As in many European countries, ice hockey surpassed bandy during the first decade of the 20th
century. British students and tourists played a major role in convincing Swiss bandy players to switch sports. The first hockey games were played in Switzerland in 1902. Shortly thereafter eight clubs in the French-speaking region of the country created the first hockey league. On the heels of the Swiss Hockey Union's formation on September 27, 1908, this group was officially designated the Swiss League. However, Union officials opened up the league championship to foreign clubs between 1909 and 1913. Since 1916 only Swiss clubs have competed for the league title.
Switzerland played its first international match away from home against the French club Lyon on December 19, 1904. The teams split the series by identical 3-1 scores and the Swiss roster included future IIHF President Max Sillig. Through the initiative of Sillig and Louis Dufour, Switzerland became the fourth member of the League Internationale de Hockey sur Glace (forerunner of the IIHF) on November 23, 1908.
Switzerland took part in Europe's first international hockey tournament at Chamonix, France in 1909 along with Belgium, Bohemia, England and the host country. A 3-0 loss to tournament champion Great Britain represented the debut of the Swiss National Team. A year later Switzerland hosted the first official European Championship with games taking place on a frozen lake near Montreaux. By the end of the first decade of the 20th century, hockey gained a strong foothold in all parts of Switzerland. In 1909 the HC Bellerive Vevey club won the first unofficial national championship. Significantly, the Akademischer Sports Club of Zurich became the first team from the German-speaking part of the country to join the Swiss Hockey Union in 1910.
Several important hockey related events involved Switzerland in the 1920's. In 1923 Dr. Carl Spengler founded a tournament and championship cup bearing his name for the top European clubs. Davos became the site of the first artificial ice rink in 1926 and the setting for Switzerland's first European Championship that same year. The Swiss also claimed European titles in 1935, 1939 and 1950 along with a silver medal the 1935 World Championships and bronze medals when the global tournament was played at the 1928 and 1948 Olympics. During the 1930's the "Ni-sturm" and "Er-sturm" forwards lines gained formidable reputations. The former consisted of Richard "Bibi" Torriani along with brothers Ferdinand and Hans Cattini. This troika represented Switzerland for the first time in 1934 and faced Canadian clubs frequently in exhibition games. The second trio consisted of Hans Lohrer and the Kessler brothers. These two combinations led the Swiss to a bronze medal at the 1937 World Championhips and a gold at the European Championships two years later.
The Swiss remained a constant in the top level of World Championship competition until the 1950's. Between 1950 and 1991 the Swiss competed chiefly in "B" Pool with the odd excursion into "A" and "C" Pools. During the early 1990's they enjoyed a brief renaissance and finished as high as fourth during the 1992 "A" Pool championships, a feat they repeated in 1998. Goalie Pauli Jaks became a national hero when he starred for the Swiss team at the 1991 World Junior Championships in Saskatchewan where he was selected by the IIHF as the top goalie at the tournament. Later that year he was drafted by the NHL's Los Angeles Kings and played in their system for two years before returning to Switzerland in 1995-96.
On the domestic front, a full fledged Swiss national champion was crowned for the first time in 1915-16 when HC Bern won its first of three consecutive titles. Other clubs to succeed over the next several years were HC Davos, HC St. Moritz and HC Rosey Gstaad. In 1937 a National A League was created specifically for the elite teams in Switzerland while a B League was established ten years later. HC Davos won eight straight championships in the 1940's while EHC Arosa captured seven consecutive titles in the 1950's. HC Villars and SC Bern emerged as contenders in the 1960's as did EHC Biel the following decade. HC Lugano developed into a perennial contender in the 1980's and early 1990's while EHC Kloten won its first championship since 1967 in 1993.