"Certain historians, who perhaps may not always be quite objective, keep on giving their own interpretations. They often want to see "ice hockey" in terms of what may be interpreted as a lot of imagination. References to ancient painters who show a man on skates with a ball and a stick, as he was painted for example by Rome yn de Hoogh e (Holland 1645-1708) have been interpreted as precursors of ice hockey players. More detailed investigations reveal some kind of Golf or Polo on ice, but not Ice Hockey.
A connection to ice hockey - and again with a lot of imagination - would be more likely with other sports like Shinney, Hurling, or Baggataway. Shinney originated from the Scottish game Shiny which was played with a ball and a bent stick. But there were no goalkeepers. One team consisted sometimes of 50 to 100 men playing as company against company, with no skates.
The objective was to win space. Hurling originated from Ireland. The game was similar to field hockey. It was played without skates, at first by British soldiers in India and later on ice and snow in Canada. Also in that game there were no goalkeepers. Baggataway was played first by the Chippewa Indians who lived south of Lake Ontario in Canada, later on also by the Hur ones who lived further in the north.
They played with a stick with a small net tied in, and a ball. In winter on snow - and without skates. The game is still practiced today in North America as "Lacrosse". Compared to ice hockey following our concept, the goalkeeper was missing, mostly also the skates, and the number of players was different. Only the ball and stick were the connection. All that was not ice hockey in our sense.
Apart from some painters and their pictures which were interpreted as ice hockey, there were also some other "hints" in Europe. The German Franz Kreis el for example wrote after World War II in his ice hockey textbook that in the 15th century a game similar to ice hockey was played with ball on ice in Friesland. No evidence can be given either for activities similar to ice hockey which were carried out in 1885 in Vienna, 1890 in Prague, 1894 in Paris, and 1898 in Holland. In most cases, these were games similar to bandy or already proper bandy games.
Even the National Ice Skating Association, which was established in Germany already in 1888, did not have an ice hockey department. If ice hockey has a forerunner or "father", it is without any doubt the bandy, a game played on an ice surface in the size of a football ground with goals, players (11) on skates, with goalkeepers, stick and ball. Guests from Britain, university people and students brought the bandy and combined with that the ice hockey to the European continent. Many of them had learned the game from home comers or holidaymakers from North America.
This is how the sport came to the old world through universities and academic sports clubs. Cities like Berlin, Paris, Vienna or Prague got to know the new sport. But also universities like Antwerp, Amsterdam, Leipzig, Dresden or Lyon were among the pioneers of bandy and later ice hockey. Curiosities like rule books from Canada, sticks from England and skates from North America still exist. The transition from the playing object ball to the puck as it is used today was introduced in Europe following the North American example. To sum up: ice hockey is a game with a limited number of players (first 9, then 7, later 6) played on skates with a bent stick and a playing object (first ball, then puck) and firm rules, mainly on 30 x 60 metre ice surfaces in inside rinks - but also in the open on ice surfaces of similar measurements."Essay from I IHF".