In the Beginning

The roots of ice skating date back over 1,000 years to the frozen canals and waterways of Scandinavia and the Netherlands when men laced animal bones to their footwear and glided across frozen lakes and rivers. By the 1600’s, traveling on blades between villages had become a useful and enjoyable means of transportation for the Dutch. Surprisingly, credit for the first pair of all-iron skates goes to a Scotsman who invented them in 1592. The iron blade accelerated the spread of speed skating and in 1642 the Skating Club of Edinburgh warmed. In 1763 the world's first organized speed skating race, which covered a distance of slightly more than 24 kilometres, was held on the Fens in England.Eventually, the fledgling sport found its way to North America, where a lighter, sharper and longer all-steel blade was first produced in 1850. In 1889, the Dutch organized the first world championship with skaters covering four distances — 500m, 1,500m, 5,000m and 10,000m.

The International Skating Union (ISU) was formed in the Netherlands in 1892. By the end of the century, the sport had attracted a mass following in many parts of the world.Canada's first recorded ice skating race took place on the St. Lawrence River in 1854 when three British army officers raced from Montréal to Québec City. Speed skating races became a regular feature of winter life; and by 1887 the Amateur Skating Association of Canada, the young country's first sport association, was formed. In 1887, the first official championship was staged by the Amateur Skating Association of Canada; and in 1894 became the first non-European body to join the ISU. (The name was changed to the Canadian Amateur Speed Skating Association in 1960, then to Speed Skating Canada in 2000.)

Three countries — Norway, Germany and Canada — contested the 1897 World Speed Skating Championship in Montréal with the world title going to Winnipegger Jack McCulloch.