Ice hockey traditionally thought of as born in Canada, has universal appeal. Canadians are far from alone in their passion. It’s also a sport that has gained incredible popularity in the Czech Republic since it came to the country at the turn of the 20th century and is considered one of the Czech’s favourite sports to date.
It may have taken the Czechs 40 years to become world champions and over 90 to win Olympic gold, but few fans doubt the Czechs’ place in the world of ice hockey today. The country has produced star players, like Jaromír Jágr- many of whom have gone across the pond to become exceptional NHL players.
The history of ice hockey in the Czech Republic started in 1909, and here’s a potted history of one of the greatest games played by one of its greatest nations.
Ice hockey in the Czech Republic: It’s an amateur game
Ice hockey is a sport that has been continuously evolving over time. This means that the game played at the turn of the century looks very different from any form of hockey we know today. The game was less like a skater with a putt and more like a golf club and a flat ball hurtled down the ice at speed, firing only on approaching the net.
History has it that a Canadian violinist, named W.H Anderson, introduced a kind of hockey-styled game to the Czech Republic in early 1900. It’s not clear if this is true, but it makes for a great story.
Men played in their clothes that they wore to work with basic ice skates and no pads or protection from the puck, and this carried on right up to the late 1940s.
In 1909 the Czechs were invited to Chamonix, France, to play in their first international competition, with no real idea of how to play the game. It won’t come as a surprise that they lost every match.
But Czechs being resilient people, did not let the fact they lost in 1909 stop them, and in 1911 they won their first European title held in Berlin. Nine years later, in 1920, the first world championship game was born. For the first time, European teams were able to measure their skills against Canada.
Not surprisingly, the Czechoslovak team lost all their matches. The following year, 1921, the games were hosted by Sweden, but all the other teams pulled out, leaving only the Czechs and Swedes to play each other. The Czech squad lost 4:6 to the Swedes but as there were only two teams, they still went home with a silver medal.