of games that appear to have been similar. The earliest record of any sort of ice hockey sport lies in the writings of a Russian monk from the 10th or 11th century. This document related that these monks would sometimes play a sport that matches the description of bandy, though it is doubtful this practice had direct influence on Bandy’s development.

The sport’s name itself complicates the matter of uncovering its history, as the term bandy means to strike something back and forth. As such, several references from the 15th century onward reference “bandy” sports that seem to have not been played on ice, but were simply some sort of ball game.


How to Play

As the details of early versions of bandy aren’t made clear, the modern rendition is summarized here. Two teams of 11 players each attempt to pass the ball through the opposing team’s goal using only their bandy sticks. This takes place on a field typically 120 yards long and 70 yards wide, with goals 7 feet tall and 11 feet wide. It’s unknown by how much these dimensions have varied throughout bandy’s history. The game goes on for two halves of 45 minutes each. At the end of the second half, the team with the most points wins.


Equipment

The bandy stick is about 4 feet long and curved to a nearly 90-degree bend at the end. The handle end is cylindrical and the club end is carved into two flat faces to better handle the ball.

Both the modern and the historical bandy ball feature a cork core, though the outside is constructed differently. While the modern ball typically has a rubber or plastic outer shell, the traditional ball featured a knitted outer layer. To aid visibility, the modern ball is always painted with a bright coat, which was not usually the case for the traditional ball.

the making of a traditional bandy ball, from cork block to knitted, painted finish (with a modern ball to the far right) - British Bandy
the making of a traditional bandy ball, from cork block to knitted, painted finish (with a modern ball to the far right)

Bibliography

Culley, P., & Pascoe, J. (2009). Sports facilities and technologies. New York: Routledge.

Levinson, D., & Christensen, K. (1996). Encyclopedia of World Sport: From Ancient Times to the Present. ABC-CLIO Interactive.

Crego, R. (2003). Sports and games of the 18th and 19th centuries. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.