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History of ice hockey in Slovakia

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In 1908, the International Ice Hockey Federation, an international organization that still runs most of the international hockey tournaments today, was established. In Slovakia (as a part of former Czechoslovakia), Canadian-styled ice hockey was popularized during the European Championships in High Tatras in 1925.

In 1929 the first official tournament took place in Slovakia. The Tatra Cup is the second oldest tournament in Europe, after the Spengler Cup in Switzerland. The first organization of Slovak ice hockey was established under the name of Slovenská župa kanadského ľadového hokeja as a part of the Slovak Ice Hockey Federation in what was then Czechoslovakia.

The first organized competition was held in 1930. Subsequently, the first Slovak team who were able to compete with the stronger Czech teams was HC Tatry in 1936. Another team from Slovakia joined the common competition in the following year.

Throughout the course of ice hockey history in Czechoslovakia, many Slovak players became eligible to play for the Czechoslovakian national team. Among those who were able achieve this was Ladislav Troják; A native of Košice who left for Prague to play for the LTC Praha – at those times considered to be the best ice hockey team in the country—in 1934. From there he was only a step away from playing for the national team.

There are many others who also made Slovakia famous for ice hockey around the world. Some examples are:

  • Matej Buckna, a Canadian coach of Slovak origin, who helped to develop ice hockey in Czechoslovakia.
  • Vladimír Dzurilla, a goalkeeper who helped Czechoslovakia to achieve a number of remarkable international triumphs and a player of an older generation.
  • Ján Starší, highly respected coach and team manager, also from an older generation.

Similarly to the Czech Republic, Slovakia is internationally considered to be a breeding ground for talented players, many of whom are playing in the best leagues in the world, of which the NHL is the most prestigious.

Czechoslovakia and its successor states are rated as being among the leading nations on the international scene, thanks to their triumphs in the Winter Olympic Games and the World Championships.

However, the Slovak national team had to face a difficult challenge in 1993 after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. According to the IIHF regulations it had to compete with countries with little or no ice hockey tradition at all to prove being worthy to compete at the highest level. Many ice hockey experts and journalists found this rather humiliating for Slovakia. It has since found its way all the way back to the top. Within only a few years of independent existence as a young nation it would mark its biggest triumph ever by winning the world championships in Sweden in 2002.

Famous Slovak hockey playersEdit

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