Hockey is believed to be derived from medieval stick and ball games that more closely resemble today's field hockey. The Irish game of hurling is a perfect example of this. The evidence of people actually playing on ice however was not uncovered until 1797 by Carl Giden. He had uncovered a carving that depicted people on the St.Lawrence river with skates on and looked to be engaged in a game of shinny. No equipment was depicted and was believed to not be invented until the early 1800's.
While people know the hockey is Canada's national winter sport, most of them don't know that Montreal is actually the birth place of modern day hockey. This is were the first game was held in 1875 I believe in Victoria indoor rink. Instead of a puc, they used a flat piece of wood (which was rounded of course) and used teams with 9 players aside. Now if you think that was crowded, they only spaced the nets about 8 feet apart. so ya not a lot of room for some of the fancy footwork that we see today.
The team that started it all off was non other than the hard hitting Boston Bruins. They are the oldest US based team still playing today starting their career in 1924.
The U.S. amature hockey league was what started the actual organization of hockey, with rules and regulations it started to become more than just shinny. The first game was between Yale and Josh Hopkins collegiettes which also seen the first professional hockey player as per definition.