The first attempts to introduce ice hockey in Italy were made at Torino in 1911 when a skating club called Circolo Pattinatori Valentino organized Italy's first hockey team. After playing a series of scrimmages, Circolo Pattinatori Valentino played its first official game later in the year against a team from Lyon, France. Soon, hockey was gaining popularity in Italy -- particularly in the north where winter mountain resorts had lots of natural ice. An Italian-American named Leon Quaglia put a lot of effort into promoting the game in the resort areas during the 1920s, but the "father" of Italian hockey is considered to be Frank Ronkarelli.
The first hockey teams started to appear in Italy during the early 1920s and the country's first indoor ice rink opened in Milan on December 28, 1923. The Hockey Club Milano (which had previously played roller hockey) was soon playing ice hockey in the new arena. Italy's first hockey association was created in 1924 and was later admitted into the International Ice Hockey Federation. In 1925, the Federazione Italiana Sport del Ghiaccio (Italian Federation of Winter Sports) was founded. The hockey association became a part of FISG in 1926.
Italy had staged its first national hockey championship in 1924-25 but it was not until 1935 that the first national league was formed. It was made up of seven teams. From the very beginning, Italian clubs relied heavily on Canadians of Italian descent and the eligibility of these individuals to play for the National Team helped improve its results . Over the years the Cortina d'Ampezzo, HC Bolzano and HC Milano teams won the bulk of the national titles. Other teams to win championships included Inter Milano, Diavoli Rosi Neri, Groden and HC Merano. By the 1970s, Italian-Canadians helped boost hockey in the South Tirol part of the country, producing such strong club teams as Val-Gardena, Bolzano, Brunico, and Merano. In the 1990's the Seria A league was among the most prestigious in Europe with the HC Milano and HC Bolzano clubs staging a fierce rivalry.
The Italian national team competed for the most part in the "B" Pool World Championships. They did manage to finish seventh in "A" pool in 1933 and 1956 but slipped to "C" pool six times between 1966 and 1979. Through most of the 1990's the squad maintained a place in "A" Pool including a sixth place finish as hosts in 1994. Their best finish at the Olympics was seventh place as hosts at Cortina d'Ampezzo in 1956. The 1998 Nagano Games proved disappointing as the Italians finished third in their Preliminary Round group which eliminated them from playing in the championship stage.