The beginning of ice sports in Germany goes back to 1888 when the country's National Skating Union was founded in Berlin. Among its other duties, the Union was in charge of bandy players in Germany. The first game of hockey in the country took place on Lake Halensee in Berlin on February 4, 1897. By 1901, the first hockey team had been created with players practicing at a rink on the grounds of the Berlin Zoo. Germany's first indoor arena opened in Berlin in 1909 and by 1910 hockey had become so popular that the capital held its first city championship. Ten teams took part, with the tournament being won by the Berliner Schlittschuh-Club. The Berliner SC had helped christen Germany's first indoor arena the year before in an international tournament with teams from London and Paris. Later (1912), Berliner SC would win Germany's first national championship.
On September 19, 1909, Germany became the sixth nation in the world-after Belgium, Bohemia, England, Switzerland, and France-to join the League Internationale de Hockey sur Glace (forerunner of the International Ice Hockey Federation). In 1910, the Germans won the silver medal at the first official European Championships. Their players quickly became among the best in Europe and never failed to win a medal at the European Championships through 1914. So popular was hockey in Germany at this time, that the European tournament was held in Berlin in both 1911 and 1914 and in Munich in 1913. After World War I, Germany was excluded from the IIHF from 1920 until January 11, 1926. However, even during this period of time, German teams continued to play internationally at the Spengler Cup. Berliner SC won that tournament in 1924, and again in 1926 and 1928.
The success of Berliner SC on the international scene was no surprise to the European hockey community. The team was coached by Canadians Dr. Blake Watson and Dr. Roche, who also coached the German National Team to great success. Stocked mainly by players from Berliner SC, the German National Team earned a bronze medal in its return to the European Championships in 1927. Before the outbreak of World War II, Germany won two European Championships, while earning three silver medals and seven bronze medals. Germany also won a silver medal at the 1930 World Championship, and bronze medals at the 1932 Olympics and 1934 World Championships.
Germany was again excluded from the IIHF after World War II but reinstated as the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) on March 10, 1951. During its period of absence from the world scene, the Germans created the Oberliga in 1947-48 as the top league in the country. Eleven years later, the Oberliga was replaced by the Bundesliga. Other steps in strengthening ice hockey in Germany were made on June 16, 1963, when the Germany Hockey Union was founded. It consisted of 32 teams in eight provincial associations. Dr. Gunther Sabetzki of Dusseldorf was elected as one of the first two presidents of the Union. He would later serve as president of the IIHF from 1975 to 1994 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995 in the builder category.
The West German national team participated in the 1984 Canada Cup and did not disgrace itself. Their roster included Erich Kuhnhackl, the best known West German player up to this point. Another prominent name was that of Udo Kiessling who was selected to the World Championhips All-Star Team in 1987.Following re-unification Germany nearly completed a major upset at the 1992 Albertville Olympics when they extended Canada to a shoot-out in the quarterfinals. The Germans finished second in their pool at the 1994 Lillehammer Games before succumbing to Sweden in the quarterfinals. Germany experienced a setback at the 1998 Nagano Olympics when they finished second to Belarus in the Preliminary Round which kept them from advancing to the championship stage. They suffered another set back when they were relegated to the "B" Pool in 1999 after many years in the "A" Pool, though the sting was soothed with a gold medal victory in 2000.
German hockey authorities have always attempted to boost the popularity of the game in their country by inviting foreign players. Traditionally, German club teams usually carried two or three foreign players per team, but those numbers have greatly increased since the creation of the Deutsche Eishockey League -- Germany's first professional league -- in 1994. The most famous German player of this period was defenseman Uwe Krupp who scored the Stanley Cup winning goal for the NHL's Colorado Avalanche in 1996.