Ice Hockey on The Rise Across Europe

31 Mar 2021 |

Multiple sources provide contrasting views of when and how ice hockey began. According to research, ice hockey's roots are derived from 'stick and ball' games which originated in ancient Greece and Egypt.


In an encyclopedia called the Speculum Maius, there's an illustration of men playing chole lacrosse in the 13th century. The game revealed players were hitting a ball towards a designated point with a curved stick, much like those found in ice hockey.

In terms of when the sport was introduced to ice, Scotland in the 16th century was supposedly the first place to host a hockey game on ice.

Fast forward a few centuries, and the Canadian encyclopedia reveals, the International Ice Hockey Federation claimed the first official ice hockey tournament took place in 1875 in Montreal. Yet, some sources also indicate the first official ice hockey events originated in the UK.

Despite the differences over where the game began, Canada is one country over the years that has heavily invested in the game and influenced the sport's rules and regulations, whilst adopting a large following along the way.

However, as of late, the popularity of the game has extended beyond North America into Europe. This article divulges how and why Europe is becoming a prominent part of the sport.

Why Is Ice Hockey Becoming So Popular in Europe?

Ice hockey features two teams with six players on each side who battle it out on the ice rink to strike the puck past the goalie into the net.

Engaging parts of the game which have caused its fanbase to increase include the following:

Gripping Action - All team members wear extensive protective gear, which prepares them to take on various collisions on the rink. Meaning viewers get to witness gripping moments of action.

This is one of many reasons why viewers are captivated by the game.

As such, fans are making time to indulge in ice hockey betting and sportsbooks now cover European Ice Hockey leagues.

Sheltered Sport - Ice hockey is an indoor sport, which means unlike sports such as football, the weather conditions do not phase the games.

Fewer politics - Other sports, such as football, are, according to some, becoming too political. This is why sports fanatics are looking for other engaging sports like ice hockey to enjoy.

As per the above reasons and more, ice hockey is an attention-grabbing sport that engages more players and viewers in Europe and across the world to watch and play every year.

Ice Hockey in Europe

Canada is ice hockey's most prominent provider and supporter. But they are by no means the only ice hockey enthusiasts.

More than a million ice hockey players worldwide registered to play in ice hockey leagues, highlighting the significance of the sport internationally among sports professionals.

As of late, ice hockey is becoming an increasingly popular sport in Europe. For instance, during NHL 19/20, 976 players participated in one or more games in the league. And statistics reveal almost a third of those players were born and trained in Europe.

Plus, compared to previous records of attendance at the NHL since the 2003/2004 season, there has been a 31.3% rise in players from the EU. Additionally, last season's figures reveal Europe is the second largest provider of NFL players following Canada.

Other European countries providing talented players to the league include Sweden. In 19/20, Sweden sent 113 players to North America. This demonstrated another milestone of Europe's progression in the field of ice hockey.

Sweden has, over the years, provided numerous notable ice-hockey players. For example, Ulf Sterner was the first-ever player from Europe to enter the NHL in 1965. And Lars-Eerik Sjoberg became the first European captain of the NHL team Winnipeg in the 79/80 season.

Other EU countries with professional players includes Finland. Reportedly 50 Finnish players took part in the 19/20 league. This was the most players from Finland that had participated in the event to date.

Other European countries training and shipping players to the NHL include Russia, which sent 50 players’ last season. The Czech Republic, which contributed 34, and Slovakia, which assigned 12.

The above defines an increasing interest in Europe for sports fanatics to chase their NHL dream. Due to a rise in pro players, teams, and training opportunities in Europe, the continent has recently attracted North American players to partake this season.

The ramifications last year caused the postponement of North America's ice hockey leagues. As such, to maintain their fitness, skill, and experience, more players are contemplating moving to Europe to play in part or all of the 2020/21 season.

For instance, Detroit red wings previous first-rounders Moritz Seider and Filip Zandini have returned to their home league.

However, moving from North America to Europe to practice and compete means the players are likely to incur challenges. From language to cultural barriers, plus, the ice rinks in North America are smaller than those in the EU, with less time to make decisions.

Plus, the games tend to be more physical across the pond. As such, players will need to quickly learn the ropes before competing.

Despite this, numerous NHL franchises such as Columbus and San Jose are showing faith in their players' ability to adapt and are eager to fly their prospects to the EU to play.

Ice Hockey Popularity Continues To Rise

In a nutshell, ice hockey clubs from Europe are on the rise. And with the EU being the prime spot this season for ice hockey action, it's bound to bring a lot of media attention to the events, Eu-based clubs, and the younger prospects. Which in turn will fuel the exposure and popularity of the sport across the continent.

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Czech Rep.:  Tipsport extraliga | 1.liga | 2.liga

Finland:  Liiga | Mestis

Germany:  DEL | DEL2

Russia:  KHL | VHL

Slovakia:  Tipsport Extraliga | 1.liga

Sweden:  SHL | HockeyAllsvenskan

Switzerland:  NLA | NLB

Other:  EBEL | Belarus | Croatia | Denmark | Estonia | France | Great Britain | Iceland | Italy | Latvia | Lithuania | MOL-liga | Norway | Poland | Romania | Serbia | Slovenia | Spain | NHL | AHL |

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