Ice hockey is one of the most prevalent sports in Norway. It may not enjoy the same popularity as sports like football or the Nordic’s favourite, skiing, but it still has a huge following in the country. Norway’s sporting culture leans more towards soccer or skiing as locals like to participate in them. Winter sports are quite popular in Norway, and ice hockey is one of the favourite sports from a spectatorship point of view.
The country is good at the sport internationally but lags way behind its Scandinavian neighbours like Sweden and Finland, who are also a part of the ice hockey Big 6. It is perhaps another reason ice hockey is not among the country’s top three favourite participatory sports. This article offers an overview of the evolution and development of ice hockey in Norway and its present status.
Ice Hockey History in Norway
Ice hockey has been played in Norway since 1930. The first official match in the country was played between two local clubs, the SFK Trygg and Sporstklubben Rapp, in February 1933, where the SFK Trygg won by 4:1. The match had taken place in a break between the World Cup on Skates event of 1933.
The Norwegian Ice Hockey Association (NIHF: Norges Ishockeyforbund) was formed in September 1934, and today, it is responsible for overseeing the affairs of the national teams and domestic club competitions of the top levels. The NIHF became a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation in 1935.
Norway played host to the Ice Hockey World Championship in 1958 and the 1999 Men’s ice Hockey World Championship in 1999.
Norway National Ice Hockey Team
The Norwegian national ice hockey team currently ranks number 12 in the world. The team represents the country in various international competitions, including IIHF World Championship, Winter Olympics, and the Ice Hockey European Championships.
The team has been participating in international ice hockey since 1937. Norway has participated in 12 Olympic events to date but has not won any medals. The team has also been unable to win any championship, including the World Championship and European Championship. The national team played its first international match in 1937 in the World Cup in Great Britain. While the team enjoyed some success initially, it eventually lagged behind other participant countries. In 1960, the Norwegian Ice Hockey team was inducted into the B-World Cup category, unable to qualify for the World Championship. The team stayed in the B- World Cup Category during the 1970 and 1980s. However, in 1989, the team won the World Cup, where it was the host, and eventually, it was moved to the A-World Cup Category. In 2001, the team was relegated and sent to the top division; however, it continued to improve its performance after.
The team qualified for the World Ice Hockey World Championships quarter-finals thrice after 2000 in 2008, 2011, and 2012. The team also qualified for the Winter Olympics thrice in 2010, 2014, and 2018. One of the most notable single-match achievements of the team is its win against Canada in the World Cup in 2000. Others include its win against the Czech Republic in the World Cup in 2010, against Sweden in the 2011 World Cup, and Germany in the 2012 World Cup.
The Norwegian women’s national ice hockey team is currently ranked 13th globally. The team won third place at the European Championship in 1993.
Domestic Ice Hockey Competitions in Norway
Besides the national ice hockey team, domestic ice hockey leagues are also quite active in Norway. Fjordkraftligaen is the top professional ice hockey division for men in the country and goes by the name Ligaen in the Champions Hockey League, where sponsor names in the leagues’ names are not allowed.
The NIHF manages Fjordkraftligaen, which was formed in 1934. The league currently comprises 10 teams. These teams play five matches against each team and 45 matches in total during the season that continues from autumn to spring. The teams’ standings are determined at the season’s end according to their points accrued during the season. If two teams have the same number of points, their ranking is based on mutual results.
Below the Fjordkraftligaen is by Division 1, the second-highest league in the country. The winner of the Fjordkraftligaen is titled the league champion, and together with the next seven teams, it qualifies for the Norwegian Championship. The two lowest-ranked teams at the season’s end play qualifying matches against the top teams of Division 1.
Below Division 1 are the 2nd division and minor leagues that serve as the training series and follow a promotion and demotion system for the shift from one series to the other.