Ice hockey is an adaptation of the Native American game of lacrosse. In fact, many of the first rules were borrowed directly from the game, and changes for action on ice.
The first formal game was recorded in Kingston, Ontario in 1855. Twenty years later, students of Montreal's McGill University (credited for much of the game's early development), imposed a code of conduct familiarly known as the McGill Rules. Many of those same principles govern the game today.
In 1885, Canada's first national hockey association was formed, with teams quickly influencing their neighbors to the south. By 1896, teams were competing in the New York area, with the first game between the U.S. and Canada played by 1899.
The first professional league, called the National Hockey Association, formed in 1909. The four original teams from that league (Toronto, Ottawa and two from Montreal) were among the first to play under the auspices of the new NHL in 1917.