France was one of the few European countries to begin playing hockey towards the end of the 19th century. The game was introduced to France by Canadian G. Meagher, who brought a rule book and coaching instructions to Paris in 1894. Meagher began running practices to teach the elements of hockey to the French, but the first official game did not take place until 1903 when a team from Paris beat a Lyon squad 2-1. That same year the Patineurs de Paris was formed becoming Europe's first official hockey club. They played their first international game against a team from London.
France held its first national hockey championship in 1904, making it the second country in Europe -behind Great Britain- to stage a national championship. Patineurs de Paris were France's first title holders. The French National Team played its first game against Belgium in 1906. In 1907, an ice hockey association was founded as part of the Federation Francaise des Sports de Glace (French Federation of Ice Sports). One year later, France, England, Belgium, and Switzerland founded the Ligue Internationale de Hockey sur Glace, forerunner of the International Ice Hockey Federation. On October 20, 1908, France became the first member of the new organization and Frenchman Louis Magnus became its first president.
The first international tournament took place in 1908 at Chamonix with teams from Paris, London, Lausanne, Brussels, and Prague taking part. Paris finished second behind London. The French National Team competed at the first World Championships, held in conjunction with the Antwerp Olympics, in 1920 losing its first game 4-0 to Sweden on April 25. Still, France would rank among the top countries in Europe during the 1920s and '30s, winning a silver medal at the European Championship in 1923 and a gold medal the following year.
France's best showing at the World Championships occurred when it finished fifth when the tournament was held at the 1924 and 1928 Olympics. The Franch remained near the bottom of the top grouping until the 1950's when they were relegated to "B" Pool. They alternated between "B" and "C" Pools in the 1960's before settling into the latter between 1970 and 1985. France won the 1985 "C" Pool competition to earn promotion to "B" Pool where they played for five years. The late Jean Ferrand worked tirelessly to improve the national team during this period. Throughout the 1990's they competed in "A" Pool with their best finish being an eighth placement in 1995. Their best known homegrown players of the past few years were Philippe Bozon and Antoine Richer. Bozon played 144 NHL games for the St. Louis Blues from 1991 to 1995. The importance of France in the development of international hockey was acknowledged in 1994 when former national team player and referee Philippe Lacarriere was elected to the IIHFCouncil.
Following the Patineurs de Paris' first national title in 1904, the HC Chamonix team came to dominate French hockey. Beginning in 1923, Chamonix was the top club in the league until the late 1970's. ACBB Paris and HC Saint Gervais challenged Chamonix' superiority between 1957 and 1976. By the 1980's and 1990's CSG Grenoble, HC Saint Gervais, HC Rouen and HC Brest were the most successful teams. HC Rouen was a member of the European Hockey League during its inaugural season in 1996-97.