The roots of hockey in Slovakia date back to the end of the 19th century when skating associations first began to appear in Bratislava (1871), Presov (1872), Poprad (1881), and Banska Bystrica (1889). Bandy was being played in Slovakia by 1902, but the first organized game of hockey did not take place until January of 1921 in the Bratislava suburb of Petrzalka. In that contest, CSSK Bratislava defeated SK Velke Mezirici 9-2. Three years later, CSSK Bratislava played Slovakia's first international game, losing to Wiener EV of Austria 6-1. Though they had a very impressive showing in the 2000 World Championships battling their former countrymen in a gold medal game that pitted them against the Czech Republic. Despite losing, the Slovakians showed resilience battling back from a 4-1 third period deficit to make it 4-3 late in the game.
Hockey became more popular after the 1925 European Championships were held in Stary Smokovec and won by the host country. In 1929, the Tatra Cup was held in Czechoslovakia for the first time. (Today, it is the second oldest hockey tournament in Europe after the Spengler Cup in Switzerland). One year later, the Slovakia Hockey Union organized its first official competition -- the Slovak national championship. In 1931, however, the Slovak Union joined with the Czech Union to form the Czechoslovakian Hockey Union. The Slovakian union would remain in charge of teams in Slovakia, and by 1932 the union was organized into West, Central, and East divisions. In 1940, the union was renamed the Championship of the Slovak Republic and a new league -- the Slovakian League -- was formed. Also in 1940, the first artificial ice rink was opened in Bratislava.
After World War II, the Slovak clubs begin shifting into the Czechoslovakian League. Three of these teams became national champions: Slovan Bratislava (1979), VSZ Kosice (1986 and 1988) and Dukla Trencin (1992). These clubs produced international stars like Vladimir Dzurilla, Jozef Golonka, Vaclav Nedomansky, Peter, Marian and Anton Stastny, Vincent Lukac, Darius Rusnak, Igor Liba, Dusan Pasek, Robert Svehla, Peter Bondra, Zigmund Palffy, and others.
Shortly after the separation of Czechoslovakia into two independent countries in 1993 , Slovakia qualified for its first Olympics by winning a qualification tournament held in Great Britain. Peter Stastny , who represented Czechoslovakia at the Lake Placid Olympics in 1980, carried Slovakia's flag at the opening cermonies of the 1994 Lillehammer Games. The Slovaks finished a respectable sixth at the tournament. Later that year, Slovakia made its debut at the World Championships in the "C" Pool competition. Within two years they earned promotion to the "A" Pool level. The Slovaks also competed strongly at the inaugural World Cup in 1996 where they nearly beat Canada in the round-robin. The team disappointed at the 1998 Nagano Olympics by finishing second to Kazakhstan in the Preliminary Round. This result prevented Slovakia from participating in the Championship stage.
HOCKEY TODAY: In 1997-98, the Slovak Extraleague was made up of 10 teams playing a quadruple round-robin series. At the completion of the regular schedule, the top six clubs play a double round-robin after which the top four teams qualify for the playoffs which are played in a best-of-five format. The fifth and sixth place clubs play their own best-of-three series. The clubs that finished from seventh to tenth in the Extraleague play a double-round robin promotion/relegation pool with the top four clubs from the First League. The four top teams from this series are promoted to the Slovak Extraleague.
Now placed below the Extraleague, Slovakia's First League has existed since 1963 as a part of the Czechoslovakian League under the name of the Slovak National Hockey League. It comprises 12 clubs playing a quadruple round-robin schedule. The Second League is divided into three divisions -- East (6 teams), West (5 teams) and Central (4 teams). Two sets of junior leagues, divided by age, consist of 16 teams each.