Josef Rossler-Orovsky introduced the game of bandy (field hockey on ice) to this country in 1890 when it was still known as Bohemia. He brought sticks and a ball home from Paris and translated rules that were imported from England. The game of ice hockey was demonstrated for the first time at Prague in 1905 by Canada's Ruck Anderson. The country's bandy background provided players with a solid basis for the new game. As a result, hockey developed sooner here than in countries like Sweden and Finland, which experienced nordic climate more suited to the game.
Another key figure at this time was Karlov University professor Josef Gruss who made possible the first translation of Canadian rules into Czech. In the summer of 1908, Gruss began establishing the first hockey clubs in Prague -- I. CLTK, Slavia, AC Sparta, ASK and others -- which led to the formation in principle of a Czech Hockey Union (Cesky Svaz Hokejovi) on November 6, 1908. Since Gruss was well-connected with the newly founded Ligue Internationale de Hockey sur Glace (which became the International Ice Hockey Federation in 1911), Bohemia joined France as the second member of the LIHG on November 15, 1908.
The inaugural meeting of the country's Hockey Union was held on December 11, 1908. Speed skating champion Jaroslav Potucek was elected as the first chairman of this body, which included 12 member clubs. An invitation was extended to the Czech players to attend the upcoming inaugural international hockey tournament in Chamonix. In response, seven Prague players went to France with their bandy equipment. Although they lost all four games, the experience proved invaluable to the players. In 1911, the Bohemian National Team won the European Championship. Their victory in 1912 was later annulled due to a technicality, but Bohemia won again in 1914. When Bohemia became Czechoslovakia after World War I, it was re-admitted to the IIHF under its new name on April 26, 1920. Over the next few years the Czechoslovakian National Team continued to rank as one of the best in Europe, winning European titles again in 1922, 1925, 1929, and 1933.
Czechoslovakian hockey progressed rapidly during the 1930s. The first artificial ice rink opened in Prague on January 17, 1931, with the University of Manitoba playing LTC Prague in the inaugural game while en route to representing Canada at the World Championships in Poland. Also in 1931, Slovakia's Hockey Union merged with the Czech Hockey Union to form the Czechoslovakian Hockey Union. Previously there had been separate national Czech championships (since 1910) and Slovak hampionships (since 1930). National finals have been held regularly since 1936-37.
Czechoslovakian hockey continued to flourish after World War II despite two tragic events. The Czechs had won the World Championship with Canada absent in 1947, and tied the Canadian team at the 1948 Olympics before settling for the silver medal. Sadly, five National Team members were killed in a plane crash in November of 1948. Still, Czechoslovakia was able to beat Canada to win the World Championship in 1949. The Czechs were denied a chance to repeat in 1950 when the entire team was arrested prior to the tournament amid accusations that the players planned to defect.
The Soviet Union emerged as a world power in 1954, but Czechoslovakia continued to rank among the best teams in Europe. They often rivaled or bettered the USSR particularly in the 1970's. A list of the key Czechoslovak players in the 1950's and 1960's would include forward Vlastimil Bubnik and goalie Karel Straka along with defensemen Karel Gut, Frantisek Tikal, Josef Horesovsky and Jan Suchy. Goalie Jiri Holecek was chosen the top goalie by the IIHF Directorate five times between 1971 and 1978. Defensemen Frantisek Pospisil was another key figure during the early part of this decade.
Czechoslovakia triumphed at the World Championships in 1972, 1976 and 1977. When they reached the final of the inaugural Canada Cup tournament in 1976, the names of Milan Novy, Vladimir Martinec, Vladimir Dzurilla, Ivan Hlinka and the Stastny brothers became well known in North America. Also at this time Vaclav Nedomansky and Richard Farda became popular as members of the Toronto Toros of the World Hockey Association. Nedomansky later joined the NHL and in 1980-81 Peter and Anton Stastny burst on to the scene with the NHL's Quebec Nordiques. Since that time a large influx of players from this country added a further dimension to the NHL. Jaromir Jagr, Dominik Hasek, Bobby Holik, Robert Reichel along with Slovakians Peter Bondra and Zigmund Palffy are some of the best known players from this part of Europe.
After the fall of Communism, the Czech Republic replaced Czechoslovakia in the IIHF. The country's first major triumph took place at the 1996 World Championship when the team won gold on a last minute goal versus Canada. The high point in Czech hockey circles was the stunning gold medal victory at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. Led by Dominik Hasek's netminding heroics, the Czechs defeated the United States, Canada and Russia in succession to win the tournament. The Czech Republic continued to build their impressive international resume by winning the 1999 World Championships by defeating Finland in overtime. They followed that up with their first-ever World Junior Championship in Sweden; then later that year they defended their World Title by capturing the gold again in 2000. The 2000 World's saw the Czech's battle their former countrymen; Slovakia in a historic battle. After emerging with the gold, the Czech Republic had won medals six of the eight years they have competed in the World Championships.