|National teams|| Men's|
|National federation||Austrian Ice Hockey Association|
|IIHF since||March 18, 1912|
|Top league||Austrian Hockey League|
|Current champion||EC Red Bull Salzburg|
Austria is a country in Central Europe. Vienna is the capital and largest city.
|Austrian Hockey League||1922||-||Top-tier national competition|
|Inter-National League||2012||-||Second-tier multi-national competition|
|Austrian Regional Leagues||?||-||Third-level regional leagues|
|Austrian National League||1959||2012||Defunct second-level league|
|Austrian Oberliga||1968||2011||Defunct third-level league|
|Nationale Amateur Hockey Liga||2012||2014||Defunct third-level league|
|Austrian Junior Competitions||-||Various junior competitions|
|Erste Bank Young Stars League||-||U20 competition|
|Erste Bank Juniors League||-||U18 competition|
|Austrian Women's Bundesliga||1998||-||Top-level women's competition|
History of hockey in AustriaEdit
For more information on the early years, please see Bandy and Ice Hockey in Austria (1894-1923).
The sport of bandy was first mentioned in Austria on January 12, 1896 by the Vienna-based Allgemeine Sport-Zeitung, which contained an article entitled "Hockey Game." The story described the game as being played on a surface measuring 60x100 metres with seven members on each team. Bandy had already become popular in Prague, which was part of Austria-Hungary at the time.
The first bandy game in Austria was a test match staged in Vienna by Training Eis Club in 1899. Austria played its first international bandy game in 1901, when SK Slavia Praha traveled to Vienna and defeated TEC 17-3.
The Austrian Ice Hockey Association was founded on January 14, 1912 by four teams (TEC, First Vienna FC 1894, Sportklub Slovan, and Wiener Sport Club) and Austria became a member of the IIHF about two months later, on March 18, 1912.
Bandy competitions were held in Austria prior to the formation of the Austrian Championship in ice hockey for the 1922-23 season. The Bundesliga (Austrian Hockey League) was later created in 1965. EC KAC has won the most Austrian championships, with 30. Wiener EV was the eminent team in the early years of the championship, winning 11 of their 14 titles between 1923 and 1937.
In 1912, Austria made its international debut, winning the bronze medal at the European Championships, which were staged in Vienna. The tournament was later annulled because the country was not an IIHF member at the time of the tournament. They again competed in the European Championships in 1913, where they finished in last place after failing to record a victory. Austria was represented by DEHG Prag at both tournaments.
It would take Austria 12 years before they showed up on the international scene again. Their comeback was fairly successful and they finished in second place during the European Championship in Czechoslovakia behind the Czechs. The man behind the Austrian success was a Canadian, named Dr. Blake Watson. He was a medical student (dentist) who came to Vienna in the mid 20's. He had won the Memorial Cup in 1923 with the University of Manitoba and also became a World Champion with Canada 1931 in Krynica (Poland).
He was a real pioneer and gave the Austrians a whole new perspective on hockey. He instilled competitiveness in the players and also taught them the fundamental basics of the sport. He developed some of the finest players in Austria at that time, including Walter and Herbert Bruck, Walter Sell and sharpshooter Ulli Lederer. Dr. Watson left Austria quite unexpectedly for Germany (Berlin),and later the Czech Republic (Prague) and Switzerland (Zürich and Davos), but his legacy had made its mark on Austrian hockey.
Austria won the bronze in 1926 and then the gold at the 1927 European Championships, hosted by Vienna. The catalysts on the Austrian team were the Brück brothers and Sell. Hermann Weiss was also a standout in net. Another Canadian who deserves a lot of credit for the success was Calabogie, Ontario born Gordon Dempsey who, a terrific tactician who prepared his players well.
In 1928 Austria participated in their first Olympic Games. Eight of the eleven players that had become European champs in 1927 were on the 1928 team. Their effort wasn't enough and they finished in 5th place. After two straight bronze medals in the 1929 and 1930 European championships they once again won gold in 1931. Half of the team members that won in 1927 were still around in 1931. This was followed up with two consecutive silver medals in 1932 and 1933.
The late 1920s and early 1930s was the "Golden Age" of Austrian ice hockey. In 1930 for example the Austrians were the only ones to beat the world champions, the Toronto CCMs, during their European tour (a 1-0 win). That was a tremendous success.
At the 1936 Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, only two members were left from the 1927 champion team. They were goalie Herman Weiss and Hans Tatzer. Austria finished 7th and the only really solid effort came against Canada in a 5-2 loss. In 1938 they finished 10th in the World Championships and the following year the Austrian players had to suit up for Germany. No hockey was played in Austria between 1939 and 1945 due to the war and financial difficulties. Austrians played in Germany and the German Championships. EK Engelmann Wien won the German Championship in 1939 and Wiener EG followed it up with a title in 1940.
The next international appearance would be a memorable one and Austria's best performance in many years. The 1947 World Championship was held in Prague. Austria showed up for their first game against Poland in blue uniforms instead of their usual red and white. Later in the tournament Austria upset USA by winning 6-5, holding off a furious bombardment by the Americans in the last minutes of the game. Sweden won against the Czechs who were the big favorites to win the title. And in the last game of the tournament Sweden "only" had to do their duty and win against Austria to become the World Champs. But the Austrians, frantically cheered by the Czech crowd scored a huge upset and won 2-1. Austria's win gave the Czechs the title that they thought they had lost. With the win Austria won the bronze medal.
VeteranOskar Nowak was very important to the Austrian team together with his linemates Walter Feistritzer and Friedrich Demmer; the trio scored 35 out of the 49 goals. However, the MVP was undoubtedly the 17-year old goalie Alfred Huber, who later became a world class tennis player. The Czechs showed their neighbors from Austria their appreciation by sending them a train with wagons full of sugar and coal, a very rare commodity in Austria in the aftermath of the war. The Austrians also received several hundred gifts from appreciative Prague people who left packages in the lobby of the hotel where the players stayed.
Next year,during the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz,the Austrians couldn't repeat their success from the previous year and finished eighth among nine teams, avoiding last place by beating the Italians 16-5. Austria had the oldest team in the tournament and they were obviously slow and seemed to be physically weak, because they always played well in the first period before folding. Goalie Alfred Huber once again fought heroically in goal without much help from his defenders and Gustav Gross-Specht and Walter Feistritzer were the two who played decently up front. Another solid veteran was Herbert Ulrich who in the 1936 Olympic games had represented Czechoslovakia and who had played several years for a club team in Bratislava (Czechoslovakia).
Austria would also participate in the A Pool World Championships in 1949, 1956 and 1957 before slipping down to the B and C Pool tournaments. It would take them 36 years before they made it up to the A Pool again. During the 1950's the best player was probably Willy Schmidt, who played for Innsbrucker EV. He became the scoring champ in the 1952 B-Pool World Championship in Liège, Belgium. By the late 1950s 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 in 1965 to replace the old national championship.
The best player during the 1960s and early 1970s was probably the legendary Josef "Sepp" Puschnig from Klagenfurt. Another prominent figure during that time was Alberta-born and raised Adelbert St. John. He had a long and distinguished ice hockey career in Austria.
During the 1970s and 1980s the stars on the Austrian national team were Herbert Pök and Rudolf König and Alexander Sadjina. In the 1978 C Pool World Championships in Las Palmas (Spain) this trio played on the same line and scored a whopping 73 points (41+32) in just 7 games. Other stars were Thomas Cijan (who played on the national team until 1996) and Kurt Harand. Canadians in form of Montréal born Greg Holst, an old AHL scoring champ with 11 games under his belt for the NY Rangers in the NHL and Toronto born defenseman Rick Cunningham who played 260 games in the WHA for Ottawa and Toronto were also a big part of Austrian hockey both on the national team and in the league for many years. Other Canadians on the Austrian team during the 1980s were Edward Lebler (one of the best ever in Austrian hockey), Jeff Geiger, Kelvin Greenbank and goalie Brian Stankiewicz.
The 1982 B Pool World Championships at home in Klagenfurt was a huge disappointment for the Austrians. They thought they had a good chance to advance to the A Pool. But instead they flunked and lost to the last place Dutch team 4-1 and 7-4 to the eventual winners East Germany. So Austria finished in second place, despite that Canadian goalie Brian Stankiewicz only shortly before the tournament got his Austrian passport. Stankiewicz was clearly the best goalie and was voted the top goalie of the tournament. Rudolf König won the scoring title with 14 points (6+8) in 7 games and was voted as the best forward in the tournament. Canadian defenseman Rick Cunningham made the All-star team (together with Stankiewicz and König) but it was not much of a consolation since they didn't win.
At the beginning of the 1990’s Austria still played in the B-Pool, but they worked hard at being promoted to the A-Pool. In 1990 and 1991 they had Ludek Bukac behind the bench. Bukac had led Czechoslovakia to a Gold medal in 1985. In 1992 Austria hosted the B-Pool in Klagenfurt and Villach. In the group final between the two undefeated teams, Austria and Netherlands, 5,500 wild fans in Klagenfurt's Stadthalle saw Austria win 8-3 and thereby secure a place in the A Pool. Austria had six Canadian born players on their team. Brian Stankiewicz, Ken Strong, Wayne Groulx, Rick Nasheim, James Burton and Michael Shea. Both Groulx and Strong had some NHL experience.
After a 36-year absence from the A-Pool, Austria finished in 9th place among the 12 teams and secured their place in the A Pool for the following year. Canadian coach Ken Tyler brought in a couple of Canadians. That meant there were seven Canadians on the roster, two of them with NHL experience (Wayne Groulx and Marty Dallman). However, the best players point-wise were two Austrians, Herbert Hohenberger and Andreas Puschnik, who had three points apiece.
Tyler continued to coach the national team for the next three years, including one Olympic tournament and the 1996 A-Pool World Championships, held in Vienna where the Austrians once again got demoted to the B-Pool in 1997.
The last years Austria have been up and down between the Top Division and Division I. In 2005 at home in Vienna and Innsbruck they got relegated after having achieved one tie in their six games. It was a huge disappointment for the Austrians. The team rebounded as they got promoted again the following year. Unfortunately Austria once again got relegated to Division I in 2007. It was obviously an uphill battle without their star player Thomas Vanek, who was busy with the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Since 2007 they have flip-flopped between Division I and the Top Division every year; winning Division I and earning promotion only to be relegated back the following year. Austria qualified the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, their first Olympic appearance since 2002. They have played in 13 Olympic tournaments overall.
The top scorer on the national team over the years is Rudolf König with 183 points in 158 games. Thomas Cijan had 131 points in 132 games and Herbert Pöck scored 128 points in 127 games.
The men's national junior team first participated at the IIHF World U20 Championship in 1979. They have made 37 appearances at the World Juniors, with their best finish being eighth at the 1981 tournament.
The women's national team made its international debut in 2001, playing in a friendly game against Hungary. They first participated in the IIHF World Women's Championships in 2004.
Special thanks to Patrick H. for supplying information on this country.