|National teams|| Men's|
|National federation||Slovak Ice Hockey Federation|
|IIHF since||February 2, 1993|
|Top league||Slovak Extraliga|
|Current champion||HC Košice|
Slovakia is a country in Central Europe. Bratislava is the capital and largest city. Slovakia was part of Czechoslovakia until becoming independent in 1993.
|Week of Winter Sports||1925||1931||Tournament - served as national championship|
|Slovak Championship||1929||1944||National championship|
|Czechoslovak Extraliga||1937||1993||Nationwide Czechoslovak championship|
|1. Slovenská národná hokejová liga||1969||1993||Second-level Slovak-only competition|
|2. Slovenská národná hokejová liga||1978||1993||Second-level regional competitions|
|Slovak Extraliga||1993||-||Top-level national competition|
|Slovak 1.Liga||1993||-||Second-level national competition|
|Slovak 2.Liga||1993||-||Third-level national competition|
|Slovak junior competitions||1993||-||Various junior competitions|
|Slovak Women's Hockey League||1991||-||National women's competition|
History of hockey in SlovakiaEdit
The first skating associations in Slovakia were founded in Bratislava (1871), Presov (1872), Poprad (1881), and Banska Bystrica (1889) during the late 1800s. Bandy was played as early as 1902, but the first organized game of ice hockey did not occur until January 1921, when CsSK Bratislava was victorious against SK Velke Mezirici 9-2. In 1924, CsSK Bratislava played Slovakia's first international game, being defeated 6-1 by the Austrian club, Wiener EV.
Between 1925 and 1931, ice hockey and bandy tournaments were held as part of the Week of Winter Sports, organized by the Kosice Sports Club in the resort town of Stary Smokovec. They were open to foreign teams, but officially called the "Slovak Championship". Rather humorously, a Slovak team never won either the bandy or hockey competition, so the first five "Slovak" champions were not from Slovakia itself!
Hockey in Slovakia received a major boost by the 1925 European Championship being staged in Stary Smokovec. Jaroslav Rezac, who co-founded the country's first ice hockey club, CsSK Kosice, played a key role in securing the tournament for Slovakia. The Tatra Cup, Europe's second-oldest still-running ice hockey tournament, was first held in nearby Novy Smokovec in 1929. The first artificial ice rink in Slovakia opened in Bratislava in 1940.
On December 29, 1929, five clubs – SK Slavia Banska Bystrica, Ski Klub Bratislava, CsSK Kosice, SK Vysoke Tatry and SK Zilina – founded the Slovak Hockey Union within the Czechoslovak Federation of Canadian Hockey. By 1932 the union was divided into West, Central, and East divisions. As Czechoslovakia was disintegrating, the Slovak Ice Hockey Federation was founded in 1992, and Slovakia joined the IIHF as a new member on February 2, 1993. The Czech Republic was recognized as the legal successors to Czechoslovakia by the IIHF.
The Slovak Championship was first played as an exclusively-domestic competition in 1930 and was contested annually until 1944. HC Tatry Poprad was the first Slovak team to play in the newly-formed Czechoslovak Extraliga. They were joined the following year by VŠ Bratislava. After World War II, the Slovak clubs became more prominent in the Extraliga, with HC Slovan Bratislava (1979), VSZ Kosice (1986 and 1988) and HK Dukla Trenčín (1992) going on to become Czechoslovak champions. These clubs produced domestic and international stars such as 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.
After Czechoslovakia split, the Slovak Extraliga was first contested in the 1993-94 season. Slovan Bratislava and HC Kosice have been the dominant forces in the league, having won eight league titles apiece. Slovan joined the multi-national Kontinental Hockey League in 2012. Below the Extraliga, the Slovak 1.Liga is the second level league, and the Slovak 2.Liga operates as the third-tier competition.
The Slovak National Team played its first international game in 1940, losing 12-0 to the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia in Garmisch-Patenkirchen. This was part of the International Week of Winter Sports tournament, which Slovakia took part in both in 1940 and 1941. During Czechoslovak times, the Czechs kept control over how the national team was run, and even had quotas instituted to ensure a minimal participation of Slovak players on the Czechoslovak national team.
More than 50 years later, Slovakia returned to the international scene as an independent country. While the Czechs were allowed to compete in the top-level A Pool, the IIHF ruled that because fewer players of the former Czechoslovak team were Slovaks, Slovakia would be required to start international play in Pool C. However, Slovakia promptly won the 1994 C Pool and 1995 B Pool tournaments on home ice, and won promotion to Pool A by 1996.
In the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, the Slovak team was unable to use its National Hockey League (NHL) players in the preliminary round due to a scheduling conflict. This affected all of the smaller countries, but devastated the Slovak team as most of their players were coming from NHL teams. The NHL had decided to only allow their players to participate in the final medal round, and thus Slovakia failed to qualify finishing a disappointing 13th. This turn of events was troubling to the entire hockey community, and the rules were changed for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy.
Slovak national team members and notable players include Marián Gáborík of the Los Angeles Kings; Marián Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks; Marcel Hossa; Miroslav Šatan; star goaltender of the New York Islanders Jaroslav Halák and the tallest player in NHL history, Zdeno Chára. In the late 1990s, the St. Louis Blues placed Ľuboš Bartečko, Michal Handzuš, and Pavol Demitra on the same line. This trio became known as the "Slovak Pack," and were able to communicate in their native language without the opposition knowing what they were saying, unless of course they also spoke/understood Slovak.
The Slovaks have medaled at the World Championships on four occasions, winning gold at the 2002 World Championship. Their most recent success was a silver medal in 2012. Slovakia's best finish at the Olympics was fourth in 2010. They even pushed the eventual gold medal winners Canada, narrowly losing 3-2 to the hosts in the semifinals.
The women's national team participated in the IIHF European Women Championships in 1995 and 1996, finishing in fourth place in Pool B both times. They have competed in the IIHF World Women's Championships annually since 1999. Their best finish at the Women's World Championships was seventh overall in 2011. The Slovak made an appearance at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, where they finished in eighth (last) place. It is worth noting that, in the qualification tournament for the 2010 Olympics, they defeated Bulgaria by a mind-boggling score of 82-0. The women's U18 national team has played in the IIHF World Women's U18 Championships since 2009.
The junior national team first participated in the IIHF World U20 Championships in 1994. They won Pool C of the world juniors in 1994, and finished second in Pool B the following year, making their debut in the Top Division in 1996. Their best results to date have been bronze medals at the 1999 and 2015 tournaments.