The first mention of hockey in Austria occurred on January 12, 1896, when the Vienna newspaper Allgemeine Sport-Zeitung
printed an article about bandy (field hockey on ice). Entitled "Hockey Game", the story described the game as being played on a surface measuring 60 x 100 metres with seven members on each team. The sport was popular at this time in Prague which was located in another section of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Bandy debuted in Austria proper in 1899 when a game was played in Vienna. During this same period, three Austrian clubs organized an ice hockey committee. Though the new sport could not yet match the popularity of bandy, it made huge strides and superceded its rival sport by 1911. Ice hockey received a huge boost when the first artificial ice rink opened in Vienna on November 10, 1909.
The Austrian Hockey Union was created on January 15, 1912 while the country itself was admitted to the International Ice Hockey Federation two months later on March 18. Austria had played its first international hockey game on February 2, 1912 when it lost 5-0 to Bohemia at the European Championships. Domestically the game began to flourish with approximately twenty clubs contesting the city championship in Vienna each year. In the aftermath of World War I, Austria was removed from the IIHF until its reinstatement in 1925.
Canadian Blake Watson (who also helped coach in Germany) did much to advance the sport in Austria. In 1922 the country held its first national ice hockey championship. That year Wiener EV captured their first of nine consecutive titles. Austria attained its first major international success by winning the 1927 European Championships, a feat they duplicated in 1931. This brought an increase in ice rink construction and a wider domestic audience. The names H. Weiss, H. Brueck, Lederer, Goebl, Tatzer and Sell were a major part of both gold medal performances.
The evolution of the sport slowed during the mid-1930's and 40's. This decline was attributed to financial difficulties related to the Great Depression as well as a lack of coaches and players during World War II. Austria finished a disappointing tenth at the 1938 World Championships and the following year their national squad was absorbed by Germany. Ironically the first domestic hockey rivalry emerged at this time between perennial contender Wiener EV and AC of Klagenfurt. Following the War, Austria won the bronze medal at the 1947 World Championships but soon lost contact with the elite hockey powers. A string of mediocre performances saw the Austrians placed in the inaugural "B" Pool tournament in 1951.
By the late 1950's Austrian clubs began recruiting coaches and players from abroad-particularly from Czechoslovakia and Canada and later from the USSR. The level of competition within Austria was enhanced and the first Bundesliga was created to replace the old national league.
Austria spent most of the 1960's competing in the "B" Pool World Championships but began to alternate with "C" Pool a decade later. Improved results occurred in the 1980's under the guidance of coaches Rudi Killias and Dr. Ludek Bukac. They qualified for the Olympics 1984, 1988 and 1998. Austria finished tied for last at Sarajevo in 1984 but improved to ninth out of twelve teams at Calagry in 1988. Austria's gold medal win at the 1992 "B" Pool World Championships elevated them to the top group for the first time since 1957.
Domestically the 1970's saw hockey experience further growth outside Vienna as Graz ATSE, EV Innsbruck and AC Klagenfurter dominated the national championship. The latter team had reached the 1968-69 European Cup Final. VSV Villach and VEU Feldkirch emerged in the 1980's to render the domestic league even more competitive. An influx of players from traditional hockey powers raised the level of play considerably. Former NHL skaters such as Bengt-Ake Gustafsson, Kevin Miehm and Dominic Lavoie strengthened the reputation of the Austrian League and Alpenliga. A major triumph for Austrian hockey occurred when VEU Feldkirch defeated Russia's Moscow Dynamo to win the 1997-98 European Hockey League championship.