As Scrabble nears its 80th birthday, fans of the board game may not be aware of its possible Canadian inspiration.

Edmonton Oilers’ head coach Todd McLellan recently learned that his great-grandfather, Edward R. McDonald, came up with what some believe to be the precursor to the beloved word game.

McDonald, who grew up in Shediac, N.B., invented what’s believed to be the world’s first crossword board game.

“He had it patented in 1926 in the U.S. It was played an awful lot in that community and spread out from there," McLellan told CTV News.

The Scrabble board game was officially invented in 1938 by an American and has gone on to sell more than 150 million sets worldwide.

The game is still widely popular, inspiring more than 4,000 Scrabble clubs around the world. And despite the rise in hand-held electronic games, Canadian school children are still playing it, some even competitively.

“It really challenges you and it opens your vocabulary. You learn a lot from it,” said one student.

“They really like that they’re talking to each other. It’s more interesting than a screen,” Scrabble event co-organizer Vera Bigall told CTV News

An annual school championship, which started in Toronto nine years ago, is quickly spreading across the country.

"We got people starting programs in Ottawa and in New Brunswick and hoping for Calgary and Vancouver soon," said North American Scrabble Players Association Co-President, John Chew.

Edmonton held its first Scrabble championship earlier this month.

Winners from the Toronto competition go on to compete in the North American Championship.

Torontonian Jackson Smylie, who won six years ago and appeared on Jimmy Kimmel’s show, sees a bright future for the game.

“I would love to see it like poker. I’d love to see it televised and I think there’s a future for Scrabble just like poker or chess,” he told CTV News.

With a report from CTV News John Vennavally-Rao