Ice hockey is one of the most popular sports in Switzerland, alongside football. The Swiss are huge ice hockey fans and like to watch the sport more than most sports in the country. In addition to the national team, the locals like to support the teams in the Swiss ice hockey league.
The country’s national ice hockey team is one of the best in the world, while the national league is one of the best leagues in Europe and its events are the most attended among the ice-hockey leagues in Europe since 2017.
Here is a brief insight into the ice hockey history in Switzerland and the sport’s current status.
History of ice hockey in Switzerland
Ice hockey has been played in Switzerland since the early 1900s. In 1902, eight ice hockey clubs in the French part of the country established the first ice hockey league in Switzerland. The Swiss Ice Hockey Federation (SIHF) was formed in 1908 and became a member of the IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) two months later. The SIHF was one of the founding members of the IIHF, based in Zurich.
In the following years, the national ice hockey federation continued to expand the number of member clubs to 23. In 1922, Switzerland hosted the European Championship at St. Moritz; in 1924, the country played host to the Spengler Cup at Davos.
The national ice hockey team participated in the European Championship in 1910, its first ice hockey tournament. The team participated in the Olympics for the first time in 1924 and won a bronze medal at the Olympics held in St. Moritz in 1928. The team continued to display impressive performance in the following years, winning the European Championship in 1926, obtaining the second position in the World Championship in 1935 and third place in 1939.
Swiss National Ice Hockey Team
The Swiss national men’s ice hockey team made their debut in 1909, while the junior and women’s teams played internationally for the first time in 1977 and 1987, respectively. The men’s national team played their first official match against England in January 1909 and lost by 3-0.
The team came into the limelight in 1926 when it won its first major championship. Bibi Torriani, who played as the team’s captain from 1933 till 1939, played in the forward line and was touted as the ni-storm with his brothers Ferdinand Cattini and Hans Cattini. The ni-storm (ni taken from their last name) was considered the best line of its time in the region and contributed greatly to the success of the team and their club, the HC Davos.
To date, the team has participated in 8 European Championships and won a gold medal in 1926 and five bronze medals. The national team has played in 71 IIHF World Championships and won a silver medal in 1935, 2013 and 2018, six bronze medals, and the last one in 1953. The team also won a bronze medal at the Olympics in 1928 and 20 years later in 1948.
From 1953 until 2013, the team could not obtain a position in any major ice hockey tournament. It came a close fourth in 1992 and 1998 at the World Championship but could not go beyond. The national team is currently placed 7th in the IIHF rankings.
The Swiss women’s national team is currently in 4th place in the IIHF rankings. The team has participated in the Olympics five times and won a bronze medal in 2014. The team has played in 21 World Championships, and its best result to date is a bronze medal in 2012. In 1995, the team won a bronze medal in the European Championship.
Domestic Ice Hockey Competitions in Switzerland
The National League is the country’s top men’s professional ice hockey league. The league has been functional since 1938 and comprises 14 teams. The most successful team in the league is HC Davos, with 31 titles, while the EV Zug is the current champion of the league.
The National League follows a promotion and demotion system with the Swiss League, which is the second-highest professional ice hockey league in the country. The Swiss League was established in 1947, and presently, it has 10 teams.
The Women’s League is the official ice hockey league in the country. It was founded in 1986 as Leistungsklasse A and renamed Swiss Women’s Hockey League A in 2014. The league is amateur and organised by Regio League, a Swiss Ice Hockey Federation division. The Women’s League comprises seven teams, with the ZCS Lions Frauen as the recent champions.