Vladislav Tretiak

President of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation


Ice Hockey as a social and cultural phenomenon.

Vladislav Tretiak

The ice hockey is great and multifaceted theme. But I would like to highlight a few moments that would be worth to debate.

Ice Hockey is a unique kind of sport that appeared in less than 100 years ago. He gained popularity in several countries and spread around the world fast enough. At the beginning of the 20th century Ice Hockey  became popular in North America, and later on, in the thirties and forties, all Europe had been played the game.

In the mid-20th century, Ice Hockey had already become a universal means of communication between people separated by geographical, social, political barriers, and especially the iron curtain. People in the U.S.A, Canada, Russia, Finland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic have a different mentality, temperament, but, nevertheless, they were united by one great game. When the world leaders could not communicate among themselves, Ice hockey became a conduit, connecting the countries, cultures, politicians and ordinary people. The game was a universal value, a bridge between civilizations.

Ice Hockey is part of the national idea, almost a religion in Russia and Canada. In Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic the sport is part of the national identity. Ice Hockey has become part of the culture: there are a lot of books, films and etc. Players, coaches, their demeanor in the community and on the ice, their game numbers have become a part of the cultural heritage.

Ice Hockey is a unique phenomenon. And our task is not to try to understand why this is happening. But we must always remember that ice hockey, besides the technical side, goals, points, sticks, physical condition of the athletes, has a soul. And the soul is reflected in the love of the people, folklore, artwork. And we the people who are dealing with hockey professionally have to support this love  and spend time and money to create new hockey artworks. It strengthens the spirit of our sport, his strength and competitiveness, give more popularity.

In our age there are so many different options for how to spend your leisure time. But we see that neither information technology nor grown of the technical capabilities over the past half century do not interfere with a large number of people who love the game, that was invented more than 100 years ago.

Ice Hockey is still filling venues, and information technologies, various gadgets and modern TV broadcasting only help us in this.

The same situation is observed in Amateur hockey. It's very difficult game to learn. Skating while working with a stick, a difficult task which not everyone can handle. But it is the difficulty that attracts children, and, as we have seen in Russia for recent times – there are many adults wanting to play an interesting, exciting game.

Even a simple watch of hockey needs some knowledge. The nuances of the rules of the game are not the easiest to quick perception, the constant changes of players, difficult tactical drawings of the game, numbers of statistical values complicate the perception.

However, these details, as shown by the years of our observations, also attract people!

This is a special socio-cultural phenomenon of our sport.

Of course, the discussion involves debate of issues. And yes, we have these problems in ice hockey.

With all great love of our people to hockey, there are not many people who understand the game. This is the main difference from football. To play football, it is enough to have something like a ball and a flat surface of virtually any area. To play hockey, you need a lot of conditions. The football is much slower in dynamics, easy to understand and memorize players.

We need more people involved in hockey. What do I need to do?

First, we do not have enough ice. In Russia – there are only 500 skating rings. But this is not enough. We need at least 400 indoor ice rinks. As well as public ice rinks, so that people can spend their free time, like the one that opened in the Park of Legends or will be opened in late December in St. Petersburg. We have a lot of amateur athletes, but they have to skate only at night because the ice rinks that we already have a busy by children's schools, professional teams, and figure skaters.

People want to play, ready to spend money on the ice rinks and expensive uniform, but does not have the ability to skate at a convenient time. But it's good when the adult person has funds for lessons and a car to drive to the arena. And what should children do that do not have the opportunity to play professionally, but have a big wish. Before children could play in their yard. But now there are not so many opportunities .

For that Russian Ice Hockey Federation contributes to the emergence of outdoor rinks, in big cities and small cities, and even villages. So we're back to basics when winter in our country was cold, and the ice melted in mid-January. Partly it is natural ice, somewhere is artificial.

Second, we need to increase people hockey knowledge so we can involve them in our sport. It's the fans and, primarily, parents of young hockey players. We are talking about the phenomenon of the hockey culture.

Many parents do not know the nuances of hockey rules, but easy arguing with judges, giving a bad example to children, who, growing up, with great disrespect  to the referees. Moreover, often parents by their aggressive behavior aggravate the situation at children's tournaments. They are shouting "kill him", meaning the opposite team. This is no good!

Yes, ice hockey is a tough game, which is aimed, in particular, to the manifestation in man's original instincts. The game trains speed, attention, endurance, physical strength, ingenuity, builds character and courage. But hockey needs to educate the nobility! It have to teach children only good examples. A child should be educated with human personality, especially  in hockey. But the "desire to win" should not go into "the desire to win at any cost". You  have  to be able to win fairly. Actually, this is the work of managing authority, coaches, which in addition to hockey knowledge needs to be more teachers.

Unnecessary aggression, increased injuries discouraged many parents from hockey. We have to deal with it with administrative measures, changes in the rules, the disciplinary punishment. Yes, the last time in world hockey, NHL, IIHF, KHL struggling with knee strikes, blows to the head, dangerous game boards. But we still to need enhance this work. We need to completely exclude from the hockey all deaths and serious injuries situations.

Complex but dynamic, exciting and beautiful game sweeping the globe. But not so fast as we would like. And to increase the  fans of hockey we need  more of people, who are engaged in this sport all life and has a recognizable entity (including players and coaches), we still have more to tell about the game, to promote it, to explain the nuances of the game. We have won the hearts of millions. Let’s go – billions!




Роман Ротенберг

Roman Rotenberg

First Vice President of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation

Head of the Russian national ice hockey team headquarters, including the analytical and statistical departments. Vice-President of the “Gazprombank” JSC. Member of the Board of Directors, Deputy Head of the Continental Hockey League. Member of the Board of Directors, Vice President of the SKA ice hockey club. Founder of the "Doctor sport" company (“Vitawin” brand). Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Arena Events, management company. Consultant on external communications of “Gazprom Export” LLC.


Russian Ice Hockey Federation experience in the implementation of the  recruitment and retaining strategies in ice hockey.

Roman Rotenberg

Russian Ice Hockey Federation is implementing of the recruitment and retaining strategies all participants of the ice hockey process.

On the one hand, modern professional ice hockey is a business, a part of the entertainment industry, media, so here we should use the standard methods of attracting new customers. On the other hand, this social phenomenon is the instrument that can unit society.

The development of professional hockey attracts fans, new fans followed by the development of mass hockey that gives rise to youth hockey.

Two pillars of our strategy – cooperation with the brand and communications and development of ice hockey infrastructure.

The top of professional ice hockey are national teams. To attract and retain a player of the national team, we needed a highly structured system at all levels - from children and youth hockey to professional hockey.

Russian Ice Hockey Federation has developed a program of common STANDARDS in the scientific and methodological support of national teams of Russia: the integrated and unified approach (science – analytics – selection – medical) for all teams, advanced video-analysis and statistics. A special website was launched for coaches and players.

The accomplishment of high goals is impossible without qualified coaches. For successful training of coaches, we need to implement unified criteria for evaluating activities. So we are working on the creation and implementation of a new certification program of coaches.

This program follows the Soviet traditions, which based on a clear system and hierarchy of qualifications and classification of coaches.

To implement our plans, we have organized a program of Federal conferences and regional training seminars, workshops. Special attention is given to regions that do not have strong hockey base. We work hard to attract new staff and coaches there.

This season we improved the refereeing system, we also implemented the common system of matches inspection. The video monitoring room works in the "24 hours" mode.

The Referee training Centre of Russian Ice Hockey Federation have been established, that will improve the skills of existing referees, and train new referees.

Attracting new customers is one of the key tasks for Russian Ice Hockey Federation, so we did big promotion and advertising campaigns, events with the participation of all national teams of Russia.

We focus on the involvement of our fans – organize actions and flash mobs, create positive atmosphere, organizing fan zones on match days, open ice rinks  for skating. SMM allows to recruit fans.

All matches of the Russian national teams we broadcast on the website fhr.ru.

An important part of the strategy for us is the development of our own collection and development of the sales network of brand named - "Red Machine".

To retain a loyal audience, which professionally understands ice hockey, we realize the program of commemorative celebrations, anniversaries, the celebration of legends, develop special hockey Museum, exhibitions.

Now, within the 70th anniversary of Russian Ice hockey, we organize a unique charity match, where the legends of hockey world will play. All gathered means are spent on the construction of outdoor ice hockey venues in the regions within the framework of our program "Hockey of Russia takes the dream".

On the Internet channel FHR-TV we shows stories about hockey history, the best moments, interviews with the legends.

The mass hockey in Russia is now undergoing on major changes. The Student hockey League was created. We've already brought more than 2000 players from among the students to SHL clubs. The Night hockey League became a great social phenomenon. More than 15000 players are participate in this league, and their number is growing.

Also, I want to introduce a new project of the Russian ice hockey Federation and the Timchenko Foundation, a one - day regional hockey festivals in those cities where hockey is so far underdeveloped.

The national program "Academy of hockey of Russia" has already started, unifying principles of all sports schools in Russia that will allow excluding the subjective factors in the development of young players, to keep talented players.

For Russian ice hockey Federation is also very important reform of all-Russian competition that allows attracting to play hockey children and youth audiences.

As I said, work with the brand is an important pillar of our strategy.

The ideology and values of hockey of Russia – is a clear brand positioning, a recognizable corporate identity, proactive communications campaign. These factors work as the retention of the representatives of the hockey community and to attract a new audience.

A big part of our concept of the communications is history and legacy – the preservation and creation of traditions and rituals, the honoring of legends, master classes, meetings with players and coaches.

"The red machine" is a world famous symbol associated with the national teams of USSR and Russia, which forms a clear link between all generations of our hockey.

And finally, the availability of modern hockey infrastructure is the Foundation of our strategy, the key to successful development for decades to come.

We are working in 5 areas:

- construction of hockey facilities for schools;

- construction and reconstruction hockey palaces;

- modernization of equipment;

- construction of regional centers;

- the creation of research centers.

In conclusion, I would like to stress once again that in order to attract and retain all participants in the hockey industry players, coaches, fans, referees needed a structured system at all levels - from children and youth to professional ice hockey, based on a strong brand and a modern hockey infrastructure.





Sergey Altukhov

 Associate Professor and Deputy Director of the Sport Management Centre of Lomonosov Moscow State University, PhD, Russia

Dr. Sergey Altukhov is deputy director of the Sport Management Centre of Lomonosov MSU (2011) and associate professor of the Department of Management Organization for Economic Faculty of  Lomonosov Moscow State University (2015). He graduated from the Faculty of Journalism MSU (1992) and received his PhD thesis in economics in 2007. The theme of research "Governance regulation and market self-regulation of professional sport economy in the Russian Federation." Sergey Altukhov is one of the most famous sports managers in Russia with practical experience in the organization of more than 130 major international tournaments - World Championships and European Championships, World Cups, Grand Prix Series and other international tournaments in Moscow. Sergey actively engaged in research of problems in sport management, theory governance in sports, he is a doctoral researcher of the Economic Faculty of MSU and author of the first russian textbook "Event Management in sport" (2013) and a collection of case studies "Championship marked "Urgent!" (2015), “The tree Σ of sport management. How to Maneuver within the Labyrinths of the Profession” (2016). Scientific interests also include topics such as "Sport in the national assesment qualification system", "Sports reform in China","The rules of protocol and diplomatic etiquette in sports", "Professional Ethics in Sport", etc.  Sergey Altukhov have an active community work. He is a member of the Expert Council for Committee of physical culture and sport of the Federal Council of the Russian Federation, member of the Presidium of the Ice-Hockey Officials Association (IHOA), editor of the web portal Sportdiplom.ru, moderator of World Hockey Forum.


The development and state of ice hockey in Russia

Why ice hockey is the sport №1 in Russia?

Sergey Altukhov, PhD

"Ice hockey is the game for Canadians, but fun for the Russians!" It is possible to characterize the attitude of people of different ages to this sport in Russia. Beautiful tales about the mysterious Russian soul, which are so often used in stories about Russia, are very well combined with love of the Russian people to the ice hockey at different stages of development of the game in Russia. There is a certain logic and its own laws.

The first World Hockey Forum was held on December 15-17, 2016 in Moscow, when all the hockey community celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Soviet (Russian) hockey. But the history of hockey in Russia has begun much earlier, in the year 1946. The main prerequisite for this were the harsh climatic conditions of Russia.

The history of ice hockey in Russia

A huge part of the country is located in a sharply continental climate zone, where the summer is very hot, and the winters are cold and snowy. In winter, a large number of rivers and lakes in Russia are covered with ice. This natural factor offers new opportunities for skating and development of different games on the ice. The representatives of the Russian ethnic group used to skate on ice even in the XIII century. But these skates were not the same as nowadays. The archaeological museums in Russia have examples of ancient skates. They were made of horse bones polished on the one side and with drilled holes. Strong leather straps were passed through the holes and the whole bone structure was tied over special winter felt boots - valenkis. Valenkis are boots from sheep's wool, which take the desired shape and size during their preparation. Later the wooden skates appeared – a narrow metal stripe was attached to the wooden block and then the construction was tied to the boots. People could glide across the ice in any shoe, but then they did not have sustainability. Therefore, the appearance of skates-runners of bone or metal made a real breakthrough, and inspired interest in skating on ice.

The information about the first organized competitions in Russian hockey relate to 1898. Then people started playing the Russian hockey with the ball in St. Petersburg. [1] After 1900 hockey began to develop in Moscow. The special requirements for inventory and site standards did not exist yet, so the main criterion was the simplicity. The ice had to be cleared of snow. The snowdrifts acted like a board area, ice hockey sticks were made of tree branches bent at a right angle and dried over fire to fix the shapes, sizes, hockey gates were similar to the size of football gates, and player equipment was very primitive. A historical event happened in 1907 when "Saint-Petersburg Hockey League" was created.

Since 1908 the annual hockey matches "Moscow - St. Petersburg" were held regularly in each of these cities. They got great interest among the public. A. McKibbin analyses results of team meetings in Moscow and St. Petersburg, which show that St. Petersburg players are stronger. In the season 1910 - 1911's, there were three such games. The first two were held in St. Petersburg. "Both contests took place under the influence of very bad weather, with very softened ice, ended, of course, not in favor of Moscow; Moscow did not even expect to win - they just tried to make a decent result. But the St. Petersburg team was so much stronger than our own, that, despite all the efforts of the Muscovites, the matches ended: the first - 12: 3, the second 8: 2. " [2]

"Moscow Hockey League" was established in 1911. The current variety of hockey, which is now named bandy, then was called just hockey. In Moscow's 1911-1912 championship 6 clubs participated in the first league and 5 clubs in the second league. The Games Calendar was very busy - in each league 30 matches were held.[3] In 1911 Russia joined the International Ice Hockey League (LIHG).

In 1912 - 1914 hockey began to find its fans in Arkhangelsk, Kharkov, Novgorod, Vladivostok and other cities. In 1912 and 1913 due to the lack of large rollers for Russian hockey in Kharkov the "Canadian" version of the game was created: 7 players per team, and instead of the ball - "rubber saucer." Such rules have become universal for the team's performance on small sites and the first mention of the Canadian hockey in Russia.

In February 1914 the constituent assembly "All-Russian Union of hockey" was held in St. Petersburg. There the last hockey games in pre-war Russia were played between St. Petersburg and Moscow hockey players. Start of the First World War and the revolutionary political upheaval in the country interrupted the ongoing development of the Russian hockey for several years. Russia withdrew from the LIHG.

After the war and the establishment of the Soviet Union hockey revival began in the season 1922-1923. The games of the "League Cup" were held again in Petrograd and Moscow; the first matches in Kharkov, Arkhangelsk, Vladivostok were also played. The true familiarity of the Soviet hockey with the Canadian hockey players took place in 1932, when the team of the German Workers' Association "Fichte" arrived in Moscow. The guests brought with them non-familiar for a Soviet athlete hockey sticks and pucks, unusual ammunition and offered to play ice hockey. The opponents of the German players were the masters of the Russian hockey club CDKA who on January 11, 1932 managed to win the match with the score 3: 0.[4] The victory was above all influenced by high physical readiness of Soviet athletes. Canadian hockey then was not appreciated very much, but the equipment left after the "Fichte" visit was used for some time at the Central Institute of Physical Culture. Subsequently, they were the Central Institute of Physical Education students who in the nine months before the start of the national championship held in the demonstration game of ice hockey and breathed new life to the game.

The recovery and development of sport in Soviet Russia in the preceding Second World War (1939-1945), have been associated with the strengthening of the ideology of the new state. Young men and women watched a movie in which the main characters were brought up strong and courageous, ready at any moment to defend the borders of their homeland. The same idea was also sang in songs and written in poems across the country. Young people entered military sports organizations and sports clubs. Hockey at this time was developed mainly on the basis of football clubs as the players themselves in the winter enjoyed playing Russian hockey. Many of the Moscow "Dinamo" players became winners of the Soviet Top League of football and Russian hockey - Arkady Chernyshev, Sergey Ilyin, Vasily Trofimov. A goalkeeper of FC "Dinamo" Valentin Granatkin was the only goalkeeper in the Soviet Top League of football and the Russian hockey. [5] By the end of the 1930s, hockey has been cultivated in almost all regions of the country, where it was promoted by the climatic conditions.

Canadian hockey in the Soviet Union and Vasily Stalin 

The Second World War, as you know, also contributed to the development of hockey. The country experienced very serious consequences of the war and the loss of more than 27 million people. But the joy of victory was immense. The people were gradually returning to a peaceful life. As it often happened in history, people wanted bread and circuses. Music, cinema, circus, theater, sport became popular again, mostly among young people. In 1945, the Soviet Top League in football, boxing, athletics and other sports reappeared.

Ice Hockey, unlike the bandy, was always presented in the program of the Olympic Winter Games. And this factor attracted the attention of sports leadership of the country. A more detailed introduction to Canadian hockey rules, demonstration matches of students of the Central Institute of Physical Culture, the first training seminars for coaches were the first steps in the organization of the first Soviet Championship League.

In spring 1946, after the order of the Sports Committee of the USSR head Nikolai Romanov the representatives traveled to Riga, where they bought skates, hockey sticks and pucks for a game of Canadian hockey. Rules of the game were translated from Latvian into Russian. In summer in Moscow and Leningrad the first courses and seminars for coaches and referees on hockey were held. As a result several commands wanted to participate in the first national championship in the Canadian: CDKA (Moscow), Air Force (Moscow) and "Dinamo" (Moscow), "Spartak" (Moscow), House officers (Leningrad), "Dinamo" ( Leningrad), "Vodnik" (Arkhangelsk), House officers (Sverdlovsk), "Dinamo" (Riga), "Dinamo" (Tallinn), team of Kaunas and "Spartak" (Uzhgorod).

The benefit of the Canadian hockey in the Soviet Union has become an incredible phenomenon, worthy of a separate study. In a relatively short period of time Russian hockey irrevocably lost the competition to Canadian hockey in Russia! Practically - ready sensation! How could this happen?

 There were several reasons. But among the most important one should note the unprecedented game attributes - specialized equipment for goalkeepers and players, more stringent rules on small sites, power struggle and increased injuries that made this game a real "man's job." Paramilitary terms "ice squad", "Knights hockey", "ice battle," "goalkeeper's armor" have become journalistic clichés. Ice hockey has become a substitute for war in time of peace, when the political forces organized the "iron curtain" and  during the era of the "cold war." Among the hockey fans were such political leaders of the country as Vasily Stalin (the son of Joseph Stalin), Leonid Brezhnev and Vladimir Putin. These people made this beautiful game a showcase of the political system of the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation for many years, along with the astronauts and Russian ballet.

On December 22, 1946 in Moscow, Leningrad, Riga, Kaunas, Arkhangelsk, the first matches of the Soviet Championship League were held. The first champions of the USSR were the hockey players of the Moscow "Dinamo", which were controlled by the Commissar of Internal Affairs of the USSR, Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR Lavrentiy Beria - a true friend and ally of Joseph Stalin. But the most important role in the development of hockey of the Soviet Union was played by Vasily Stalin - younger son of Joseph Stalin.

In 1945, Lieutenant-General Vasily Stalin was appointed the commander of the air force of the Moscow Military District, and the Sports Club of the Air Force (Air Force) received a powerful patron in his face. Basil used the popularity of his name with the maximum benefit. With the same passion he loved airplanes, women, restaurants, football, horses, motorcycling and other entertainment. Vasily was a very famous man of his time. Legends were told about his adventures and entertainment. The apparatus of the state system in the USSR allowed him to resolve any problems on the phone, when a person who picked the phone heard that "Comrade Stalin wishes to talk to him." But in the first national hockey championship fight for the title was fought between the teams "Dinamo", CDKA and "Spartak." The Pilots Team was still not ready to win titles.

After failing for the Air Force Club first hockey season Vasily Stalin mobilized all available resources to strengthen the team by inviting leading players from other clubs. He actually became the owner and general manager of the Air Force Club. Stalin Jr. believed that his team must play only the best. Therefore, the main criterion of Vasily Stalin was human decency in relations. He was personally interested in creating the conditions for the players and thought that after the shift in a plant that took 6-8 hours one cannot set records and win matches. Therefore, all athletes must have special living conditions.

The young general skillfully acted in a competitive field, which accounted CDKA (Ministry of Defense), "Dinamo" (Ministry of State Security), "Spartak" (Council of Trade Unions). These organizations have also offered their athletes conditions not inferior to the terms of the Air Force Club, and impossible for the ordinary Soviet people. Despite the fierce clan fighting, Vasily Stalin was able to create a real team-dynasty. The first notable success of Air Force hockey players was winning the silver medal, received for the second place in the Championship of the USSR in 1949. National hockey champions after the first season for three times were the players of CDKA – «lieutenants team», led by Vsevolod Bobrov. The young soldiers-winners enjoyed great popularity among viewers, consistently winning and soccer, and hockey championships. Among the innovators of business coaching in hockey Arkady Chernyshev from  "Dinamo" and Anatoly Tarasov from CDKA should be noted as they first gained recognition as experts in ice hockey.

Stalin Jr. continued to bend his line and form a team not only in the Air Force hockey team. He stepped up his influence in other sports and created his own sports empire. Vasily almost simultaneously led Air Force club teams in football, hockey, basketball, motor sports and horse riding. The power of his system was growing day by day. The turning point for Vasily Stalin and for the Air Force hockey team became the year 1950.

On January 5, 1950 while landing at the airport "Koltsovo" near Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg) crashed plane Li-2. There were 11 hockey players of Air Force, the team doctor, masseur and six crew members on board, who flew to a hockey game in Chelyabinsk. They all died. Before the crash with the players of Yaroslavl "Locomotiv" September 7, 2011 it was the largest tragedy in russian hockey.

By coincidence, on board of the plane the three players of Air Force Club were missing - Shuvalov, Vinogradov and Bobrov. Vinogradov had a fight in the previous match and received a disqualification. Shuvalov could not go because of the decision of Vasily Stalin, because he just moved from Chelyabinsk in the Air Force Club, and he was considered a traitor. And Bobrov has not yet been documented transition from CDKA to the Air Force. The team manager Kolchugin issued a request for Bobrov and bought him a train ticket. [6]

The emergence of Vsevolod Bobrov in the Air Force team in such circumstances was seen as a special sign. After all, Bobrov was the face of ice hockey in the Soviet Union for the first decade of hockey. After this terrible tragedy, a new Air Force team was created around him that three times in a row won the championship of the USSR in 1951, 1952 and 1953 and became a legend of hockey.

"Such teams have never existed before. And they are unlikely to appear again. People were all very different. They were united by one thing - something that is lacking in many of today. This is decency. I do not remember a case when someone has acted dishonestly in relation to each other.

In sport, particularly in hockey, I have come through a long way. I crossed with many people, and in any team, both the older and the younger generation had at least someone in a purely moral plane dropped out of the team, committed some ugly acts. The Air Force was not like this! Why? Because the team was chosen depending mainly not on skill, but on the human qualities» (Nikolai Puchkov, "Soviet Sport", 2003).

But the triumph of the Pilots team was quite short. The power and influence of Vasily Stalin ended soon after his father's death in March 1953. Air Force club was disbanded in May 1953, almost immediately after the arrest of Vasily Stalin, and the leading players have moved into the team CDSA (formerly CDKA). Among the many violations of the law of Stalin's son  the excessive spending on sports was also mentioned. It was the only such case in the history of the USSR. It should be noted that the Air Force Club athletes came to visit Vasily Stalin in prison, and brought him food parcels, talked about sports results and supported his former manager in difficult conditions. This underlines the high level of respect of the merits of Stalin junior. New party leaders were not merciful to Stalin’s son and formed a judgment. He was accused of abuse of power, defamation and assault and battery. The investigators separately identified the charges of violations of the sport. That’s what Mr Sukhomlinov wrote about the case:

“In an effort to popularize his name, Stalin managed to create 8 staff sports teams of up to 300 people for the Air Force MVO on which more than 5 million rubles were spent each year. These sports teams were manned by professional athletes, who were lured from other sports associations.

The athletes of the Air Force MVO had a privileged position, they were primarily provided apartments, assigned officer ranks, were issued aircraft maintenance and significant funds for rewarding and satisfying their whims other than infringe the interests of the personnel of the Air Force MVO” [7]

In fact, Vasily Stalin was accused for being an effective manager, as we now say. As a result, he was sentenced to eight years in prison. After the expiration of the punishment he lived in Kazan for a short period of time and died from the disease. Hockey continued to gain new momentum of rapid development at the international level. USSR national team for the first time went to the Ice Hockey World Championship in Stockholm in 1954 and immediately became the world champion. The hockey popularity among the people went out to a new height.

Soviet Hockey Triumph ideology

The period of prosperity and recognition of Soviet hockey is internationally associated with an unprecedented increase in the popularity of hockey in the country. Only astronauts could boast more scrutiny and honors on the part of government leaders. It is generally recognized by the ideologues of those years that hockey has become a substitute for war and the factor of correctness of the chosen indicator of socio-political system in the USSR. Therefore, hockey victories and names of the characters were put on the same row with the names of the heroes the recent war. Their victories were equated with feats of war heroes. All the boys in the country knew who is Bobrov, Shuvalov, Guryshev, Babich, Konovalenko, Firsov, Starshinov, Mayorov brothers and others.

In the Championship of the USSR CSKA players were put above all competitors. They traditionally enjoyed the patronage of the Soviet leaders and the opportunity to strengthen their membership due to recruitment of talented rivals into the army. Around the CSKA players the main part of the USSR team was formed. During the Championships of the USSR hockey club CSKA (CDKA, CDSA, CSK MO) became the champion 32 times, "Spartak" - 4 times, "Dinamo" - 4 times, the Air Force - 3 times, "Soviet Wings" - 2 times.

The special position of hockey began to be clearly seen after Leonid Brezhnev’s coming to power in the early 60s. Brezhnev himself did not play hockey, but he was a huge fan of it. So far there is an ongoing debate on the question of which hockey club fan was Leonid Ilyich. Here opinions differ. The most reliable source is the memoirs of KGB general, Vladimir Medvedev, who was the personal bodyguard of Brezhnev. Here is what he wrote in his book:

"Brezhnev, of course, did not have enough communication - normal, human, without flattery and subservience. He was not a particular fan, but just preferred the club CSKA. In Politburo many were fans of "Spartak" and the next day after the game he urged on his colleagues: "How we made it with you yesterday!"

He often took with him somebody to watch hockey or football. Chernenko was a fan of "Spartak", and Leonid Ilyich urged on him too. Ustinov as well as Brezhnev was a fan of CSKA and therefore when they were sitting together watching a match he started to support "Spartak" ... " [8]

In the movie "The Legend №17" Brezhnev was presented as a fan of "Spartak". Most likely, this is due to the scandalous match, which was in the screenplay. On May 11th, 1969 Leonid Brezhnev the leader of Soviet Union was personally present at the match CSKA - "Spartak" in "Luzhniki" Sports Palace.

According to the rules of that time goalkeepers changed gates ten minutes after the start of the third period. "Spartak" led in the score 2: 1. The scoreboard showed 9:59 mark of the third period, when CSKA player Vladimir Petrov scored the goal against «Spartak». But controlling the stopwatch showed that the puck flew into the gate after a stoppage of play. Therefore, the chief judge credited this goal. CSKA coach Anatoly Tarasov did not agree with this decision, and led his team to the locker room. The pause lasted for about 40 minutes, until the story was interrupted by Brezhnev. He wanted to watch the game until the end. Aides of Brezhnev demanded the return of the team coach Tarasov on the ice. The game was continued. "Spartak" then won with a score of 3: 1 and became the champion of the country. This match gave reason to believe that Leonid Brezhnev was a Spartak fan, although it was not true.

From the first championship of the USSR in hockey there was a question about how to manage ice hockey. Managing competition for hockey across the country has been clearly regulated. Until 1959, the organization of the USSR championships in different leagues (classes) engaged Union hockey section, and since 1959 it was replaced by the USSR Hockey Federation. USSR Hockey Federation has organized parallel championships in ice hockey and ball hockey until 1967. In 1967, the USSR Sports Committee decided to establish two organizations - the USSR Ice Hockey Federation and the Federation of bandy and field hockey of USSR. This decision was due to the influence of the growth of hockey not only in the Soviet Union, but also worldwide. Ice hockey team of the Soviet Union team led by Chernyshev and Tarasov for nine consecutive years (1963-1971) became the world champion. They won the competition for bandy not only in Russia, but also at the international level.

The Soviet state machine used hockey victories in the formation of a patriotic ideology of the Soviet peoples. The growth of the hockey impact on the education of young people began to be used by the ideologists of the Soviet system in literature, films, songs. In the years of the triumph of the USSR several films were released: "Hockey players" (1964), "Tigers on ice" (1971), "Goalkeeper" (1974). Especially popular among children and their parents were the animated films "Puck! Puck!" (1964) and "Rematch" (1968). But the most powerful ideological resource for promotion of hockey was the song the composer Alexandra Pakhmutova on the verses of Nikolay Dobronravov and Sergey Grebennikov "The coward does not play hockey!", which was first performed in the movie “"The Tigers" on the ice”. The final diagnosis was made very precisely and categorically - "the real men are play in ice hockey, but a coward does not play ice hockey!" The priority of this game to all other sports was announced then as a manifesto. The melody of this song became the anthem of the USSR hockey for many years. Every hockey match was to begin with the exit of the teams on the ice, accompanied by this music. Even now a non-patriotic anthem of the Russian ice hockey enjoys great recognition among the people.

It can be considered a coincidence, but it was in the Brezhnev’s "era of stagnation", as the Liberals say now, when the national hockey team of the Soviet Union won 16 of the 20 World Championships and Olympic Games which took place at that period of time. In the twilight of his reign, the country added to the list the only victory in the history of the USSR national team on the "Challenge Cup" in 1979 and "Canada Cup" in 1981. Brezhnev introduced  the fashion of hockey among the ruling elite. The apotheosis of the growing popularity and importance of hockey in the state system of the Soviet Union was the Series Canada - USSR in 1972. This event most experts, historians and hockey experts consider as the beginning of a new era in hockey.

A new era of ise hockey. Red Machine

The political confrontation between the two systems and the desire to show the rest of the world the priorities of the Soviet way of life demanded public recognition in an open confrontation. Ice hockey has been a great platform for competition without the weapons and military equipment. After winning nine World Championships the Soviet leadership clearly understood that hockey has become a propaganda tool as one of the visual indicators on which the Soviet Union was ahead of the rest, and was looking for new opportunities to demonstrate their own strength and advantages.

The reason for the discussion of possible matches with professional hockey players from Canada was Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s visit to Moscow and his talks with the Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers Alexey Kosygin in 1971. [9] Pierre Trudeau proposed a meeting of the world's strongest players from Canada and the Soviet Union as one of the areas of cooperation. At the time the official president of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) John Francis Ahearne banned the participation of professional players in the World Championships and Olympic Games, so the Soviet hockey players won the World Championships playing with the Canadian and American students, which greatly irritated the experts on the other side of the ocean.

 The feasibility of such games on a high sporting level was confirmed by the leading hockey experts in the Soviet Union Chernyshev and Tarasov, but some members of the Politburo had serious concerns dictated by the risk of defeat on the ice and subsequent problems in foreign and domestic policy. Leonid Brezhnev was willing to risk it, because for many years he followed the development of the game and understood that real people will be playing in both teams. The ability to test themselves in the games with professional hockey players was a great experience and test the strength of the entire Soviet hockey system.

At the stage of preparation of all Super Series 72 a number of factors attract the attention. First of all, it should be understood that for the Canadian side, this Summit Series was a commercial project, despite the patronage of Pierre Trudeau. And the most important energizer and generator of the whole project became Alan Eagleson - lawyer, executive director of the NHL Players' Association (NHLPA), the legendary and highly controversial figure, with its persuasive negotiator talent. He had to agree with everyone. Players understood that they will get good fees and part of them will go to the pension fund for NHL veterans. It was a very reputable supplement. NHL owners agreed with the arguments of Eagleson to make profit, of course, but also to "put in place" a new hockey league - WHA, which scattered millions of contracts and tried to entice to itself the NHL stars.

The diplomats were involved in preparation too. Andrey Starovoytov conducted difficult negotiations with the president of the IIHF John Ahearne about the possibility of such a series of matches and parallel arrangements with Canadian counterpart Gary Smith on the conditions of the matches in Canada and the USSR. Politicians-curators of the Super series are noticed in world history as the discoverers of new phenomena, in addition to their own reasons to diplomacy. They risked their own way. During this period the Soviet Union is actively discussing with the US the theme of detente, but in the hockey theme the disputes were only on Canadian interests and no American accents. In other words, all the stakeholders have seen for themselves the benefits in the event.

A powerful catalyst for people's love of hockey and the hockey players was the TV. The fact that Leonid Brezhnev was a hockey fan made regular television broadcasts of matches the phenomenon in a country where one television channel worked. Therefore, the Soviet player names were known to all - even the housewives and grandmothers. In September 1972, I was in high school and watched the matches together with friends and neighbors in the remote village of Elan-Koleno, where I was born, on TV "Chaika-2", which was in our home. At that time peoples had only two TVs on the whole street. Parents allowed us to watch hockey with adults. It was an unforgettable bonus. Women were preparing food in the kitchen and, of course, were discussing the moments of the match, often mentioning one name – Esposito-r-r-r! That's right; with a snarl of hatred simple Russian woman condemned the aggression of the Canadian hockey players towards Kharlamov, Mishakov, Yakushev, Vasilyev. How can I forget this? But at the same time so many positive emotions, the tide of enthusiasm and patriotism were brought by these matches in every Soviet home, how much has not been since the Great Victory of 1945 and the first flight of Yuri Gagarin into space.

Super Series-72 has become perhaps the most important event in the history of hockey, including its political history. About the matches USSR - Canada it can be spoken endlessly: great players, legendary matches, incredible scandals and the opening of a new level of the game. But all of this happened much later. At that time it became obvious that hockey was a powerful resource of Soviet propaganda, a unique source of generation of Soviet patriotism in all the fifteen republics of the USSR.

To say that after the Super Series - 72 hockey received a new impetus to the development is to say nothing. Hockey went to a different level of understanding of the game and became a necessary attribute of the Soviet leaders. Along with Moscow clubs hockey clubs "Dinamo" Riga, "Sokol" Kiev, "Binokor" Tashkent, "Torpedo" Gorkiy, "Khimik" Voskresensk, "Dinamo" Minsk, «Traktor» Chelyabinsk  and others gained their popularity.

The next series of matches of the USSR - Canada took place in 1974. The Canadian side was represented by the players of World Hockey Association. Former excitement and furore failed. As a result, eight matches of Superseries-74 completed a total victory for the national team of the Soviet Union team. Soviet hockey players have won 4 matches, 3 matches ended in a draw, and one match was won by the team of Canada. The most memorable event of the match was a great game of Bobby Hull, who became the top scorer of the series and has always been proud that scored the most goals in the gate of Vladislav Tretiak.

After that, the Soviet leadership began to practice hockey Superseries with NHL clubs and the Soviet Union clubs during the Christmas holidays in North America. The Christmas tour of the hockey players of CSKA, "Soviet Wings", "Dinamo" made their invaluable contribution to the development of hockey relations between the two continents.

Another and the most striking phenomenon in the sunset of the Soviet Union is the factor of "Red Machine", which is directly related to coaching of Viktor Tikhonov. In 1976 in Poland, and in 1977 in Austria the team of the USSR was unable to become a world champion; there were conflicts between players, hockey stars demanded special treatment. But the Soviet system has never put the human factor at the forefront. The head of the KGB, Yuri Andropov ordered Viktor Tikhonov to become the head of CSKA and the USSR national team. The decision to appoint a coach of "Dinamo" on the head of the army club was greeted with abhorrence, but Tikhonov stubbornly held its reforms. In 1978 in Prague and in 1979 in Moscow the USSR national team regained the leading position, but after the defeat of the Soviet hockey players from the American students in 1980 in Lake Placid Viktor Tikhonov launched a radical reform. He started to exclude veterans (Mikhailov, Petrov, Tsygankov, Lutchenko, Zhluktov). As a result of transformation and selection Tikhonov has formed a compound that experts will call the "Red Machine": Goalkeepers: Tretyak, Belosheykin. Forwards: Makarov - Larionov - Krutov, Chomutov - Bykov - Kamensky, Mogilny - Fedorov - Bure. Defenders: Fetisov - Kasatonov, Stelnov - Starikov, Konstantinov - Mironov. The winning traditions of Soviet hockey on the international scene have been restored. But the widespread decline in living standards in the Soviet Union and the persistent offers of American and Canadian managers have gradually led to open conflict of Fetisov and Larionov against Tikhonov and against the whole of the Soviet system and the mass departure of Soviet hockey players in various foreign clubs.

Continental Hockey League and Hockey renaissance in Russia

Recent history in Russian hockey is marked, above all, by the release of the clubs, not based in Moscow, to the leading position. Hockey clubs "Ak Bars" Kazan, "Lada" Togliatti, "Metallurg" Magnitogorsk, "Avangard" Omsk eventually became leaders and by organizations around the club facilities and by the game. The hockey development has shifted from Moscow to the periphery of the Russian regions, where modern arenas were built. But the most talented players and coaches continued to leave Russia as new temptations of public success of the "dollar-luck" category replaced the concepts of "work - credibility." Victory series of Soviet hockey players at the World Championships are gone. All hockey system in the country requires a reboot.

The real breakthrough in modern Russian hockey history was the establishment of the Continental Hockey League (KHL) in 2008. This was preceded by many years of work by Slava Fetisov, Alexander Medvedev and their colleagues, and the natural result was an agreement between the Russian Ice Hockey Federation and the Continental Hockey League that the Russian Hockey Championship will organize the structure of the KHL. The first KHL tournament was attended by 24 clubs. In 2016, in the drawing of the Russian Championship and Gagarin Cup 29 clubs from 27 cities in 8 countries took part. Continental Hockey League has become a serious competitor for the National Hockey League and sells its own development strategy.

The KHL president Dmitry Chernyshenko at the World Hockey Forum in Moscow on December 16, 2016 told: "The three-year KHL Development Strategy, adopted in 2015, is now performed on 99 percent. All the objectives are achieved. It is outdated, - he stated, - right now we are working on the creation of a seven-year strategy in which different scenarios for the development of our hockey will be laid first of all, it will aim to fulfill the commission of the  president to reduce the dependence of the clubs from the state-owned companies. Professional sports should be able to earn himself. In this sense, the KHL is one of the most successful products. On the one hand, we will remove the dependence of the clubs from the regional budgets and from the state-owned companies, on the other hand, we will earn much more, realizing the commercial potential of the clubs themselves. " [10]

When comparing Russian and foreign data on the development of hockey throughout the country, Russia is inferior to the main competitors - Canada, USA, Finland, Sweden and the Czech Republic in terms of infrastructure and human resources policy. According to data of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation coaching staff shortage is about 6.000 people in Russia, and not all coaches are qualified enough. [11]

Russian Ice Hockey Federation purposefully and systematically engaged in the topic of training instructors and independent evaluation of the qualification of coaches, trainers, instructors and managers. In addition, the Federation developed an automated registry which will be launched soon. The registry will bring together data on all hockey schools, athletes and professionals. There will be ranks and titles, licenses, personal characteristics of the players. The register will allow monitoring of the preparation of the athlete and to prevent any fraud, such as the age of the young hockey player. This is a great and laborious work.

To ensure the effective development of hockey throughout the territory, the Russian Ice Hockey Federation controls the regulations of the competition, monitors their compliance with Russian and international requirements. These relate to compliance and the work of the judges of hockey. A single vertical competition logically requires the formation of a unified judging system. For the normal development of hockey common training and methodological training plans for hockey referees in all the country's educational institutions are required, and the uniformity of interpretation of the rules, the relevant international standards of the International Federation IIHF hockey are also necessary.

We can watch the changes of configuration of priorities in world sports and the Olympic movement, shifting the balance of interests of members of the international sports community, sports television, advertisers, organizers of the Olympic Games and major sporting the events. And hockey is a great example of a reasonable balance between the various interests. Scandals that rocked the sporting world over the past two years, forced all concerned parties to seek new ways of development of sports and sports associations, to develop memoranda of strategies for the sustainable development of the Olympic Movement in general and hockey in particular.

Hockey community continues onward development. World Hockey Forum showed that the formation of strategies to recruit and retain players, professionals, fans of professional hockey, mass hockey, women's hockey, sledge hockey is very relevant not only in developed hockey country, but are also contributing factors of exit of hockey to new markets for the planned development of the beautiful game and the accompanying infrastructure.


  1. Суник А.Б. Российский спорт и олимпийское движение на рубеже XIX-XX веков. Изд. 2-е исправл. И дополн.- М.: Советский спорт.2004.С.250
  2. Мак А. Хоккей за 1911 год. – «К спорту!», 1912, 8 января, №6, с.2
  3. Мак А. Хоккей за 1911 год. – «К спорту!», 1912, 8 января, №6, с.3
  4. «Физкультура и спорт». 1932.№9.С12
  5. https://www.sports.ru/tribuna/blogs/vamosfm/774562.html
  6. Шувалов В. Самолет разбился без меня. Спорт-Экспресс. 13.01.2012
  7. Сухомлинов А. В. Василий, сын вождя. — М.: Коллекция «Совершенно секретно», 2001. С156.
  8. Медведев В.Т. Человек за спиной., -М.: Русслит : АО "Астра семь". 1994 г. С224.
  9. http://fhr.ru/history/40_years_super_series/ice_cold_war/card/?id_4=6981





Igor Baradachev

Deputy General  Director of the "Charitable Foundation of  Elena and Gennady Timchenko", head of the "Sport" program. Igor working in the nonprofit sector more than 10 years from an ordinary Manager to Vice-President of the Siberian center for support of public initiatives.  In 2007-2012 Igor led social projects at RUSAL, has extensive experience of work in Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. He is the author of over 20 publications on the topic of youth policy, development of corporate social responsibility of business.

The program of development of children's hockey "Good ice"

Igor Baradachev

"Good ice" is the program that unites people from different cities and countries that love hockey and are always open to new ideas and projects.

Since December 2012, "the Charitable Foundation of  Elena and Gennady Timchenko" implements the program of development of children's sports "Good ice". The main goal of the program is the creation of favorable conditions for the development of children's hockey in Russia and the increasing interest in ice sports in children and adolescents. The Fund aims are to improve the professional training of coaches and specialists in ice sports, increase in the number of coaches and children's hockey teams, the development of hockey infrastructure, development of physical abilities of children and promote a healthy lifestyle.

Key partners in the implementation of the program "Good ice" in 2012-2016 – KHL, MHL, SKA ice hockey club, HC "Admiral", the University of physical culture, sport and health named after P. F. Lesgaft, "Academy of hockey", "Academy for sports studies", all-Russian club of young hockey players "Golden puck", the Russian ice hockey Federation, ice hockey Federation of Leningrad region, the Federation sledge hockey, Moscow.

Geography: Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, Republic of Karelia, Primorsky Krai, Khabarovsk Krai, Amur oblast, Vologda oblast, Murmansk oblast, Novgorod oblast, Sakhalin oblast, Tula oblast, Leningrad oblast, Moscow oblast.

The main results of the program in the period of December 2012 - March 2016.

  • • Organized 30 ice hockey children's tournaments and festivals, which involved more than 4,000 children and 12 500 spectators.
  • • 250 children's hockey coaches were trained in short-term training and 60 persons were trained at the Higher school of trainers.
  • • Created two sledge hockey teams – men's professional club "Zvezda" and youth club "Ladoga".
  • • Published 8 manuals in the series "Library of a children's coach" and an art book for children "When I grow up, I'm a hockey player".
  • • Conducted 2 studies of the functional abilities of young players and the influence of training process on their physical condition.
  • • Prepared videos of 11 master classes of domestic and foreign hockey experts, which are used as manuals for trainers.
  • • Built 5 ice rinks with synthetic turf, the classes skills are 5 kindergartens, where more than 200 children.
  • • 40 children's teams on a competitive basis have received support in the form of grants for development projects of hockey. The grant amount ranged from 100 thousand rubles to 1.5 million rubles.
  • • Created program website with the latest news about the development of children's hockey www.dobroled.ru

Support children's backyard hockey

The Fund's programs are implemented mainly in the regions of Russia, where it is especially noticeable that mass sport is not getting enough support either from the regional and local authorities or sports federations. Yard hockey is going through hard times. Many members of Amateur teams live in regions where there is practically no infrastructure for training not only of mass sports but also other useful Hobbies. Playing hockey for these children are often the only type of organization of healthy leisure in the winter. At the same time, they can't compete with the teams of youth sports schools, which are provided by all necessary. Amateur teams have no opportunity to travel far for competitions. In other words, held them for tournaments involving only the local teams, these tournaments are not held at all.

As practice shows, the level of training of trainers-public men is much lower than the level of coaches of children's sports schools and the Junior teams of professional clubs. In fact, they lack the basic knowledge to work with children. In addition, due to the lack of knowledge of psychology, and sometimes because of the low cultural level there are conflicts in the triangle of relationships "the coach-player-parent", which require permission, therefore, becomes relevant the training is not only coaching and teaching staff but also parents of young hockey players.

Competition of projects of development of hockey "Good ice" and the contest of literary works "have your Say about hockey!"

For the development of children's backyard hockey in the Russian regions, the Foundation organizes an annual competition-based program support the development of children's hockey. The applicant may receive a grant in the amount of 1,5 million roubles and to direct the reconstruction of the hockey rink, tournament or organization.

Over the years, under the competition of projects of development of children's hockey 43 organizations from small towns and villages received grants to improve the hockey infrastructure and the promotion of hockey in their territories in the following categories:

  • • "First steps on the ice" - to work with children up to 6 years, including teaching the skills of skating;
  • • "Hockey play real girls" - the development of women's hockey, working with teams of girls and women;
  • • "Team of our yard" - the development of backyard hockey in small towns and rural areas;
  • • "Hockey without barriers" - involvement in ice hockey for children-orphans, children from poor families, troubled youths, the development of children's sledge hockey.

In 2016, "the Charitable Foundation Elena and Gennady Timchenko" and Federation of hockey of Russia organized on a competitive basis for the preparation and publication of literature on the hockey theme. The authors who wrote scientific-methodical hockey literature, journalism and children's books, received grants from the Foundation.

To improve the material equipment of the children's hockey teams, the Fund annually at the request of regional hockey federations provides sports equipment to young hockey players from socially disadvantaged families and from villages and small towns.

The development of sledge hockey

The Foundation also supports new for our country sport - sledge hockey. This Paralympic sport is taking its first steps in Russia – there are currently 7 senior teams. In 2013, thanks to the financial support of the Fund, was organized sledge hockey club "Star" youth team "Ladoga". Still, this team is the only Junior team not only in Russia but also in Europe. The club is complicated by the fact that none of the ice Palace in Moscow is not fully adapted to this sport. In this regard, men are trained on various platforms, depending on opportunities and children's team train at the sports base "Oka" in the town of Aleksin, Tula region.

Youth team "Ladoga" twice participated in international competitions. In 2104 year was won victory in two friendly matches over their peers from the team of "South Jersey Wings Of Steel" (USA), in 2015, the team became the bronze prize-winner of the C Division at the annual tournament "Cup Cruisers" (Canada).

The development of hockey for preschoolers

One of the innovative directions of work of Fund is the implementation of the project for pre-schoolers "the First steps on the ice." This project is implemented on the basis of preschool educational institutions in Saint-Petersburg and Leningrad region, Murmansk region, Pskov and Vologda regions. Given the extreme shortage of ice for training and teaching children play skills, the project used "synthetic ice" - thermal panels of synthetic material based on polyolefin used for figure skating, hockey, Curling, etc. The process of sliding on the synthetic ice, although as close to the process of sliding on natural ice, however, has its own characteristics. First of all, it should be noted that the coefficient of friction on the surface of synthetic ice is not more than 90% of the slip ratio on the natural ice, therefore, on such surfaces it is impossible to organize official competitions. However, the same property makes synthetic ice is an ideal surface for learning and training young athletes, as well as for testing individual items in the hockey and skating. In addition, the use of "synthetic ice" confirms the practical benefits and economic feasibility of this approach in teaching the skills of skating and practicing hockey skills for children.

Scientific and analytical support of youth hockey

In the course of the scientific-analytical center of the program "Good ice" in 2013-2015, a survey of more than 100 young hockey players aged 9 to 14 years, during which determined the level of their physical health, psychological characteristics, reserve opportunities of an organism. When conducting research using innovative methods of manual therapy (osteopathy and kinesiology) with further significant rapid assessment of the health and performance of each player individually and the team as a whole.

Psychological examination included the study of mental processes, psychomotor, emotional-personal characteristics of successful social adaptation. Thus, covered biomedical, physiological, psychological and social component of their lives and activities.





Guillaume Bodet

Professor of Sport Marketing and Management at the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, at the University of Lyon (France)

Guillaume Bodet is Professor of Sport Marketing and Management at the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, at the University of Lyon (France) and a member of the Laboratory on Vulnerabilities and Innovation in Sport. He is the director of the Sport Management Master (Y2) programme at this university. He is also Visiting Fellow at the University of Loughborough (UK). His main research interests deal with sports consumer behaviour from a marketing perspective.

He has published many articles dealing with sport fans and spectators among them two focused on French ice-hockey spectators’ satisfaction. His lasted co-authored book is titled Sport Brands and was published by Routledge in 2013. Guillaume Bodet shared his expertise with many sport organisations such as the Amateur Swimming Association, ATP, UEFA, and the International Olympic Academy.


Constraints and opportunities for establishing ice hockey as a major professional sport in France

Guillaume Bodet, PhD

In May 2017, France co-host with Germany the 2017 IHF ice hockey World Championship and many observers see in this event a great opportunity for France to acquire skills and knowledge from a performing partner who has already organised such event, while showing to the most established ice-hockey nations that France has the potential to become a nation that counts in the ice hockey world.

Sportingly speaking, for the last 10 years France has been progressing and has established itself as a regular member of the top 16 nations and more and more French players are being recruited in the most competitive teams and leagues in the world. At the domestic level, things seem also promising with a stable increase in terms of participation numbers and with the inauguration of the new national centre in the Parisian region.

Although there are objective signs of development for this young federation - 10 years ago ice hockey belonged to a federation that gathered all ice sports - from the economic and organisational sides of things, challenges are numerous and make many observers wonder whether or not the sport will manage to reach the club of the top professional sports in France (football, rugby, basket-ball, handball). Among these challenges, the cultural dimension seems to play a key role as the sport has traditionally been played in mountain regions and needs to reach the biggest metropolitan areas to continue and stabilize its growth. The other challenges that apply to many team sports in France deal with facilities and fan experiences that are key when targeting casual spectators. France might expect to learn things from its German partner for the World Championship. Another challenge deals with the visibility and the quality of the Saxoprint Ligue Magnus, the domestic national league that has lacked stability and competitive balance for many years. Finally, as for many young professional sports, management and professionalization of organisations and staff remain, and will certainly remain a key issue for its development.

The development of an “upper-middle sport”

The term upper-middle sport seems to accurately describe the situation of ice hockey in France with consideration of both its national and international positions. As we will see in the later section, ice hockey is more than a century old and overall quite well established in the country and the sporting landscape, particularly around the Winter Olympics. In this sense, and in comparison with numerous countries – using for instance the World ranking – France seats in the top third both in terms of results, structures and developments. However, it is not considered as a member of the top 8 and the Elite group - it actually reached once the 8th rank in 2014 – and most of the times, the sporting ambitions for the national teams are focused on beating the main contenders for relegation in the lower division. In the same vein, the national league is not considered as one of the top leagues in Europe – ranked 9 in the Champions Hockey League ranking[1] based on performance and 10 in terms of attendance[2] - and successes in European competitions are scarce. The same situation can be drawn from the French contexts of team sports as it does have some kind of presence and notoriety in this sporting landscape but struggle to challenge the key team sports that are football, rugby, handball and basketball from the reputation, grassroots, performance and economic point of views.

To describe this situation, Branchu (2007) uses the expression “on the fence” because the sport stands between this Top 10 where it wants to become a key member and a dramatic vision that sees it on the verge of collapsing and disappearing. As this author stated, we can wonder whether French ice hockey will fall from one side or the other, or whether it will simply stand there, at its right position.

An old sport but a young governing body

As evoked in the previous section, ice hockey is not a recent sport in France, and the country is actually considered to be the first European country to welcome it in its “modern” form. And Branchu (2007) to report that Baron Pierre de Coubertin played the sport with his friends on the iced pools of the Versailles’ Castle in 1892. Although this anecdote does not seem consensually accepted, it however shows the sport has a long presence in France, which is usually considered as a positive factor of development. Branchu (2007) intended to recompose the history of French ice hockey and identified numerous early events at the basis of the foundation of French ice hockey and its early developments. Without an explicit reference the following key events are recalled by this author. In 1892, the first French ice rink named Pôle Nord was build in Paris and its immediate success conduced to the construction of a second rink, the Palais de Glace, that opened two years later. According to Genest (1990), the first exhibition game is indeed dated in 1894 following its introduction by a French Canadian and, the same year, the Hockey Club of Paris was created. In 1986, le Club des Patineurs (i.e. Skaters’ club) was created and comprised a hockey section. The first international game that opposed a French club to the Prince’s club of London occurred in 1897 and the sport was further codified in 1903 which allowed its integration to the Union des Sociétés Françaises des Sports Athlétiques which symbolized its recognition among sports in the country. In 1906-07, ice hockey players from Paris and Lyon agreed on a common code, which allowed the setting of the first national championship. The first final – term that can appear quite exaggerated considering the very small number of clubs involved – attracted about 3 000 spectators and, although the early beginnings of the sport occurred in the city of Paris, it saw the victory of the Sporting Club de Lyon over the Club des Patineurs de Paris (8 to 2).

Although, these early beginnings seemed promising, the take off did not truly happen mainly because of the difficulties linked to the access and use of ice rinks and the disappearance of clubs, hindering the continuity of the national league that relied upon very few organisations. A more sustainable development required a greater number of clubs, and some clubs start to be created in the Alpine region.

Despite these local difficulties, in 1908, France was among the founding father of the Ligue Internationale de Hockey sur Glace, ancestor of the International Ice Hockey Federation, with the French Louis Magnus as first President. The national association gathering all French winter sports, the Fédération Française des Sports d’Hiver, was also created the same year with Louis Magnus as president, which was a good thing for the development of the sport, and the first women’s game in Europe was also organised by the club of Paris. But again, despite these first events and strategic roles, ice hockey clubs in the city of Paris faced ongoing problems that limited their development and dominance. In 1910, the club of Chamonix from the Alps region was created and increasingly contested the Parisian clubs, until a first national victory in 1923.

At the international level, 1920 was the first participation of the French national team to the Olympic Games, 1923 was the first participation to the European Championships, with a first European title in 1924, and 1930 was the first participation to the World Championships. Unfortunately, these early participations were not followed by significant performances, and the national league kept on following an on-and-off path without showing sustainable progress and the AC Boulogne-Billancourt’s three consecutive victories (1959-61) at the Spengler Cup are just examples of these cycles, of these great periods and performances that were not foundational.

During all these years, French ice hockey at club level repeatedly suffered from the same related problems: overreliance on individual patrons and business angels, overreliance on French Canadian players and an overall a small quantity of players, and short-term visions of decision-makers, especially in terms of results, which blocked the development of a sustainable professionalism, formation and grassroots hockey, that in turn could not facilitate the improvement of French ice hockey at an international level.

This constant pattern of development faced a turning point in the late sixties - early seventies in the wave of the Grenoble Winter Olympics Games and the concomitant construction of numerous artificial ice rinks and arenas in plain cities (e.g. Dunkerque, Reims, Amiens, Lyon, the metropolitan Parisian area), which allowed the creation and structuration of clubs that could start focusing on grassroots developments and cut with the “professional model” that was not sustainable in the previous period. The creation of clubs subsequently created regional leagues in various parts of the country. Nevertheless, this high rate of creation was accompanied by a high rate of disappearances, and was not immediately transferred to the national level due to mismanagement, lack of staffing and formation.

Ice hockey remained during this period a minority sport and, despite peaks of exposure and attention due to negative incidents (e.g. violence against referees, teams refusing to play, etc.) and, on the opposite, thanks to the performance of the French national team during major tournaments (e.g. 1992 Olympic Games in Albertville), the sport remained confidential, and structurally and financially vulnerable. For instance, Delorme (2011) found that between 1992 and 2006, ice hockey significantly lacked of media (newspapers and television) exposure, and especially in comparison with ice-skating.

The question of the autonomy of French ice hockey from the winter sports national governing body progressively appeared but did not follow a linear curve. For instance, in 1994, disappointments were born regarding media deals that should have more significantly benefitted to ice hockey, but mainly benefited to ice-skating (Delorme, 2011). In 1996, ice-hockey clubs threatened to create an independent national association but after tumultuous discussions and an extraordinary general assembly decided to remain with the winter sport federation (i.e. FFSG). This outcome could partly be explained by the divergent visions of two groups within French ice hockey: the “traditionalists” on one hand, who mainly came from Alpine clubs and were quite opposed to the professionalization process, and on the other hand those who mainly came from clubs located in plain areas, and favoured a professional model, hugely inspired from the National Hockey League (Delorme, 2011). Meanwhile, the French winter sport federation had been facing serious ongoing political, governance and financial unrests that created a climate of instability. From this instability, an independent governing body was created in 2006.

Since its creation, this dedicated governing body has had two main axis of development that are its own development and sustainability and the set up actions to develop the sport via the French national teams, formation of coaches and managers, clubs, referees, ice rinks, and marketing events. Moreover, thanks to this specific governing body the visibility of the sport in the media seems to have increased, improving its presence in the French sporting landscape.

Sporting aspects look promising

Nowadays, the sporting aspects seem promising, particularly at the international level. The men and women’s team currently occupy the 14th and 13th positions of the respectively 2016[3] and 2017[4] IIHF World Rankings. The men’s team has appeared in the elite division since 2008 and managed to reach the 8th rank in 2014. At club level, results seem also to improve as illustrated by the victory of the Rouen Dragons in the 2015-16 IIHF Continental Cup for the second time.

In 2017, 17 members of the French men’s team played in hockey leagues abroad and well-renowned leagues such as the National Hockey League (i.e. Auvitu Y., Bellemare P.E., and Roussel A.), the Kontinental Hockey League (i.e. Da Costa S. and Fleury D.) and the Swiss National league A. Eleven members of the French women’s team played abroad in Canada, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA. The growing contingent of players tend to demonstrate the growing importance and quality of French grassroots programme that have been for a very long time a key weakness of the development of the sport in France as Branchu noticed over the years (2007). However, as we will later discuss, this recognition can also be a double-edge sword if these players early leave the French leagues. This increasing quality of French players is likely to be correlated to the growth of the number of participants and registered players. Indeed, 20 474 players were registered in 2015 representing an increase of more than 21% in comparison with the year 2006[5].

This new governing body appears to have offered more stability from the governance and financial points of view and ambitious perspectives as well. This is exemplified with the opening in November 2016 of a new complex gathering the biggest permanent ice rink in France, with a maximum capacity of 4 5000 spectators, the office of the national governing body and a national centre where the national teams could train and prepare for major tournaments and competition following the models of the French football and rugby federations. This complex that is situated in the Parisian region cost about 43 millions of euros, with 19 millions funded by the French State and 23 millions funded by the metropolitan community of the city of Cergy-Pontoise[6]. Beyond its important capacity according to French standards, this arena was designed to provide high quality services, particularly hospitality, and to provide entertaining and exciting experiences to attract spectators who are not familiar with the sport. Although the primary objective is to meet French national teams’ needs, a secondary objective is to provide a great tool for a Parisian club. Having a solid and performing Parisian club appears to be a key element in the development of the Magnus League, as the Parisian region is the historic place of ice hockey and represents a huge potential in terms of players, spectators and sponsors.

One key priorities of the governing body was to ensure the national league – the Ligue Magnus, was more stable and attractive, to be the flagship of the sport in France[7]. The progressive structuration started in 2010 and implemented various requirements that were increasingly important over time and focused on the sporting organisation, legal status, financial issues, formation and grassroots development, staffing and competences, and marketing and communication. It also included a salary cap to avoid the excesses of the past that made clubs disappear and to create a more balanced competition to attract medias, spectators and sponsors. Improvements are clearly observable and the naming of the league by a sponsor is an illustration of the growing attractiveness towards commercial partners while the organisation of the first Winter Game, in the fashion of what is done in the North American league, in the football stadium of Lyon in December 2016, that attracted 25 182 spectators[8] and represented the best attendance for an ice hockey game in France demonstrates the potential appetite of French spectators.

This positive dynamic was rewarded with the co-organisation of the 2017 Ice Hockey World Championships with Germany, about 50 years after the last edition in France, demonstrating the progress are also recognized by other federations and national associations, and particularly the German ice hockey federation that accepted to partner France. One group played in Paris, while the other one played in Cologne. Paris will benefit from the refurbished AccorHotel Arena with a capacity of about 20 000 spectators. Beyond the sporting objectives, the organisation of the event aims to demonstrate to various direct and indirect stakeholders (e.g. spectators, sponsors, international organisations) the professionalism of the governing body, the progresses of the sport and its potential to seduce masses.

A “glass ceiling” to the top?

With such a long history in France, and considering the overall wealth and appetite for team sports in the country, the current situation can appear quite disappointing, even if recent progresses were noticed in line with the quite recent creation of the national governing body. The question, as evoked in the introduction, is whether French ice hockey has the capacity to finally break this glass ceiling to the top to make them a real contender for trophies and medals and at both national team and club levels or whether it will keep on fighting against relegation from group A in international competitions, as it has always done since the nineties. To reach this upper level, French ice hockey needs to improve and overcome several related aspects that impact clubs, leagues and national teams. These issues are: a lack of visibility and awareness in comparison with major team sports in France, an uneven geographical distribution and economic potential, a cultural meaning, a lack of spectators and fans, and a slow professionalization process. All these issues will be discussed in the following paragraphs.

A visibility and identification issue

This issue is one of the key issues for many sports and many team sports that is the absence of key figures and key characters - Bouchet, Hillairet & Bodet (2013) would talk about athlete brands – that attract medias attention and consequently public interest. This situation can be summarized with the following questions: who knows from the general public the best player or pointer from the Saxoprint Ligue Magnus? Do you know any player from the Saxoprint Ligue Magnus? Unfortunately, anyone asked these questions in the street would not be able to answer although it would be different for team sports such as football, rugby and even handball.

Almost from the beginning, clubs and national teams heavily relied on French Canadian players who were better than the French players, could speak French, and would very quickly improve the quality of a team and make a difference, especially in unbalanced championships. For instance in 1936-37, the sole two French teams did not have a single French player ! (Branchu, 2007). During the eighties, the French men’s national team comprised a majority of French Canadians with a double nationality status. This was also the case of other European countries like the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Italy, however, according to Branchu (2007), these countries better use these players to develop the following generations. France had a few of these “star players” that could attract medias with for instance Philippe Bozon, who was the first French player to play in the National Hockey League (NHL), and Christobal Huet, the first French player to win the Stanley Cup, with the Chicago Blackhawks, and take part in the NHL All Stars game. Unfortunately these athletes played most of their career abroad and consequently did not help raising the profile of the French national league. This is actually what currently happens, as most of the best French players do not compete in the Saxoprint Ligue Magnus. Out of the 25 players of the French squad taking part to the 2017 World Championships, only 10 come from the Saxoprint Ligue Magnus[9], and from only 3 teams (i.e. Rouen Dragons, Bordeaux Boxers, and Gap Rapaces). As mentioned above this high number can be source of pride as it shows the quality of French players and formation, however it does not contribute to development of the local league. On the contrary, it could be seen as a weakening factor as there is no big transfer monies in ice hockey that could help clubs to replace French stars with foreign stars and/or future talents. A few of the current players like Christobal Huet (Lausanne FC), Antoine Roussel (Dallas Stars), and Stéphane Da Costa (CSK Moscow) do benefit from attention from generic sport-specific medias but rarely attract the attention of non sport medias.

The same situation is observed in the Saxoprint Ligue Magnus were about 55% of the teams’ squad is composed of foreign players. The national governing body imposed a minimum of 10 local players[10] however because of the Bosman rule and the attractive quality/cost ratio of players from the European Union that the number of local players rarely goes beyond the minimum required. Having foreign players is not a bad thing as it helps improve the quality of the teams and the Ligue at both national and European levels, however it does not help raising the awareness of the sport and the clubs among people who are not ice hockey connoisseurs and followers. For the latter ones, performances and victories are certainly appealing but the proximity with local players, who born and bread in the region or the city are more powerful factors of identification, and marketing, communication and storytelling material for medias and sponsors, especially in non-metropolitan areas. It is possible to create this kind of identification with foreign players however it is likely to happen when there is enough time to create an attachment which is difficult considering the high turnover of players in French clubs. Indeed, French clubs are often considered as steps to bigger leagues and clubs, and when performances good they attract the attention of foreign clubs and leagues like those from Germany, Switzerland, or Sweden, and as they are more sportingly and financially appealing, players scouted are difficult to retain.

Competitive balance is often put forward as a key element factor for league successes, and in particularly by the French national governing body. Considering the long history of imbalance of the national league, this certainly can be considered as an improvement. However we can wonder whether it is only positive from a marketing and communication point of view. It is likely that sponsors appreciate it because they like the idea of partnering with a team that can win trophies or be competitive with a reasonable investment, however, when it is too balanced champions change very often and it can be difficult for medias and spectators to follow. Especially, the former ones seem to like success stories and great teams that can be structuring in terms of knowledge. For this reason, a fully uncertain league is rarely the best configuration, and strong rivalries and tough competitions between 3 or 4 teams are generally sufficient to generate enough media attention, uncertainty and storytelling to print people’s mind and memory. Moreover, we can wonder whether competitive balance is sufficient to generate public and sponsors’ interest in the absence of celebrity players that were found to be a basic factor for ice hockey spectators’ satisfaction in France (Bodet & Bernache-Assollant, 2009).

Last, it should be noted that when speaking about ice hockey, it mainly if not only concerns the men’s national team and women’s ice hockey is never considered. Although feminisation of sports has occurred in France in recent decades (Lefèvre & Thierry, 2010), ice hockey remains a male dominated sport, and particularly in terms of images and representations, that is probably due to the way the sport is often portrayed and talked about in the medias, and the level of perceived violence and aggressiveness in comparison with other sports. Considering the situation in countries where ice hockey is among the most popular sports it is unlikely that the situation would change on a short-term perspective.

A geographical and therefore economic issue

The second challenge French ice hockey is facing deals with its distribution in the country that has implications in terms of awareness and visibility on one hand, and in terms of economic and financial issues on the other hand. According to Delorme (2011), the geographical diffusion of the elite structure of ice hockey has been marked by three phases over time.

  1. The bi-polar phase (1910-1962): Paris and the Alps region were the two dominant areas of ice hockey;
  2. The Alpine phase (1962-1988): about 60% of elite clubs came from the Alps region and 25 out of the 26 national championships were won by clubs from this region. During this period, Grenoble became the centre of this development;
  3. The ‘plain’ phase (1988-2006): clubs located in plain areas become progressively dominant in terms of numbers and sporting results: the Alpine clubs are worth 25% of the elite teams and win only two national championships during this period.

After 2006, this trend was reinforced, with diffusion towards new areas and the settling in major cities in France (e.g. Lyon, Bordeaux, Nice). This is illustrated in Table 1, that compares the composition of the Ligue Magnus during the 2010-11 and 2016-17 seasons. Moreover, in the table are indicated inner city population but when suburbs and metropolitan areas are considered the gap increases as bigger cities have bigger metropolitan areas (e.g. Lyon’s inner city population is 484 k residents but is about 1 500 k residents when the metropolitan area is considered).




Number of

Residents (k)*



Number of

Residents** (k)






























































Villard de Lans







* in 2008; ** in 2013

Source: https://www.insee.fr/fr/statistiques/zones/2021173?debut=0&q=population+legales+2013

Table 1: A comparison of the composition of the Ligue Magnus between 2010 and 2016

In parallel with a diffusion in plain areas and major French cities, it can be noted that from the late eighties, small clubs in the Alps region that were historic bastions of the sport have started merging to compete with more established clubs benefiting from larger areas in terms of population and consequently private companies. The trend is illustrated in the table with the merger between the clubs of Chamonix and Morzine that remain small actors even after the union. The diffusion from the Alps region to plain region is simultaneously the drive and the result of the start of the professionalization process. Finally, despite this trend and despite the fact that Paris is the place of origin of ice hockey, we can still observe the absence of a Parisian club in the Saxoprint Ligue Magnus while there is only one club from the region in the second division (i.e. Neuilly sur Marne in Division 1). Considering the population and the economic importance of the Parisian region, this absence certainly constitutes a limitation to the development of the club and a priority for the French national governing body. As mentioned in the introduction, the opening of the national centre that comprises a high-quality rink in the Parisian region could represent a great leveraging opportunity for one of the 5 Parisian clubs playing in the third division. However, it will take some times to have a competing Parisian club in the top national league.

A fan experience issue

If having a good « sporting product »[11] constitutes a legitimate priority, managers should not forget that not all spectators prioritize the results and the sporting performance dimension of games and competition (Bouchet, Bodet, Bernache-Assollant, & Kada, 2011), and that many spectators look for emotions, great ambiances and experiences and top-quality facilities and hospitality services. This is for instance what Bodet & Bernache-Assollant (2009) identified when they found that them most contributing factors to satisfaction (and dissatisfaction) were the numbers of food and drink points of sale, the availability of a game program, the helpfulness of the staff, the comfort of the seats, the starting time of the game, and the location in the arena. Consequently aiming to develop the sport in focusing only on ‘supporters’ will not be the best strategy. For instance, this observation was already made by the Stade Français Rugby Club and they succeeded in attracting huge crowds by transforming the rugby games in great shows and entertainment (Bodet, 2009). The national French governing body, along several club managers, seems to have identified this factor but the main issue is that they do not fully control the “product”, or more specifically the service, that is the responsibility of clubs. In particular, there is a huge heterogeneity in terms of ice rinks and many of them are old and publicly owned representing limits for the staging of great spectator services and experiences. The fact the majority of them signifies that they were not created with fan experience in mind and that, from an economic point of view, do not comply with the current professional business model that relies upon significant incomes coming from hospitality services and business boxes. Similarly to other team sports in France (e.g. handball and basket-ball), these arenas are generally limited in terms of capacity, which again reduces potential income and does not really allow French clubs to compete on the European level. Even if the numbers appear to grow they remain limited and only one French appearing in the top 100 club attendance in Europe: the club of Lyon with 3 693 spectators on average is ranked 100![12]

A cultural issue

The next challenge, which is linked to the previous issues discussed is cultural and deals with the meanings and representations associated to the sport in France. For many people ice hockey is considered as a winter sport – the fact that it belonged to the winter sport federation during many years contributed to this representation, the winter Olympics and generally speaking the mountain and the Alps region. Consequently, broadening the geographical distribution of the sport in the country will require a change of perceptions from the stakeholders, parents and spectators s in particular. We already noted that Paris and Lyon were the places of origin of ice hockey but interestingly only specialists and ice hockey fans would know it. The organisation of the 2017 World Championships in May in Paris could therefore appear surprising for the general public, but if it is successful it could represent a nice leveraging opportunity to change people’s representation and make them consider ice hockey as a “normal” team sport like other indoor popular team sport.

Nevertheless, the broadening of the cultural meaning of ice hockey could possibly represent a threat for the Alps region’s clubs that are traditionally associated with the sport. Moreover, we already indicated that to survive to the increasing professionalization, that they opposed to in the past as Branchu (2007) recalled, and economic and financial requirements, small clubs have had to merge (for instance what happened to St Gervais and Megève who were respectively 1st and 4th of the league in 1986). These merges always create tensions and resistance towards what is seen as an identity loss, particularly when the fieriest rival becomes the new partner, and the sporting performances do not improve significantly, and in turn diminish attendance. Although, it is important that ice hockey settle in major cities and metropolitan areas, a weaker ice hockey in the historic bastion of the Alps region would not help the sport to achieve its ambitions and objectives. In line with the professionalization issue that will be address in the following section, there is always a risk in alienating fans and traditionalists (Giulianotti, 2005) because of the commodification of their sport – the fact that the president of the federation talks about ‘product’[13] about the league illustrates this process. Last, the question remains about what would represent this “new sport” for spectators and sponsors. In his book about iconic brands, Holt (2004) considers that the principal reason behind the success of these brands is the fact that they provide new cultural and symbolic meanings to those who consume them. If ice hockey wants to become more successful in France, it has to provide such a meaning that is different from what other team sports are providing. Being simply a new sporting alternative that will provide high performance and trophies, and fun and entertaining experiences is not enough as it is already provided with the current team sports: for instance football for its universality, handball for the sporting successes, basket-ball for the American-type shows, and rugby for the star players.

A professionalization issue

The last issue actually concerns many sports and sporting organisations in France and abroad and deals with their professionalization. Before all, it has to do with a state of mind that consider that structures and skills lead to sporting success. When said that way it is quite easy to share this vision when it deals with making arbitrages between players and sporting aspects and administrative and development aspects, this is not as easy. The history of French ice hockey, even the recent history, has shown that French ice hockey managers rarely had long-term visions that required investment in structures, organisations and employees, but rather went for short-term results driven by over-paid players, in comparison with the resources available, that drove successful teams and even national league champions to bankruptcy and disappearances. This is illustrated by Branchu (2007) who observed that until the eighties many French clubs recruited foreign coaches that were not truly skilful professionals instead of focusing on formation and developing home-grown coaches and talents. Investing on the right people, with the right skills to develop the sport and businesses, when professional clubs are considered, is key and has to be seen as the sole sustainable way to achieve great sporting successes. Furthermore, as noted by Delorme (2011), professionalization was not driven by the French ice hockey governing bodies but by certain clubs, explaining the huge discrepancy of situations between clubs. Although the French federation considers structuration and professionalization, that goes beyond the mere payment of players and employees but an overall process that searches for a greater performance in various domains of the sport, as key issues, it will have to be shared by all clubs’ owners and managers to avoid the same mistakes as those made in the past and to further develop the sport to make it break the glass ceiling to world elite.


1. Bodet, G. (2009). “Give me a stadium and I will fill it”. An analysis of the marketing management strategy of Stade Français Paris rugby club. International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship, April, 252–262.

2. Bodet, G., & Bernache-Assollant, I. (2009). Do fans care about hot dogs? A satisfaction analysis of French ice hockey spectators. International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing, 5(1/2), 15–37.

3. Bouchet, P., Bodet, G., Bernache-Assollant, I., & Kada, F. (2011). Segmenting sport spectators: Construction and preliminary validation of the Sporting Event Experience Search (SEES) scale. Sport Management Review, 14, 42–53.

4. Bouchet, P., Hillairet, D., & Bodet, G. (2013). Sport brands. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

5. Branchu, M. (2007). Histoire du hockey sur glace en France. Paris, France: Alan Sutton.

6. Delorme, N. (2011). Stratégie fédérale et développement d’un sport spectacle. L’exemple du hockey sur glace en France. Socio-histoire d’un échec ? Doctoral thesis, Université de Grenoble, Grenoble, France.

7. Genest, S. (1990). La diffusion du hockey sur glace en France : une note de recherche. Mappemonde, 2, 44–45.

8. Giulianotti, R. (2005). Sport spectators and the social consequences of commodification: Critical perspectives from Scottish football. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 29(4), 386–410.

9. Holt, D. B. (2004). How brands become icons. The principles of cultural branding. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

10. Lefèvre, B., & Thierry, P. (2010). Les premiers résultats de l’enquête 2010 sur les pratiques physiques et sportives en France. Stat-Info, Décembre.




 Ð­Ð½Ð´Ñ€ÑŽ Холман

Andrew C. Holman

 Professor of History and Director of the Canadian Studies Program at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts, USA.

Professor Holman has published widely on themes in the history of ice-hockey in Canada and the United States. He is the editor of «Canada's Game: Hockey and Identity» and co-editor/contributor for «The Same but Different: Hockey in Quebec». With his co-author, Stephen Hardy (University of New Hampshire), he is completing a scholarly book on the global history of ice-hockey, called «The Coolest Game: A History of Ice Hockey».  Born and raised in southern Ontario, he was educated at McGill University and McMaster University, and earned his PhD at York University (Toronto) in 1995. He has been teaching at Bridgewater State since 1996. From 1998 to 2011, he was head coach of the Bridgewater State Bears men's intercollegiate ice hockey team.



Pucks on the Page: Hockey Literature in North America

Andrew C. Holman, PhD

If you want to know something about a people’s culture, American writer Charles W. Chesnutt argued in an 1899 speech, “read its books.”[14] When he uttered these words, it is impossible that Chesnutt was thinking about ice hockey, and yet his words resonate loudly for us more than a century later. Until relatively recently, few people would have spoken the words “hockey” and “literature” in the same sentence. Though both are elements of popular culture, one is a simple, sometimes brutal game that belongs to the masses; the other is an academic, intellectual pursuit. And yet, in the past 30 years, the two elements have come together. Serious writing about hockey – novels, creative nonfiction, poetry and analytical commentary - has grown impressively in North America into a field that some call “PuckLit.” So, for us, if you want to know something about hockey as a social and cultural phenomenon in North America, read its hockey books.

This presentation undertakes a few tasks. First, it surveys the wide variety of writing about hockey in Canada and the United States, from the rise of “how-to-play” hockey manuals in the 1890s and the emergence of “pulp” fiction – stories for juveniles and players’ biographies and autobiographies in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Then it touches upon “serious” literature: the poetry, novels, and intellectual musings about hockey that first emerged in the 1960s and 70s, and blossomed in the 1990s. It comments upon the more recent phenomenon of the digital revolution and, more particularly, the ways in which serious writing about hockey has been affected by new, more immediate, electronic means of communication, especially “blogging.”

From all of this emerge two basic arguments. The first one is simple. Analytical writing about hockey has been with us for almost as long as we have had hockey. Since the late nineteenth century, not long after the modern sport of hockey was founded in Montreal in 1875, we have had people trying to explain it, to teach it to others, to draw meaning from it, and to use it as a setting for life lessons. Hockey literature, then, is more than just entertainment, it is instructional, prescriptive, and tutelary.

Those functions become more appreciable when we consider how much hockey literature is out there. It is huge. One recent search conducted using the website of the Library and Archives of Canada (LAC, the place most likely to contain the largest collection of publications on hockey) returned 5,640 entries.[15] The LAC has recognized Canadians’ hunger for reading about hockey and so they have encouraged them to do more of it. For example, in 2003 the LAC created “Backcheck: A Hockey Retrospective,” an online resource using its hockey literature. Now archived, the feature ran for about five years and introduced online readers to the depths of the National Library’s collection of hockey materials, including thematic summaries and introductions of topics, such “French-Canadian hockey” and “women’s hockey.” In October 2015, the LAC used some of its public lobby space to stage a hockey-themed museum exhibit called “Hockey: Marching as to War,” which commemorated Canada’s role in World War I through the lens of the country’s national winter sport.[16] All of this is illustrative of a bigger relationship between sport, literacy and culture: hockey literature has been a principal way in which hockey (in Canada and in other places) has been learned, absorbed, marketed, and appreciated. Literature is one key way in which youth in Canada and the United States encounter the sport of hockey; and it is, arguably, equally key in maintaining interest in the game among young people. It fits squarely with the conference theme of recruitment and retention.

The second argument I wish to make is more analytical and expresses a basic truth. Hockey literature is always an imagined version of the game, a representation. What we are reading when we read hockey literature is not the game described in its fullness; it is only as close to the real thing as words will allow us to get. This is true for both fiction and non-fiction accounts.  Hockey is too elusive for literature; the sport is too fast and has too much complexity for any writer to capture completely on the page.

In the introduction to my 2005 collection of scholarly essays on hockey called Canada’s Game, I tell a story about a television producer for Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC), that country’s Saturday-night national broadcast of beloved NHL games. After speaking to a group of scholars at a conference at the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec, he was questioned about HNIC’s role as a national storyteller. He was asked the question: “when there is so much going on in the building, in the stands, behind the benches, on the ice … how do you determine which of those stories to privilege, to tell?”  “What do you mean?” he responded, a bit irritated. “We just show the game as it really happened.”[17]

As it really happens. Of course, in literature, we know that that can never be done. There is a funny and often-told quip about the famous Foster Hewitt, who did the play-by-play call for NHL games on HNIC on radio in the 1940s.  When HNIC was first broadcast on television in 1952, Hewitt was hired to do the TV broadcast, too; and that’s when his “creativity” as an announcer began to be fully appreciated. Some viewers were allegedly surprised that the game he was calling bore little resemblance to the same one they were watching on the screen. Some joked that with HNIC on TV, now Canadians were delivered two games at once! In a way, the same dilemma faces hockey writers, who are always struggling to describe the undescribable. How can one capture the excitement of a Bobby Hull slapshot, a Pavel Bure end-to-end rush, or Tretiak kick-save? Language fails us; and yet we keep trying. We capture the play as best we can, but never perfectly.

With those arguments in mind, we can survey the nature of hockey literature in North America. By my reckoning, there are six main categories of hockey literature.[18] Each of them is important in its own way; all are both agents for teaching and explaining the game and, at the same time, representations of it.

The oldest form of hockey literature out there is made up of hockey manuals or, we might say, “How-to-Play” books and articles. This genre started with Arthur Farrell’s 1899 handbook called Hockey: Canada’s Royal Winter Game and has continued with massive numbers of how-to books in every decade ever since.[19] As the sport has become more sophisticated in its strategy and tactics, how-to books have mirrored this complexity. It is also true that these books never contained only the technical details. They seem always to be wrapped in “spin,” and contain some moral message of admonishment towards prospective players: to be gentlemen, to be good team players and friends, to be ethical and moral, to be a good family member, to respect opponents, etc. Underlying their lessons is the belief that good behavior in society is built right into the rules—the “bones” of the game.


Most prolific among these categories of hockey literature is popular non-fiction, stories about hockey written largely by popular writers for popular audiences. Among these books are the many biographies and autobiographies written about and by hockey’s great individual stars and colorful characters, and about North American hockey’s great teams. Smaller in number than the biographies produced in North America’s other big-league sports (Football, baseball and Basketball), they are, nonetheless, substantial.  Examples of these range from older, wholly celebratory volumes about a player’s life and accomplishments, such as … to more recent accounts that offer more critical and thoughtful views on the game and its challenges. Among those in the latter category are books such as Georges Laraque’s Georges Laraque and Bobby Orr’s Orr: My Story.[20]

A third category we might call Hockey Scholarship—that is, academic non-fiction. These articles and books are based on research done by largely university-based scholars in fields such as Sociology, Political Science, Sports Management and especially, History. These works read hockey as a text, or use it as a lens that can tell us something about broader subjects such as nationalism, gender identity, race and racism, language politics, hockey as big business and regionalism. In North America, serious and sustained study of hockey started in earnest with the publication of Richard Gruneau and David Whitson’s 1993 book Hockey Night in Canada.[21] Since then it has blossomed through books such as Jamie Dopp and Richard Harrison’s Now is the Winter; Jason Blake’s Canadian Hockey Literature, and Michael Robidoux’s recent  Stickhandling Through the Margins, to name but three in a growing field.[22]


Though the term “PuckLit,” has been used widely to describe the flourish of writing in all genres of hockey literature, technically it describes best our fourth category of writing: serious fiction—the growing numbers of novels, short stories and graphic novels that describe and critique the game.  In the past 20 years, hockey has become an important setting for fiction writers, and there is a critical mass of work; so much so that two recent scholars have written whole books about the field: Jason Blake’s Canadian Hockey Literature and Michael Buma’s Refereeing Identity.[23] Therefore we cannot survey this whole genre—it is too large, but two examples are worth mentioning as representative of the quality in this field. The first of these is Cara Hedley’s Twenty Miles, a novel that tells the story of Isobel Norris, the daughter of a hockey star who died young. “Iz” inherited her Dad’s “hands” and grew up playing on boys’ teams is recruited to play on the women’s team at Winnipeg University. The story is a gendered coming-of-age narrative, in which the main character falls out of love with her inherited sport, and struggles back to it, falling back in love with it for the right reasons.[24] A second example is Richard Wagamese’s, Indian Horse, which tells the story of a First Nations boy stolen from his family and placed in an Indian Residential School in northern Ontario hundreds of miles from his home. The novel traces his journey, one where he finds both freedom and exploitation/abuse through the sport of hockey.[25] Taken together, the novels demonstrate how hockey is a troubled place, where gender and race complicate Canada’s love affair with its national sport.

A fifth category brings us squarely into the twenty-first century: digital communication. The internet has possibility of revolutionizing the way we write about and analyze hockey, because it “democratizes” the field, and allows just about anyone with the desire and commitment to maintain a weblog the opportunity to create his/her own public, his/her own market of consumers. Though this sort of writing still in its infancy—most hockey weblogs are not what one can call “deep” or “serious.” But there are a small handful that provide new, useful perspectives on hockey that would not have found their way into print otherwise. The best examples of these is, perhaps, University of Toronto lecturer Mark Norman’s website called “Hockey in Society: Exploring Critical Social Issues in Hockey,” which provides a regularly updated and very useful variety of articles and reviews that assess hockey’s intersection with politics, economics and social concerns.[26]

Our final category is, perhaps, an unanticipated one: poetry. And with it, we have saved the best for last. Because hockey action is so hard to capture in words, because it demands representative language in order to capture its flow, poets – the masters of symbolism and representation - might well be the writers who are best equipped to relate what hockey means as a social and cultural phenomenon. In North America, there have been in the past 50 years several excellent poets who have written about hockey, and all of them have made us think more fully (and often humorously) about the sport as a cultural phenomenon, as a sport that reveals what societies think about nation, and gender, and violence. One of them is Canadian Al Purdy, who in his 1965 poem called “Hockey Players” described our sport as a “combination of ballet and murder”![27] Another is Randall Maggs, who in a 2008 poem about goalies called “One of You” described the loneliness and brutality of the position through 1928 New York Ranger netminder Lorne Chabot, who “....when someone asked / him why he always took the trouble to shave before a game, / … answered in a quiet voice, / ‘I stitch better when my skin is smooth’ …”[28]

For poet Beth Goobie, hockey is a metaphor for patrimony or masculine inheritance; what a father passes on to his son: “a hockey player’s body is intended / as a national anthem, flag of tendons, / … history building itself / into one man’s flesh. bobby hull, bobby orr, / maurice richard… / … each man dances and dangles / in his sleep, wanting to follow… / … tries to teach this passing/ of gods to his son.[29]

Richard Harrison’s poem “Russians” pushes a Canadian narrator to ponder the meanings of both winning and losing in the Canada-Russia Summit Series of September 1972:


We need them. They made the act of a single Canadian

Canada’s act in ’72, the shot so sweet it has replayed

a million times. Henderson, leaping faces the camera as if

it’s each of us; Cournoyer embraces his ribs, CANADA

on his shoulders. And the Soviets, confused, upset,

they left him uncovered and Canada’s greatest shot

was a rebound; I tell you how good it felt to win, and

you, trying to love me in this moment, ask Who’s this?...

They played the better game and should have beaten

the high-priced men who laughed at their ancient skates

and the way their trainer collected the pucks in a plastic

bucket during practice because they had so few…

He did his best. They almost won. His own name forgotten,

he is looking where you are, and you are asking me,

find him.[30]

In these excerpts, and in so many other poems in which hockey appears, poetry acts as a way for us to ask important questions about the game we love, about the game that we assume is natural and organic – instead of what it really is: man-made, socially constructed, and often flawed. Indeed, all hockey literature has the power to make us think deeply about the game – about its wonderfully positive attributes, but about its problems, as well. It has the power, too, to get us to think about the possibilities for change; about ways to make it even better, more accessible, and even more reflective of the societies that embrace it and see themselves in it. If you want to know hockey, read its books.


1. Charles W. Chesnutt, “Literature in Its Relation to Life,” reprinted in Joseph R. McElrath, Jr et al., eds. Charles W. Chesnutt: Essays and Speeches (Palo Alto, Cal.: Stanford University Press, 1999) 114.

2. Library and Archives of Canada, www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/, accessed 5 March 2017.

3. The exhibit operated until January 22, 2016. See https://thediscoverblog.com/tag/hockey/. Accessed 5 March 2017.

4. Andrew C. Holman, ed. Canada’s Game: Hockey and Identity (Kingston & Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009) 3-4.

5. Journalism is excluded. My focus here is on writing that has “shelf life” longer than the daily or weekly news cycle.

6. Arthur Farrell, Hockey: Canada’s Royal Winter Game (Montreal: C.R. Corneil, 1899). For other examples, see Thomas K. Fisher, Ice Hockey: A Manual for Player and Coach (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1926); Mervyn Dutton, Hockey: The Fastest Game on Earth (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1938); Richard F. Vaughan and Holcomb York, Hockey, for Spectator, Coach and Player (New York: Whittlesey House, McGraw-Hill, 1939); Lloyd Percival, The Hockey Handbook (Toronto: Copp Clarl Company, 1951).

7. Georges Laraque, Georges Laraque: The Story of the NHL’s Unlikeliest Tough Guy (Toronto: Viking Canada, 2011); Bobby Orr, Orr: My Story (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2013). Team biographies are another important elemnt in this genre. See, for example, Chrys Goyens and Allan Turowetz, Lions in Winter

8. Richard Gruneau and David Whitson, Hockey Night in Canada: Sport, Identities, and Cultural Politics (Scarborough, Ont. Garamond Press, 1993).

9. Jamie Dopp and Richard Harrison, Now is the Winter: Thinking about Hockey (Hamilton, Ont.: Wolsak & Wynn, 2009); Jason Blake, Canadian Hockey Literature (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010); Michael Robidoux, Stickhandling through the Margins: First Nations Hockey in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012).

10. Blake, Canadian Hockey Literature; Michael Buma, Refereeing Identity: The Cultural Work of Canadian Hockey Novels (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2012).

11. Cara Hedley, Twenty Miles (Toronto: Coach House Books, 20014).

12. Richard Wagamese, Indian Horse (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2012).

13. “Hockey in Society: Exploring Critical Social Issues in Hockey,” https://hockeyinsociety.com/ (accessed 29 April 2017).

14. Al Purdy, “Hockey Players” in Michael P.J. Kennedy, ed. Going Top Shelf: An Anthology of Canadian Hockey Poetry (Surrey, B.C.: Heritage House, 2005) 25-26.

15. Randall Maggs, Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems (London, Ont.: Brick Books, 2008)

16. Beth Goobie, “a hockey player’s body” in Dale Jacobs, ed. Ice: New Writing about Hockey (Edmonton, Alta: Spotted Cow Press, 1999) 27-29.

17. Richard Harrison, “Russians,” in Hero of the Play (Toronto: Wolsak & Wynn, 2004) 33.




Young Hoon Kim

Chair in the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of North Texas, USA, PhD

Dr. Young Hoon Kim is an educator, consultant, speaker, and researcher in the Convention and Event Management. He is currently serving as Interim Chair in the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of North Texas (UNT) since 2014. His primary research focus is destination marketing and management, as structured through destination marketing organizations. In particular, his work emphasizes destination marketing and management as tools for destination development.  He applies both traditional and creative methodologies to theories.

He has published approximately 200 articles and conference proceedings. Dr. Kim has served on the editorial board member for journals; as a reviewer for more than ten leading hospitality, tourism, sport, and business journals; as a reviewer for national and international conferences; and as editor of a book review.  As an extension of his scholarly work, he has partnered with many national and international convention and visitors bureaus to enhance community development.



The Republic of Korea (South Korea) and Ice Hockey

Yong Hoon Kim, PhD


Sport event tourism is a rapidly expanding sector in the field of tourism. The study of what drives sport event tourists to travel for sport events is often looked at as an important topic for sport marketing. As one of many winter sports, ice hockey is one of the popular sports in many countries; however, ice hockey in South Korea is still in the developing stage, comparing to the other winter sport games, such as skiing or skating. Because of many reasons: e.g., limited number of indoor ice rinks, marketing, and lack of information, ice hockey in South Korea was considered winter sport but not as famous as other winter sports. It is believed that the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games will be a great opportunity to promote ice hockey in South Korea.

This chapter will attempt to answer the following questions: 1) What is the history of ice hockey in South Korea? 2) What are the most important factors in attracting ice hockey spectators in South Korea? 3) What are the current challenges and issues for ice hockey events in South Korea? and 4) What is the best answer to promote and increase the popularity of ice hockey in South Korea. In addition, this chapter attempts to address the gap in the literature and current situation among sports tourists for ice hockey events by investigating the challenges and issues in South Korea. Additionally, an academic view on hiring and retention strategy in ice hockey in South Korea will be addressed.

The Contents

  • History of Ice Hockey in South Korea
  • Current challenges and issues for ice hockey events in South Korea
  • Important factors in attracting ice hockey spectators in South Korea
  • To promote and increase the popularity of ice hockey in South Korea
  • Recruitment and retention in South Korea
  • Conclusion and suggestions

History of ice hockey in South Korea

Ice Hockey was introduced to Korea in 1928 during the Japanese colonial period.  The Korean Ice Hockey Association was established on November (it was called, Ice Ball game) right after ice hockey was adopted as a legal winter sport game through Korean Winter Games in January, 1931. The existence of the sport does have a short history as it has been less than 40 years since they debuted at the international stage.

Their first game was against Spain at the 1979 World Ice Hockey Championships in the C-Pool league.  Although new amateur business teams joined in 1990s, it was still a challenge for the Korean National Team to compete with the more experienced and powerful teams. Meanwhile, Korean Ice Hockey National team joined Asian League Ice Hockey (AL) and they could move to the next level through their “real game” experiences.

In 2014 Mr. Jim (Jisun) Paek, who was a former player in the NHL (National Hockey League in U.S.A.) and current director of Korea Ice Hockey Association, was hired as a head coach of the national team of South Korea. During his interview with The New York Times he said, “It’d be great to say, ‘Yeah, we’d like to move up into the top 16 in the world first, and hopefully make the Olympics.’ But if it’s not the Olympics, so be it. What’s important is that we’re competitive and improve every day.” (Klein, 2014)

Now, the national team have advanced the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games to compete with other national teams who are stronger and more powerful than ever. Currently, the Korean national team is ranked 31st in the IIHF World Ranking, compete in IIHF World Championship Division I and it is believed that the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games will be a great opportunity to promote ice hockey in South Korea.

Korea Ice Hockey Association Strategic Plan

Vision Statement: “One-Body” – One movement under one vision and mission to create new ice hockey history.

Mission Statement: To become an ice hockey leader and create new market in Asia through the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Game by working with IIHF and KIHA.

Objectives by Steps

  • Step 1: Advanced to the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Game
  • Step 2: Preparation for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Game
  • Step 3: Hold the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Game successfully
  • Step 4: Sustainable Improvement and Development


  • Improve game
  • Establish infrastructure
  • Good balance and development with Asian countries
  • Strengthen communications

Action plan

  • Learn from ice hockey power countries
  • Build winter Olympic stadium
  • Be a regional (i.e., Asia) leader
  • Become a major/popular winter sport
  • Generate and recruit elite/star players
  • Marketing through mass media
  • Promote through educational program
  • Do perform action plan
  • Reuse and maintain the facilities after 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Game
  • Try to be the top teams in the Division-I
  • Strengthen Youth Ice Hockey Teams
  • Invite NHL teams to play
  • Strengthen organizational relationship and support
  • Become an ice hockey power


Korea Ice Hockey Federation (2016)

Current challenges and issues for ice hockey events in South Korea

First, it is about the cost. Hockey is one of the most expensive sports played and operated by/for major team sports. As opposed to basketball or skating it requires equipment, gear, and an ice arena to play. Secondly, the quality and quantity of facilities is one of the key challenges for sustainable growth of ice hockey. Thirdly, ensuring that each business team can make a good transition after recruiting foreign athletes and having naturalized athletes is another assignment for next step. As of 2016, the Korean team has six players who are from the U.S.A. and Canada. Like the other sports (e.g., soccer, basketball, and volleyball) it will be the one big step to make ice hockey global sport in South Korea.

Important factors in attracting ice hockey spectators in South Korea

As other sports in the world, any sports compete internally and externally. For example, LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) have participated in competitions with the PGA (Professional Golf Association) which guaranteed more fans and revenue. Of course, they have been working together to attract more golfers and golf lovers into the field but eventually, they must have their own market. Externally, they compete with other sports and entertainment activities, such as baseball, football, and soccer in the similar season. Hiking, skating, skiing, and snowboarding are good winter competitive sports in South Korea. As you can see they are more self- and individual-oriented sports which could be an advantage or a disadvantage for ice hockey promotion. Although it has more than 2,500 players, including 2011 elementary ice hockey players (KIHA, 2017), as a sport itself, is not well known to the public. Korea Ice Hockey Association (KIHA) began their campaign, “New Horizon on Ice” which means that they are planning to begin a new era with ice hockey through the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Game as Mr. Paek, the head coach of Korean national team emphasized, “Undergoing a Change Day after Day.”

Star player is a keyword for Korean sports and it has been proved in many sports: e.g., Seri Park in LPGA and Chanho Park in Major League Baseball (MLB). Because of its star marketing, golf and baseball are on the next level, compared to other sports in South Korea. Yuna Kim is one of the best examples on how to promote winter sports in South Korea: now, figure-skating may be the most famous winter sports for Koreans to watch, even to the point of traveling to watch the game. Even after her retirement in 2014 it was reported that “… New Balance which opened the concepts store with Kim Yuna as a model generated sales of 140 million won (approximately $120,000) per month at three stores across Seoul as of December 2016. Especially sales of products worn by Yuna Kim in the pictorial showed drastic increase (Song, 2017). Many companies have chosen sports stars as a wise investment and it is one of the big parts of sport marketing in South Korea.

The current players, including head coach, Mr. Paek may be great candidates for the star marketing; however, it should be followed by its cobranding with famous winter sports. The core value and popularity should be established to have better outcome in the growth stage. According to Washburn, Till, and Priluck (2000), “Co‐branding is an increasingly popular technique marketers use in attempting to transfer the positive associations of the partner (constituent) brands to a newly formed co‐brand (composite brand)” (p. 591).

To promote and increase the popularity of ice hockey in South Korea

Currently, there is a growing fan base for the ice hockey sport in South Korea. This shows that the popularity of this sport is growing. There are a couple ways that this can be impacted and made to be more popular amongst the citizens of Korea. Taking cues and examples from the NBA and the NFL, these sports authorities have adopted a method of growing the popularity of the sport in various countries. An example, if the NFL scheduling games from the regular season fixtures in London, and the NBA taking games to other countries. The Ice Hockey Federation in South Korea can adopt this method and collaborate with the NHL in bringing regular NHL season games to be played in Korea.

Also, the setting up of ice hockey summer camps and training programs sponsored and/or hosted by the NHL or top hockey players is a very great way in promoting the sport, getting young talents to embrace the sport and develop teams to represent the country. Probably, the summer field trip to the NHL destination with additional activities, such as players’ signing event will attract more and more fans. Fans, including youth players will purchase and wear their favorite team’s apparel.

Recruitment and retention in South Korea

It is one of the biggest challenges to make ice hockey grow in the exciting and traditional market while competing with other sports market, especially winter sports. Thus, it should be incorporated within/with other winter sports (i.e., umbrella branding and co-branding strategy) as being focused on ice hockey itself (i.e., sub-branding). In addition, expanding business teams’ sponsorships to many companies. Not only for financial aspect but also it needs industrial marketing through that kind of relationship.

Conclusion and Suggestions

Winter season and sports are powerful opportunities for South Korea because winter is one of the longest season in South Korea and it could attract more and new sports fans and be engaged with the current winter sports lovers, especially ice hockey. There is no question that the growth of ice hockey is promised but “how” and “what” will be the questions that should be addressed at the beginning. The good news is that there are many ways to market and promote ice hockey by using affordable technologies and systems.

Be engaged in and give back to the community (South Korea):

The best marketing method is “engagement.” Walter and Chadwick (2009) suggested that community engagement and trust is one of the key factors for firm to achieve strategic benefits. Getting and sharing your stories with community will create and cultivate a long-term relationship between ice hockey (i.e., game, team, and players) and its fans. To interact with the community, events and special tournaments could be a great method to get together.

Be a team member in/through social media:

According to Pronschinske, Groza, and Walker (2012), social network sites (SNS) and user engagement on SNS, such as Facebook, have a significant impact on attracting and maintaining a Facebook fan base. By establishing a SNS dedicated operation/management team, many resources (e.g., marketing, financial, and operational) can be saved. This is one of the best ways in all sports marketing. 

Work with media by using the current website (http://www.kiha.or.kr/):

The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Game is one of the best opportunities for all countries, especially for South Korea. Major sports media in Korea (e.g., KBS, MBC, and SBS) will be the first source to learn and get the information for most sports and events in South Korea. Daily, weekly, and monthly updated information will have more and more attention from your fans.


  1. Klein, J. Z. (2014, August 14). Jim Paek Is Building South Korean Hockey Program. Retrieved April 14, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/15/sports/hockey/jim-paek-is-building-south-korean-hockey-program.html?_r=0
  2. Korea Ice Hockey Federation Player/Team Registration Status (2016) http://www.kiha.or.kr/%EC%84%A0%EC%88%98%ED%8C%80-%EB%93%B1%EB%A1%9D%ED%98%84%ED%99%A9/
  3. Pronschinske, M., Groza, M. D., & Walker, M. (2012). Attracting Facebook'fans': the importance of authenticity and engagement as a social networking strategy for professional sport teams. Sport Marketing Quarterly, 21(4), 221.
  4. Song, J. (2017, March). All About Korean Entertainments And Culture. Retrieved April 14, 2017, from http://k-entertainments.blogspot.com/2017/03/sports-and-outdoor-       brands-star.html
  5. Walters, G., & Chadwick, S. (2009). Corporate citizenship in football: delivering strategic benefits through stakeholder engagement. Management Decision, 47(1), 51-66.
  6. Washburn, J. H., Till, B. D., & Priluck, R. (2000). Co-branding: brand equity and trial effects. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 17(7), 591-604.




Dongfeng Liu

Dr. Dongfeng Liu is a professor of sport management and Co-Dean of the School of Economics and Management at Shanghai University of Sport.  He is a member of China Sports Strategy Society, a think tank of China’s Sports Ministry. He is also international professor or guest professor with INSEEC Business School, University College Dublin, Kufstein University, and Bayreuth University.  He has over 40 publications including books, refereed journals articles, and conference articles. 

Ice Hockey Development in China: An Untapped Goldmine

Dongfeng Liu, PhD

Thanks to decades-long fast economic growth, and along with the rapid urbanization and growth of middle class, sports participation and sport business are starting to take off in China. Western professional leagues such as EPL and NBA have flocked to this emerging market one after another trying to win the hearts of 1.3 billion potential customers with growing purchasing power. It’s also no surprise that both NHL and KHL, the two major ice hockey leagues, are also now rushing to fall in step, eager to create success stories of their own in China. This article first presents a brief history of the development of ice hockey in China, and then discusses the opportunities and challenges facing this sport, before concluding remarks are made in the end.

  1. Development of ice hockey in China: a brief history

This history of ice hockey in China can be dated back at least to the 1920s, when a book on ice sports published in Chinese already included a chapter on the rules of ice hockey games, and it is generally believed that ice hockey were first brought and introduced by the western expatriates into China during the colonial period(Guo, 1983). Then on January 26th, 1935, ice hockey first appeared as a formal sports competition in China at the first North China Ice Sports Games.

But the real development of this sport did not take off until 1950s after the current People’s Republic of China was established. In response to the mass sport participation initiation under the slogan ”to improve national physique through sports promotion” proposed by Chairman Mao, and also part of a wider nation-building through sports movement, mass participation in ice and snow sports was promoted and supported by the central and local governments of the young republic. In the northeastern parts of China with long and cold winter seasons, ice hockey turned out to be instantly popular with the local citizens, and various amateur ice hockey clubs were established one after another within universities, schools, and factories. The year of 1953 marked a milestone for the development of ice hockey when the sport was officially included in the first National Winter Games, and the number of participating teams in the first three national Games increased steadily from 5 in 1953, to 9 in 1955, and 13 in 1956 (Li & Feng, 2013). Since 1957, a youth competition for players under 18 was separated from the adult competition at the National Games. While generally speaking ice hockey has largely been limited to the northern part of China for geographical reasons, these national Games greatly enhanced the popularity of this sport.

China joined the International Ice Hockey Federation in 1956, marking the beginning of formal exchange between Chinese ice hockey and the world. In the same year, China sent an ice hockey team to the 11th University Winter Games held in Poland, which was also the first time that China participated in a formal international ice hockey competition. The Chinese team also visited Czech and the former GDR (East Germany) after the University Games. Despite the poor performance at the Games, the participation and the visits were an eye-opening experience for the Chinese young players, coaches and officials, and China was quick to learn from the leading ice hockey powers. And when the national ice hockey team of GDR visited China in 1960, the Harbin ice hockey team from Heilongjiang province was even able to get even with them at the first two rounds at 0 to 0 (Li & Feng, 2013).

The development of sports including ice hockey in China was largely disrupted during the decade-long Cultural Revolution starting from 1966, a sociopolitical movement initiated by Mao in China, which brought China's economic development, official state affairs, and even education system to a virtual halt for some time during its heyday. In the first years of the Cultural Revolution, national teams and local teams of ice hockey, along with many other sports, were disbanded, and facilities damaged. The national team of ice hockey did not restored until 1972, when China started to reconnect with the international community after her relationship with the United States eased and her seat in the United Nations restored. Slowly, the development of ice hockey in China resumed.

Starting from 1980, when China adopted the so-called reform and opening up policy led by Deng Xiaoping, the development of sports including ice hockey entered a new and fast-growing era. In 1981, the Chinese Ice Hockey Association was officially established in Beijing, and the top flight Ice Hockey League One became enormously popular in the early 1980s when the competitions became increasingly tight and vehement especially during the final stages of each season (Li & Feng, 2013). During its heyday in 1980s, there existed 20 professional ice hockey teams, and it was estimated that 1million people played ice sports regularly, among them 100 thousand playing ice hockey (Li & Feng, 2013). China also won men’s gold medals at the Asian Winter Games in 1986 and 1990 respectively ( Den & Guo2014).

But since mid 1990s, ice hockey started to decline at both elite and participation level. At the state funded professional levels, many teams were disbanded and the number of professional teams reduced from 20 in 1980s to only 3 in 2010s, with all three teams came from Heilongjiang Province, making any national ice hockey championship practically a provincial competition (Li & Feng, 2013). Chinese national ice hockey team, former Asian Champions, now has difficulties sometimes even qualifying for the Asian Winter Games. Meanwhile, the vast amateur ice hockey clubs were also disbanded one after another. Ice hockey entered a difficult stage at both elite and participation level. While the reasons are multifold, the social economic environment change plays an important part. During the so-called era of planned economy, north China especially the three provinces in the Northeast, i.e. Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaonin, has long been known as the heavy industry base of China, thanks to the rich natural resources including coal, oil, and iron ores. For instance, in the first national five year economic plan in early 1950s, 33 investment projects from Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces were identified as key national investment projects, accounting for 1/5 of the national total. Economic development and a large number of state owned enterprises made it easier to fund both elite and amateur ice hockey clubs which do tend to be expensive. But since 1990s, it all started to change as the country decided to transform from a planned economy into a market based economy. In addition, the northeast provinces now find it lagging far behind the coastal provinces economically.

Today, as preparation for Beijing Winter Olympic Games is well underway, the development of ice hockey entered a new stage. But still, the overall level is still far from satisfactory. According to Mr. Zhao, the president of China Ice hockey Association, there are still only 6 professional teams nation-wide, with five of them coming from Heilongjiang Province (2 from Harbin, 2 from Qiqihar, and 1 from Jiamusi), and one from Hebei. There are only 10 to 15 competitions of Ice Hockey on an annual basis.

This of course does not include the newly launched HC Red Star Kunlun last year which participates in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) league. On April 30 2016, the Russian-based KHL formally accepted the application of a new ice hockey team from China, HC Red Star Kunlun, for the 2016-17 season. It is no coincidence that an ice hockey team was announced for Beijing only months after that city was awarded the 2022 Winter Olympics. It is believed that this would help develop a taste for ice hockey in China in the lead up to the Games, and would also serve as a means to improve the Chinese national team, which currently ranks 38th in the world and is playing in the fifth tier of the International Ice Hockey Federation’s (IIHF) World Championships. ( Lerner, 2016). 

  1. Three driving forces

Indisputably ice hockey in China is still in an early stage. But with the rising living standard of Chinese people thanks to continuous economic development of more than three decades, as well as the strong government promotion of sport industry development over the past several years, ice hockey in China is expected to take off in the lead up to the Winter Games.

Strong governmental promotion of sports development and sport industry

While only three to five years ago, many people would still question, if not laugh at, the idea that sport could be a serious industry in China, they are much less likely to do so today. Indeed, the past several years have witnessed unprecedented massive investment into sport business in China. Mr. Wang Jianlin and Jacky Ma, the two men who took turn to top China’s rich list, have been leading the way in investment in sport business with each splashing out billions of dollars on sport properties. The financial muscle of Chinese top flight professional football league and their recent eyebrow-raising spend on player transfer now put the clubs across Europe on high alert. In short, the perception of sport industry in China has changed from almost “nothing” into the “next big thing” over a relatively short space of time.

This rise of sport business in China has been widely attributed to the strong top-down government promotion with a series of high profile policies released from the central government. Among other things, a national strategic policy titled “Opinions on Accelerating the Development of Sports Industry and Promoting Sports Consumption” (the Decree hereafter), issued by China’s State Council on October 20, 2014, was widely cited as a milestone leading to the taking-off of sport business. The Decree is also eye-catching enough with its ambitious goals and some concrete measures. It predicted that Chinese sport business would develop into a market worth RMB 5 trillion (equivalent to approximately USD 815 billion), with an annual GVA of RMB 1.7 trillion or roughly between 1.2% and 1.5% of national GDP by 2025.

Very soon on March 16, 2015, in less than half a year, the Decree was matched by another high profile strategic plan, namely the Overall Reform Plan to Boost the Development of Soccer in China (the Soccer Plan hereafter). In many ways this Soccer Plan can be seen as a follow-up plan to the previous Decree as a coherent strategy to promote sport development and industry. It not only shows the determination of the government’s will to develop soccer in China as it comes from the highest level of China’s government. It is also expected that the reform of soccer will serve as a pilot for other sports in China and thus mark the first concrete steps toward deregulation, and further commercialization and professionalization of sports in general. The plans have significantly raised the profile of sport business and put it into spotlight in China, and have been well received in China with positive reactions from the society and industry.

The coming of a leisure era in China with growing demand for sports and leisure activities

While the policies are important in themselves, the timing and the signals sent out by these policies are equally, if not more important. Since adoption of “reform and opening up” policy in 1978, China has experienced rapid economic and social development with growth rates averaging 10% over 30 years—the fastest sustained expansion by a major economy in history (World Bank, 2016). China overtook Japan to become the world’s second largest economy in 2010. On the one hand, judging by all measures, sport industry in China is still in its infancy stage. On the other hand, sports industry is positively associated with national economy as evidenced in both the developed and developing countries. Driven by fast economic growth of almost three decades and rising awareness of health issues, the demand for sport products also grew fast. This has led to the growing popularity of sports participation and the increased number of sporting events of various types hosted in China (Liu, 2016). So there exists a real growing demand for quality sports products which could not be met by the poor supply. The grow rate of sport industry in China achieved an outstanding rate of 35.97% in 2015, outshining most other industry sectors. Without doubt, this robust growth alone would continue to attract the cash-rich and investment-hungry nouveau riche in China into this market.

The Winter Olympic Games to be hosted in Beijing in 2022 

Since July 2015, when China was awarded its second Olympics Games - Beijing hosted the Summer Games in 2008 - the country unveiled an ambitious plan to involve 300 million people in winter sports in the next six years (Sun, 2016). It is reported that the promotion of youth hockey in Beijing has made excellent progress in the past two years, with more than 10,000 students from about 60 schools learning about the winter game and attending training sessions, according to the Beijing Hockey Association (BHA). Under the umbrella of the BHA, a record 116 club teams, featuring 2,000 children, registered to participate in the Beijing Minor Hockey League's 2015-16 season, which is a far cry from the league's inaugural season in 2008, when fewer than 20 players represented just four teams.

Efforts mapped out by the Sport Ministry through the 2016-2020 National Fitness Plan for winter sports not only pledged to construct numerous new snow resorts, skating rinks, and winter sports themed schools, but also mapped out generating millions of followers, and teaching primary and middle school students the etiquette of watching matches in time for the Olympic games. (Liddle, 2016)

The years leading up to the Beijing Winter Games in 2022 will have a direct and huge impact on the promotion of winter sports in general, and ice hockey in particular, which is the only team Winter Olympic sport. China, as the host country, is expected to put up another big sport show to impress the World with medal performance, as they did in 2008.

  1. 3. Challenges ahead

The low awareness and Misconception of ice hockey games

 In general, China is not a winter sport country except a few provinces in the northeast. The majority of Chinese, especially those from south of China, have not even heard of the games of ice hockey, not to mention going for it.

Actually, not only have the majority of Chinese never heard about the games, it’s even worse that for some who have heard about the games, the intuitive impression is that this is a difficult and dangerous game.

In an interview with the Feiyang Ice hockey club manager, who manages a newly built state-of-art Ice brink in Shanghai, he says

“For the first two years it was really hard to convince the parents to send their kids to even try for the games ! We were on loss for two years and almost on the brink of bankruptcy ” (Club CEO, 2016)

The club could turn around until the local government intervened in 2015, when over 20 schools around the Club would now offer free Ice sports lessens as part of the school physical education classes for the 1st year students in the club with governmental financial subsidies.

Lack of facilities

The somber fact that here are very few facilities for ice hockey in most part of China, and even fewer in southern part of China will be one of the most challenging bottlenecks for both participation and competition of the game.

Reform of a centralized sports governing system

 A major challenge regarding sport development in general and professional sport in particular, has a lot to do with the centralized governmental sport administration system. Modeled on the former Soviet Union, one of the most fundamental functions of this centralized governing system is to win as many Olympic medals as possible to serve the national prestige, and anything else becomes secondary. Essentially, the Chinese sport governing system for elite sport consists of three sub systems: a highly centralized administrative system (providing governing, funding and supporting), a professional training system, and sports events organizing system centering around the National Games every four years. As a result, all sport governing bodies in China, such as China Football Association, are all considered quasi-governmental organizations. Actually the 70 national sports associations exist in parallel with 23 sport management centers (governmental departments) controlled and managed by the same group of people. In addition, most athletes trained at the provincial level or national teams are treated as full time employees with the government. In other words, while a market economy has been largely established in China since the early 1990s, sport remains in a government controlled and planned system. As a result, the conflict between this planned system and a market-based professional and commercial sport is unavoidable. It is actually believed that this centralized governing system itself has become one of the major obstacles that should be deregulated and reformed to release the huge market potential of sport industry in China (Liu, 2008). On Feb. 24, 2016, as a milestone in the reform of Chinese sport and football, the China’s Management Center for Football was dissolved and the China’s Football Association (CFA) was announced to be formally detached from the government (i.e. China Generational Administration of Sport or GAS). The fact that Mr. Cai, the Deputy Minister of GAS, has remained to serve as the President of the newly restructured CFA seems to question the autonomy the association could enjoy as an independent sport governing body. It is said that Mr. Gou Zhongwen, the new chief of China’s Sport Ministry, is reform-minded and determined to push forward the long overdue reform of sport administration. He was then very quick to have made the well-known remarks that “the water of sport is very deep” implying the difficulty and complexity of sport reform ahead (Sportsohu, 2017).

Cultural obstacle

In addition, there exists cultural challenge. The so-called modern sport including football is an imported culture for Chinese. Over the past hundreds of years through the dynasties in China, excellence in schoolwork and sitting the competitive civil service examination to become a government official was the dream for every average Chinese. As a result, anything else, including leisure activity, was considered as a distraction from studying. While today a good degree does not necessarily guarantee a good job in China, schoolwork remains the paramount task for Chinese kids. It is reported that increasing numbers of children in large cities across the country are experiencing joyless childhoods due to the lack of playtime (Xinhau, 2007). Unlike in the West where for many sport is a part of life since childhood, it is considered by many Chinese parents as a waste of time and distraction from schoolwork. When some of more open-minded parents do choose a hobby for their kids, it is often music instruments or painting over sports. When a parent decides that the child should play a sport seriously, more often than not, it’s out of instrumental concern and they either think the kid would be an elite athlete or study a sport-related degree in the future. The only time sport is considered important is when people get older and do exercises for health reasons. This is probably why the participation in sport by senior citizens is far higher in China than in the West (Liu, 2016). Perception of sports should be changed and enhanced to ensure grassroots participation in sport since childhood to promote sports development in China.

Concluding Remarks

Despite the great potential for ice hockey development in China, the challenges are also enormous. It takes time, investment, and a long-term systemic strategy to introduce this game to the Chinese market, and there is no short cut and quick return. All in all, it should begin with the grass roots and begin with the school children to build a really solid and sustainable fan base and ice hockey culture for the game to survive and thrive in this emerging market. 


1. Den, X. & Guo, Y. (2014).Ice Hockey Development in China. Sports Culture Guide.66-69.

2. Guo, R. (1983) On three decade development of Ice hockey in China, Ice and Snow Sports, (2), 54 - 59.

3. Lerner,M. (2016) Russian Hockey Comes to China. http://thediplomat.com/2016/04/russian-hockey-comes-to-china/

4. Li, X & Feng, W. (2013). Review and Prospect of 60 Years Development of Chinese Ice Hockey. Journal of Harbin Institute of Physical Education. 31(5), 22-25.

5. Liddle,J. (2016).China’s New National Fitness Plan and Opportunities in the Sports Industry, Retrieved from: http://www.china-briefing.com/news/2016/09/01/china-new-national-fitness-plan-opportunities-sports-fitness-industry.html

6. Sportssohu. (2017). The Water of sports is deep, said Gou. Retrieved from: http://sports.sohu.com/20170117/n478958529.shtml

7. Sun, X. (2016). Youth participation boost for Beijing 2022. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/sports/2016-06/17/content_25742540.htm

8. Xinhua, (2007). China's children too busy for playtime. China Daily Retrieved from: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2007-05/13/content_871182.htm

9. RTE Sport (2017).China plans to stop football clubs 'burning money'. https://www.rte.ie/sport/soccer/2017/0105/842983-china-vows-to-stop-football-clubs-burning-money/




John Nauright

Professor and Chair of the Department of Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation at the University of North Texas,USA.

Through May 2016 John Nauright was Professor of Sport and Leisure Management and Director of the Research and Graduate Institute at the University of Brighton in the UK. He is also Honorary Professor at Lomonosov Moscow State University in Russia; the University of Ghana; and the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados. He is the author and editor of 20 books on global sport including the award winning Sport Around the World: History, Culture and Practice as well as Long Run to Freedom: Sport, Cultures and Identities in South Africa; Making the Rugby World: Race, Gender, Commerce; The Essence of Sport and The Routledge Companion to Sports History. He holds a PhD in history from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He is currently co-editing co-editing the Routledge Handbook of Race and Ethnicity in Sport and Sporting Entrepreneurs both with David K. Wiggins. He is a long-time supporter of the Montreal Canadiens and has published on the moves to save the Winnipeg Jets from relocating to Arizona and then bringing the club back to life.


Developing and Sustaining Hockey Around the World:

 The Importance of Recruitment and Retention strategy

 of Players and Supporters

John Nauright, PhD

With elite commercialized sports having substantial economic value, sports have become significant power players in regional and national political economies. French sports critic, Marc Perelman (2012) suggests there is now an entire mode of production that has emerged around globalized sport. While I have suggested elsewhere what we have been witnessing this Century is a global sport-media-tourism complex (Nauright, 2004; 2015) driving political and economic development, planning and accumulation as more and more countries buy into an events driven strategy, with sport as a key component, for attracting tourism, hard currency and global good will which, it is hoped, will translate to economic development and political and symbolic capital. Within societies, sports are the most significant public organizations and public events that bind groups together from youth sports through to professional competitions.

Around the world sports are competing with other entertainment activities as well as with each other for adherents. In North America for example, during the month of October all five major team sports of baseball, football, hockey, basketball and soccer are played by professional teams and college football also attracts millions of spectators. While the seasons of all five overlap briefly, National Hockey League (NHL) and National Basketball League (NBA) teams play essentially identical seasons. Olympic-affiliated sports also compete to retain positions in the Olympic Games as recent battles by baseball, rugby, golf and tennis attest. Hockey, as the leading team sport competition of the Winter Olympics is in a unique position to remain an essential sport on the global stage.

Hockey is, however, the most expensive of the major international team sports to play and operate. Indoor ice arenas are expensive and equipment from skates, to uniforms and protection to sticks cost a player more than any other major team sport. The cost of hockey and the perception that hockey is a North American and northern European white person’s sport has left hockey less significant as a sport globally when compared to soccer, basketball, volleyball or rugby. Like baseball and rugby, though, hockey is played throughout the world even though it is dominated by a handful of nations. In countries such as Canada, Russia, Finland, Sweden and the Czech Republic hockey either dominates or certainly challenges soccer as the dominant team sport, while in the USA, hockey is an important part of the intercollegiate (NCAA) and professional sporting landscape. Globally over 1.7 million people play organized hockey as of 2016.

         The Global Development of Ice Hockey

The modern sport of ice hockey began in Canada the 1870s with the first agreed set of rules emerging in 1877 in Montreal. The sport spread across Canada and into the USA by 1900. In 1912 the Patrick brothers changed the course of hockey by creating the largest indoor ice arena so hockey could be played consistently in Vancouver where there was little consistent outdoor ice. The move of hockey indoors for major competitions over the next two decades ensured that hockey could be played in any climate and provided the possibility for global expansion of the sport.

Hockey spread to Europe with the first international matches between Belgium and France occurring in 1905. The national league competition in France, now the Ligue Magnus, began play in 1907. The International Ice Hockey Federation was formed in Paris, France in 1908 by founding members Belgium, Bohemia (Czechoslovakia), England, France and Switzerland. Germany joined in 1909. The first European Championship took place in Switzerland in 1910 with Great Britain claiming the first international title. Canada and the USA did not become IIHF members until 1920. The sport first appeared in the Olympic Games in Antwerp in 1920 with Canada winning.

In 1917-18 the National Hockey League began to play settling to its “Original 6” teams of the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks by the end of the 1930s. New international rules appeared in 1923 and the first World Championship was held in 1930 with Canada winning the first three titles, the USA becoming the first other country to win in 1933. Great Britain wrested the Olympic Gold Medal from Canada in 1936 and Czechoslovakia became the first non-North American country to win the World Championship in 1947 as European levels of play began to be consistently competitive with North America. Canada won its last Olympic gold medal for 50 years in 1952. Sweden won the World crown in 1953 and the Soviet Union won on its first entry into the tournament a year later in 1954. The USA won Olympic Gold in 1960 and Canada’s last IIHF title was in 1961. Hockey power in international tournaments shifted east. State-sponsored teams emerged in the Eastern Bloc and NHL players did not compete at Olympic Games in the Cold War era.

Hockey was revolutionized by television. Though the pace of the game is fast, the size of the hockey rinks was conducive for TV coverage in the 1950s. Hockey Night in Canada began in 1952 bringing homes across Canada NHL games and ensuring national audiences for the Canadiens, Maple Leafs and US-based teams stocked with Canadian players as well. The 1972 “Summit on Ice” series between Canada and the Soviet Union, with Canada winning in the final match in Moscow, was the most watched event in Canadian history with every Canadian of the era knowing where they were when Henderson scored the winning goal for Canada.

More importantly, the series ended the perception in North America that professional NHL players were automatically superior to Soviet ones. Hockey received a major boost in the USA with the “Miracle on Ice” victory against the Soviet team in the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. Though the Soviet Union lost on these two occasions, it is safe to say that the Cold War and the rise of hockey quality in the Soviet Union was significant to the growth of hockey in North America.

International migration (beyond contiguous borders like the USA and Canada) of players has accelerated since Thommie Bergman and Borje Salming of Sweden began playing in the NHL in 1972 and 1973 respectively. With the rise of television, international competitions and player migration, the stage was set for rapid international expansion in ice hockey. The historic strongholds have been Canada and the USA in North America; Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Russia and former Soviet countries such as Latvia and Ukraine; Czech Republic and Slovakia with Germany, France and Austria among other fielding strong teams. A strong professional competition emerged in the United Kingdom in late 1995 and professional leagues exist across major European countries. Until very recently, however, ice hockey was largely confined to regions where hockey can be played outdoors and in countries with strong state economies or private sectors where significant indoor facilities could be built.

The expansion of the NHL beyond its “Original Six” in the late 1960s brought teams to St. Louis, California and other regions where hockey had not been a major sport. Further expansion in the 1980s and 1990s created successful pockets of success for hockey in the southern USA regions especially in Dallas, Texas; Phoenix, Arizona; Tampa Bay and Miami in Florida; and Los Angeles, the latter growing enormously in popularly when “The Great One”, Wayne Gretzky moved from the Edmonton Oilers to the LA Kings in 1988 (Jackson, 19xx).

Internationally, leagues have expanded beyond national borders unlike the usual practice in global soccer. The Erste Bank Eishockey Liga has 8 teams in Austria, but also has teams from Italy, Hungary, Slovenia and Czech Republic competing as international teams joined in 2007. Hokejsko Drsalno Društvo Olimpija Ljubljana, founded in 1928 and 13-time champion of Yugoslavia with 15 Slovenian titles, which plays in the 4,000 seat Tivoli Hall in the Slovenian capital, is a good example. Where countries have few major cities, the multi-national league model is valuable in sustaining interest in high quality professional hockey.

The newest model, and the most impressive since the expansion of the NHL, is the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) (Russian: Континентальная хоккейная лига) formed in 2008 with large-scale Russian investment. In 2011 the KHL expanded beyond Russia. The league now has 29 teams in Russia, Belarus, China, Croatia, Finland, Kazakhstan, Latvia, and Slovakia, with further international expansion plans.

The most significant international foray by the KHL is adding HC Kunlun Red Star from Beijing to the KHL for the 2016-17 season. With the Winter Olympics coming to Beijing in 2022 and a team in the KHL, the world’s largest untapped hockey market is ready for hockey. With the team currently dominated by Russian players and management, it will be important to bring through strong Chinese players into the KHL. The experience of basketball in China after Yao Ming came to the NBA demonstrates the power of local grown talent to the Chinese market and to selling China internationally (Nauright, 2016). China is investing in 20,000 soccer schools, surely some of these sports schools could be used to develop youth hockey and other sport players as well as soccer stars (Nauright, 2015). Already China has grown from a base of virtually no players five years ago to more 1,101 registered players in 2016 supported by a substantial increase in facilities with 154 indoor and 206 outdoor rinks (IIHF, 2016)



TABLE 1: Registered Hockey Player and Facilities in Traditional Hockey Countries (2016)



Total Reg. Players

% of Pop.

Indoor/Outdoor Rinks











Czech Republic



































Great Britain










































TABLE 2: Registered Hockey Player and Facilities in Select High Growth Potential Markets













South Korea








Hong Kong




New Zealand
























South Africa












The two tables above demonstrate the massive growth potential for hockey in both traditional hockey playing countries and in newly emerging markets. Therefore, there must be a two -pronged global strategy with various components. The first must focus on player growth and retention as well as markets for hockey in the North America and northern European strongholds of the sport. The second should target key new markets where significant and rapid growth in number of players exists alongside the potential for professional hockey markets. These targeted areas should be: China (37th ranked team in the IIHF national team rankings), Japan (21st), South Korea (23rd) Australia (36th) and New Zealand (38th), South America (no teams ranked currently) and South Africa (41st). India and Pakistan with large populations and a history of success in field hockey should not be ignored as potential markets either. The facilities and middle class population with disposable income in places such as New Delhi could be fertile ground for hockey development perhaps begun with a KHL franchise similar to that in Beijing. Key additional targets for the KHL should also be in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo.

How can growth in the number of hockey players and fans take place and be sustained over time? I have reviewed the literature on a number of sports and about youth sport development more generally, I propose several recruitment and retention strategies based on the current international state of hockey and the potential for future player growth and for the hockey marketplace. These strategies are as important in Canada as the are in China or for Sweden as much as for South Africa or the South American countries.

Key aspects of Hockey Player Growth and Retention

Growing the sport of hockey in new markets as well as expanding player and supporter base in traditional markets is a multi-faceted issue in which marketing and branding strategies must work side-by-side with development and retention of player personnel. While there are many avenues worth exploring, I have produced a multifaceted approach from an examination of the literature and my own research and experience on global sport development.

Role Models and Heroes

While research findings on the significance of role models is mixed, a 2003 review of literature demonstrated there is clear evidence role models do make a difference to youth sport adherence (Payne, Reynolds, Brown & Fleming, 2003). Where elite or celebrity athletes are used, it is crucial to have sustained engagement with youth. The emergence of the World Legends Hockey League, led by Pavel Bure, with teams from Russia, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, and Germany has enabled former professional stars to represent their countries and tie generations of hockey fans together. In many other sports, the development of “legends” competitions have grown the market for the particular sport, created more events to keep the sport in the public eye, and sustained playing opportunities for stars of the sport.

Current players and former stars serve important roles for hockey clubs as ambassadors for the club brand and the game itself. The public views leading players as specific brands themselves (Carlson & Donovan, 2013). For several decades after his playing career, the late Maurice Richard continued to be a symbol for the Montreal Canadiens, for hockey in Quebec and across Canada. As a cultural icon, Richard attracted youth to the sport of hockey and as a

brand himself was a large part of the Quebec sports marketplace (Melancon, 2009). Youth players and fans purchase sweaters with their favorite hockey players with their favorite team and appearances by star players at youth hockey events serve to enhance the player-commodity chain which ties youth, their parents and fans in general to hockey. When Richard died in 2000, the Prime Minister of Canada and Quebec Premiers past and present attended the funeral which brought Canada to a standstill as it was aired nationally on television. Many participants in the activities of the World Hockey Forum, like Richard, have given back to the game in numerous ways as administrators, players, coaches, broadcast personalities, and ambassadors for hockey which helps sustain the sport across the generations in significant ways which add value to their personal brand, that of their teams, and to hockey as whole.

Sustainable Youth hockey introduction and development programs: The Dallas Stars Example

The Dallas Stars of the NHL operate in a non-traditional hockey-playing region though hockey has been played competitively in Texas for the past century. When the Stars moved to Dallas from Minnesota in 1993 there were only three sheets of ice and four schools with hockey teams in the Dallas-Fort Worth area (Fetchko, Roy & Clow, 2013). In order to attract youth to the game the club operates several programs in conjunction with its sponsors. Under the “Learning is Cool” program, school groups are invited to one of the Dr Pepper Star Centers to learn about the science, history, geography, communication and physical aspects of hockey. The team operates programs in partnership with USA Hockey, supported by sponsor Dr. Pepper and the Michael Johnson Performance center operates free sessions to introduce children to hockey at the Dr. Pepper Star Center Ice Arenas the club operates in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, a region of nearly seven million people. A specific free introductory program for girls as part of the Annual IIHF World Hockey Girls Hockey Weekend (DallasStars.com/USAGirls). As a result of the Stars’ efforts, as of 2016 there are 21 sheets of ice, many at the Dr Pepper Star Centers and some 44 high school teams (Fetchko et al, 2013; Dallas Stars, 2016). Using the McDonald’s model of creating life-long consumers through targeting youth and the parents of those youth, the Stars have generated a hard-core niche following from which they are now expanding across the state of Texas where there are no competing NHL franchises. The Stars top affiliated minor league club, the Texas Stars play in the state capital of Austin and through a co-branding strategy provide the launch pad for state-wide youth hockey programs focused on the major cities (San Antonio and Houston are with three hours drive of Austin). Running introductory programs plus Rising Stars and Junior Stars elite teams, the Stars in Dallas-Fort Worth region and in Austin have a model vertically integrated structure from free skate introductory days through elite junior hockey to the American Hockey League and on to the NHL.

What the case of the Dallas Stars demonstrates is the impact such a vertically integrated structure can have on youth hockey growth in a region not known for hockey. The growth of youth sport programs coupled with a solid fan base has resulted in massive rise in the club’s valuation from $240 million in 2011 to $500 million in 2016 and an average attendance of over 18,000 (Forbes, 2016), as well as to a significant growth in the number of players in the region. In nearby Allen, Texas, the Allen Americans of the East Coast Hockey League, affiliate of the San Jose Sharks, add to the quality hockey product in the area (four time defending champions of their leagues as of 2016) and to the capacity to attract fans and players.

Quality adult engagement with youth hockey

One of the key challenges for hockey as with any sport is how to develop young players whether for enjoyment or progression to elite levels. In Sweden for example, the selection of sports by youth and the progression of certain players based on the social capital of the players and their families, geographical location, etc. Insider knowledge of parents about hockey, for example, makes those with no experience of the sport, or those new to the country, unable to compete without the establishment of supportive and inclusive structures (Carlsson & Hedenborg, 2011). As various research shows in countries as diverse as Sweden, the United Kingdom, the USA and Australia, shows, volunteerism has sustained youth sport with many youth teams and clubs being sustained by parent volunteers and by retired players of all levels wishing to retain a connection to the sport they love (Houlihan & Green, 2011). Significantly Bowers, Chalip and Green argue that youth players in the USA often fall through the cracks between school sports systems, recreational systems and club sports structures. As a result, coordination within hockey from grassroots to elite levels is essential.

One key aspect for the IIHF, national federations and professional clubs to follow closely is what happens to players once they no longer play competitive hockey. In the USA for example there are 35,875 male hockey players in high school of which only 4,071 make it to play at NCAA college level. Of the 210 draft slots available in the NHL draft, some 60 are drafted each year (NCAA.org). Thus, as the pyramid narrows and players either drop our or drop down in competition levels, provision of playing and coaching opportunities will keep active engagement in place. As discussed in the Long-term Athlete Development report in Canada “a positive experience in sport in the key to retaining athletes after they reach the competition stream.” (qf. Thibault, 2011: 247).

Integration of local and global talent at elite level important for sustained future growth

As the National Football League (NFL) learned in its failed NFL-Europe experiment, attempts to expand a sport through the use of fully imported talent is not a sustainable business or developmental model long-term. In hockey, there are good models which point the way to sustainable possibilities. For example, the French Ligue Magnus for example states that game rosters must include at least 11 players who have spent 3 or more years in the French hockey system before the age of 21. A citizen of France who was fully trained in a foreign country counts as an import regardless of French citizenship. This rule is to ensure that the top French league is connected to youth development structures in France. By contrast, the various elite British hockey leagues have done well in certain markets for the past two decades, but teams have been reliant on Canadian hockey talent (Maguire, 1996). While a professionally viable league is a great opportunity for Canadian players who do not make it to the NHL to continue to play, it is important growth models engage these migrant players while linking teams to development strategies in the local community. The Belfast Giants in the British Super League has one Northern Irish player on its 2016-17 roster of 22 along with 10 Canadians, 6 from the USA, 3 from Scotland and 2 from England. Playing in a religiously divided community, the club averages nearly 5000 a match which is consistency in the top two in Britain. The Giants deliberately reached out to all sectors of Northern Irish society.

To further grow the game in Northern Ireland, the Giants hosted the Northern Ireland Connections Friendship Four Tournament in November 2016 bringing for USA university teams to play. Schoolchildren from across Belfast, many of whom had never experienced an ice-hockey game before, were invited by the Belfast Council to cheer on the teams for the first game (University of Vermont, University of Massachusetts, Quinnipiac University, and St. Lawrence University). The final was viewed by 22,000 spectators in the SSE Arena and shown on television in Britain and North America. The event will also be held in 2017 and 2018.

The event activated a number of sponsors important to supporting the Giants in growing the game in Northern Ireland. This is similar to what Jones and Nauright studied in the case of American Express, at the time naming sponsor of both the Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club and the Stadium in which they played. The company, the club and its Foundation engaged American Express employees in working directly with youth development programs, regional tournaments and leveraged the human capacity of the largest employer in the city connected them as parents and community minded people to grow youth soccer programs which led to greater identification with the club and its offerings (Jones & Nauright, 2017; on events driven sponsorship strategies see Ferrand, Torrigiani, Camps i Povill, 2007).

The danger of linking hockey growth solely to the success of a professional franchise can cause a drop in the local playing and hockey supporting market when a club goes out of business or relocates to a new city. In solid hockey regions such as Canada, where Winnipeg and Quebec lost their teams in the mid-1990s to USA markets, the rebound can be quick, in others such as Atlanta, Georgia where two attempts to establish an NHL team have failed, the quest to grow the game is much more precarious integrated structures at all levels of hockey are thus imperative to ensure substitutability. When the Winnipeg Jets relocated to Arizona in 1996, the Manitoba Moose began to play in the same arena in the International Hockey League competition (the team now plays in the American Hockey League) (Nauright & White, 1996). The arrival of the Moose gave hockey fans, who were demoralized by the loss of the Jets, a team to support and enabled hockey to maintain popularity. In 2011, the failing Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg becoming the Jets and restoring the club and to the city and region.


The growth and sustained support for hockey players and teams is totally contingent on the number and quality of facilities. In much of the world indoor ice sheets are necessary to sustain the game, and in all regions allow for use year round. Where resources are limited and weather allows, outdoor rinks can be a useful supplement. Canada has more than 5,000 outdoor rinks and Russia over 2,500 for example. As a facility dependent sport, the growth of hockey requires expansion of facilities. In core countries, construction of hockey arenas and commercializing their use are important economic activities. When I was a Director of the Dundee Ice Arena in Scotland the commercial opportunities for the facility were only limited by the hours in the day. The Dundee Arena was a multi- sport facility, however, and hockey competed with curling and ice skating for ice time. Hockey specific facilities are ideal, though if not in use for hockey, free skating time provides economic growth potential for the facility and for development of skills essential for success in hockey. In areas where the growth potential for hockey is significant, hockey rinks should be included in plans for multi-use space such as ice rinks in shopping mall areas in Doha, Qatar. For many years the Edmonton Oilers have held their training sessions at the West Edmonton Mall and the Washington Capitals and other professional hockey teams also train at a shopping mall. These sessions expose a general audience to hockey, many of whom may not attend games or plan to do so. Young people can be attracted to the sport though up-close access to players which expands interest in playing and watching hockey.

Strong governance, monitoring and education systems

From 1992 through 2011, a series of stories by Canadian investigative journalist Laura Robinson exposed a rape culture and degrading hazing rituals in Canadian hockey (Robinson, 1998; 2011). Although hazing is officially banned by Canada Hockey, it continues to take place. Hockey federations and clubs need to ensure that coaches, administrators and players are held accountable to a high standard. The non-hockey watching public already views the sport with suspicion as a violent game so it is imperative for the future growth of hockey to ensure safe environments within the sport and to ensure monitoring and accountability systems are robust.

Education of university and professional level players while they are still playing is imperative. Many players can study the science, coaching and management aspects of hockey which will provide post career outcomes for players. Partnership programs with universities which already exist in professional soccer and rugby should be expanded. Hockey Canada has initiated Hockey University. Hockey Canada’s premier online resource for hockey education – is now available for Hockey Canada members wishing to become a certified coach, official or team safety person. “This engaging, interactive online platform provides the baseline of information needed, and it’s all done at your convenience wherever you access the internet” (Hockey Canada).

Concluding Thoughts

There are unlimited possibilities for the future growth of hockey around the world. While hockey is clearly the dominant team sport identified with winter, it does lag well behind football, basketball, and volleyball in numbers of participants. Hockey faces certain challenges many other sports do not, unlike the three sports just mentioned, players require much more equipment to play which makes hockey a difficult sport for the masses without significant input from organizations, sponsorships and clubs. In most countries, hockey registers less than 1 person in every 1000, so even with marginal growth, say a target of 5 per 1000, then hockey will see a five-fold growth. This is not a far-fetched proposition as the USA has grown its number of registered players from 195,125 in 1990-91 to 542,583 in 2015-16, a 280% increase in just fifteen years (USAHockey.com, 2016). At all levels of global hockey vertical and horizontal integration is essential to long-term success. With economic pressures in core hockey countries, decline in playing numbers and the hockey market is possible without sustained and coordinated action to widen the net for players. Growth potential for girls and women in hockey is tremendous. New markets continue to emerge and with professional international hockey reaching China, the next two Winter Olympics in South Korea and China, and economic growth in South America, the Middle East and the rest of Asia in particular, the potential for ice hockey to double or triple its player base and professional markets can be realized. Growth and sustainability strategies should engage academic experts, industry insiders, government officials, national governing bodies and professional hockey clubs.



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 Ð¡Ñ‚ен Сёдерман

Sten Söderman

 Professor of Stockholm Business School and professor emeritus of International Business at SBS and a visiting professor at the University of Tartu Pärnu College, Sweden

 Sten Söderman prepared his doctorate at Oxford University, holds his PhD and earned his docentship at SBS, Stockholm Business School and is now professor emeritus of International Business at SBS and a visiting professor at the University of Tartu Pärnu College. He has been visiting professor at universities in Luxembourg, South Stockholm/Södertörn, Göteborg school of business, economics and law and Shanghai University. Söderman was appointed chaired professor at Luleå University of Technology during 1982-1989, Sweden. He then worked as a business consultant specializing in start-ups (in Manila, Geneva and Brussels). His practical experience has been gained through 15 years as professional consultant at SIAR (Scandinavian Institutes of Administrative Research in Stockholm and Manila), INDEVO (in Geneva and Zurich) and CapGemini in Brussels and Stockholm. Söderman has initiated Experience Sharing Groups (ERFA) with high level executives in Stockholm and in Brussels. At present he is managing an ERFA group in Shanghai (since 17 years) and another in Hong Kong (since 2 years). 

Interest Söderman’ teaching and research is focused on market strategy development and implementation and on the international expansion of European firms in Asia and vice versa as well as the global entertainment economy focusing on sport.


Sweden and Ice Hockey: Some Contextual Views

Sten Söderman, PhD



    Ice hockey is the second most popular sport in Sweden. The number of professional players has increased rapidly during the last ten years. Academic views are rather rare but sport research in Sweden in general is growing. The focus in this chapter and the practical challenge is on recruiting and retaining the player. Academic view normally means a systematic view. But practice is coming more and more. Especially in new research areas like sport research.

Ice hockey is one of the two most significant team sports in Sweden. In this chapter, I overview the condition of Swedish ice hockey today, particularly focusing on recruitment and retention issues. The design is as follows:

1. Numbers indicating the ice hockey interest

2. Results in championships

3. Swedish players in NHL

4. The strategy decision

5. The ten activities approach

6. The steps towards world championships

Numbers indicating ice hockey interest

Ice hockey rapidly grew from being a unique North American import to becoming a national sport of great magnitude in Sweden. Today, ice hockey is an integrated part of society, to construct ice halls is seen as a part of the welfare state. Increased competition between countries strengthened its importance. The Soviet Union invested into ice-hockey and pulled other European countries along. (Foster et al., 2006; Stark, 2010)

Players are difficult to retain because of ‘self-initiated repatriation in sports’. As the typical young Swedish hockey player grows, their strongest will is to get an offer from a better league with a higher salary. The typical dream of young Swedish ice-hockey talent is to play in NHL. (Dolles & Egilsson, 2017; Swedes for NHL, 2017)

Currently the Swedish recruiting programs are well systematized through the two concepts ‘Kids hockey’ and ‘Elite hockey’. There is a huge interest to play ice hockey among kids between 6 – 7 years old. For example, recruitment packages are available in eight languages.

Of Sweden’s ten million inhabitants, 3.5 million belong to a sport club and 2.4 million of those compete regularly (See figure 1). There are 20 thousand clubs, more or less all of them comprising of elite athletes and sport- for-all. (Svensk idrott i samhället, 2017)


In sports, the Nordic countries share a legacy of voluntarism and idealism. Ice-hockey like most other sports has generally been related to political and normative virtues such as democracy, social and moral fostering, gender equality, and the integration of young people from the working class or immigrant groups. Ice-hockey is, next to football, the most popular sport (see figure 2).


Due to increasing professionalization and commercialization during the last three decades, the sport can aptly be described as an amalgam of commercialism and voluntarism with historical roots in the development of the mixed market economy and Nordic welfare states. (Gammelsaeter et al., 2011; Möller 2017:1 )

From its inception, ice-hockey came to be organized by volunteer, non-profit clubs, many of which organized elite, youth and grassroots ice-hockey alongside other sports. Whereas the tension between commercialized top ice-hockey and voluntary grassroots ice-hockey is ever present, there is also a wide spread understanding that this small country Sweden cannot produce international players without organizations that can secure a rich supply of talent.( Swedish Hockey 2017).

Historically there were two sports competing for the public interest, bandy and ice-hockey. It was not until the 1950s that ice-hockey won the race. Since then, the gap has increased with ice-hockey growing strongly. In 1955 ice hockey grew bigger than bandy thanks to the development of television. Sweden first participated in the Olympic Games with ice hockey in 1920 and has continued to be one of the best performing teams. (Bandy, 2017)

          Results in championships

 The positions in all the world championships for senior and junior during 2008-2016 is calculated and shown in Table 3. It shows – in the table positions - that Russia gets a total score of 21, Sweden and Canada both 33. Sweden – must be remembered - is a much less populated country. Surprisingly, however, the supply of players to NHL is quite tremendous.

         Swedish players in NHL

The biggest problem - as I see it - is the retention of top players in the country. The success of Swedish athletes into NHL including their drafting system and surviving and adaption. (Young Dahlin, 2017) 

As is shown in figure 4, Canada has had the drafted players (842), followed by the USA (507), and then Sweden (206 athletes) in spite of its size. Recently Sweden has provided nearly 10 % of all NHL players (see figure 5).





         The strategy decision

One turning point came in 2002 when the Swedish junior team was close to be relegated in the world championship. Therefore, the Swedish Ice Hockey Association decided to do something fundamental. They initiated a program labelled ‘Junior Theme Study’ with the purpose being to stimulate a massive recruitment of kids and youngsters in this ‘grass root effort’. Up to 100 such initiatives were later introduced.

        The ten activities approach

See figure 6 where 10 different sub programs were elaborated; a To Do list. The ‘7. League activity’ later lead to the establishment of SHL Svenska Hockeyligan (The Swedish Hockey League) which is a limited company owned by the 14 top clubs. This construction was inspired by NHL.

These are some current key figures of SHL: Turnover:  38 Million Euros; Number of matches played: 55; Public audience: 6000 (average); 80% stadium occupation rate; Ref Arena ownership, only two of the arenas owned by clubs (MoDO and Färjestad) the rest by various communes.  The number of registered players: 55,000 males and 5000 females.

The challenge for a club is how to recruit players: to buy or to develop in house: Mainly from one of the 32 (earlier 31) hockey gymnasiums.

The ‘To do list’ included: 1- Recruiting; 2- Coach education; 3- Teaching material; 4- Hockey consultants; 5- Talent developments; 6- Hockey colleges; 7- League activities; 8- National team; 9- Goalie training; 10- Digital communication. (figures 6-13 are based on internal material from Swedish Ice Hockey Association)

‘1. Recruiting’ leads to The ‘Tre kronor’s Hockey school’ which included 32 thousand children in the ages 5-10 years old (see figure 7). The Ice Hockey Association is proud to announce that Sweden is the only country which take care of sport individuals in the age span of 5 to 40.  A recruiting campaign as well as a coach education program is developed and launched. In figure 8 the teaching material is illustrated. Each region had a hockey consultant (see figure 9) and inspiring talent development (figure 10) to retain players and to reach the international top (see figure 11).



The Swedish strategy is to classify players from an age of under 15 - under 16 - under 17 etc up to the level of World Championship. Each step includes sport vacation and other types of camps and training methods. The 44 camps and 2000 players included for example technique, tactics, physical training, nutrition, mentorship, physiological training, video analyses and the ‘playing idea of the national team’.

The most important factor, however, in the list of talent development factors is the Hockey colleges described in figure 12. There are presently 32 colleges and about 1000 students/players (boys and girls) following courses, including the 10th, 11th and 12th school years. Swedish Ice Hockey Association is providing a curriculum and the youngsters are learning physical ice hockey playing and follow regular school lessons. The colleges are spread out in the country and they are placed in regions where the sport of ice-hockey has a strong position. Several of the college boys are invited to train with the local top team. (Hockey gymnasium, 2017).


The strategy- at least in the Stockholm area- is that all clubs shall be seen as equally good in order to avoid club switching. In 2015 there were 550 switches, in 2016 only 305 switches occurred. TV pucken ‘TV puck’ is a long standing cup sponsored by the Swedish state television. All 23 Swedish districts setup a team with players who are maximum 16 years old. After qualification matches the remaining eight teams play during a weekend and a winner is identified. It is huge Television interest.

The 32 Swedish Hockey colleges are important as demonstrated by 400 hours of hockey training per year during three years education. A typical week consists of two morning training sessions and one theoretical session. The players usually participate in the local hockey club in their U16 and Junior J18 team and get tough match experience. Besides these 32 main colleges there are some local gymnasiums started thanks to genuine community interest.  These local colleges have 200 hours per year accepted by the national school administration. In highly populated areas there are several gymnasiums of this type. In Stockholm several youngsters are looking for and accepted on gymnasiums located in nearby smaller cities.

Therefore, these players are retained in the region, but still dream of earning money and playing in the NHL. The alternative league is the KHL which is growing in interest. The Swedish SHL league is requiring that all clubs should include a women team, that is not so in KHL. The number of matches is 55 in SHL, 66 in KHL and 80 in NHL.


         The challenges steps towards world championships   

The significant feature in Sweden is the hockey colleges (see figure 12) which are the main source of recruitment. There is, however, a challenge in how to capture the youngsters who do not qualify for any of the 32 colleges. A second recruitment dilemma is kids who drop off between the ages of 10 to 15.

A constant challenge for the actors in Hockey Sweden is how to recruit and how to retain in the context of football as the dominating sport (figure 13).



1. Bandy, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_hockey (accessed 10-4-17)

2. Dolles, H. and Egilsson, B. 2017. Sport expatriates, in Research handbook of expatriates Y. McNulty and J. Selmer (eds) pp 350-367, Cheltenham, UK and Northamption M.A. USA: Edvard Elgar Publishing

3. Foster, G., Greyser,S.A. and Walsh, B. 2006. The Business of Sports: Cases and Text on Strategy and Management, Scarborough, Canada: Nelson Education

4. Gammelsaete, H., Storm, R.K. and Söderman, S., 2011. Diverging Scandinavian Approaches to Professional Football, chapter 6 in The Organization and Governance of Top Football Across Europe by H. Gammelsaeter, H. and B. Senaux, (eds) Routledge: Abingdon, UK.

5. Hansen, K. The birth of Swedish Ice Hockey-Antwerp 1920. Hansen, 1986 http://library.la84.org/SportsLibrary/JOH/JOHv4n2/JOHv4n2c.pdf (accessed 10-4-17)

6. Hockey gymnasium, 2017. http://www.swehockey.se/Hockeyakademin/Information/Hockeygymnasium (accessed 10-4-17)

7. Möller 2017. http://thelawreviews.co.uk/titles/1537/sports-law-review (accessed 11-4-17)

8. Stark, T. 2010, Folkhemmet på is: modernisering och nationell identitet 1920-1972 (The People’s Home on ice: modernising and national identity 1920-1972) PhD-thesis, Linné University, Malmö: Idrottsforum.

9. Svensk idrott I samhället, 2017 http://www.rf.se/globalassets/riksidrottsforbundet/dokument/dokumentbank/ovrigt/idrotten-i-siffror-2015.pdf (accessed 10-4-17)

10. Swedes for NHl 2017 https://www.nhl.com/sv (accessed 10-4-17)

11. Swedish Hockey 2017. http://www.iihf.com/iihf-home/countries/sweden.html (accessed 10-4-17)

12. TV pucken 2017 http://www.swehockey.se/Nyheter/NyheterfranSvenskaIshockeyforbundet/2016/December2016/tv-pucken2017spelaspalikadantsattsomtidigaremedkvalgruppspelochslutspel (accessed 10-4-17)

13. Young Dahlin,2017. http://www.torontosun.com/2016/12/29/swedens-rasmus-dahlin-is-the-future-star-of-2018-nhl-draft (accessed 10-4-17)




Julie Stevens

 Professor in the Department of Sport Management at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.

Professor Stevens received her Bachelor of Physical and Health Education and Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) from Queen’s University, in Kingston Ontario, Canada, in 1989. She continued her studies and earned a Masters of Arts (Sport Sociology) from Queen’s University in 1992, and her doctorate degree in Business and Sport Studies from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, in 2001.

She examines both macro and micro level change through various organization theories, namely neoinstitutionalism and contemporary versions of agency theory. Her research explains the transformation of sport organizations over time. She also employs various models of organizational development to analyze dynamics of change and organizational design within sport.

For the past 25 years, she has conducted diverse and transdisciplinary hockey research. Pr. Stevens has published on the development of hockey that emphasizes but is not limited to women’s hockey. Specifically she has published on topics such as institutional development, large-scale change, innovation, governance, managerial logics and practices, player development models, and ethics. She is co-author of the book Too Many Men on the Ice: Women's hockey in North America, and has published work on the socio-historical evolution of women's hockey.

Pr. Stevens is a North American Society for Sport Management Research Fellow. She has been awarded major Canadian federal government research grants by the National Social Science and Humanities Research Council and is an advocate of international hockey scholarship having co-chaired the 2010 Hockey on the Border: An international multidisciplinary conference.

Building a Global Game:

Institutional Change and Sustainable Women’s Hockey

Julie Stevens, PhD


Hockey continues to advance around the globe. Professional men’s hockey leagues in North America, Europe, and Russia demonstrate growth across a number of realms the most important of which is revenue. International hockey, as governed by the International Ice Hockey Federation, demonstrates growth as competition in new regions, such as Asia, expands. The evidence indicates there is much to celebrate when it comes to the worldwide profile of hockey in relation to other professional and international sports. However, it is also important to reflect upon the state of the game from within – that is for other stakeholders who play the sport but in a different manner than professional men’s hockey, such as female hockey, para ice hockey and other mass forms.

The purpose of this report is to offer insight on how to develop smaller-scale aspects of hockey such as women’s, para ice and mass. The last of these, mass hockey, includes many more forms of the game like students, veterans and recreational groups. In order to address the commonalities these small-scale hockey stakeholders face within the context of the large global hockey system, exemplars from female hockey will be highlighted. These alternate forms of hockey face similar development needs due to their minor size in comparison to the men’s game. In addition, each has emerged, albeit at different times, as a unique hockey sub-group and as such, require different structures in order to exist.

There are many different examples about how to build these areas of the game that may be drawn from women’s hockey. For the purpose of this panel discussion I will focus upon three in order to illustrate key lessons about how to foster a unique form of the game. My fellow 2016 World Hockey Forum panel members will speak to their areas of hockey such as para ice hockey, retired professional hockey and senior hockey. The collective discussion will reveal that each of these parts of the game are not mainstream hockey but since they each exist ‘at the margin’ it remains important to explore best practice strategies for growth and how such practices might transfer across these parallel forms of the game.

In 1987, women’s hockey advocates staged an invitational seven team World Women’s Hockey Tournament in Canada. The inaugural event triggered a rapid expansion of women’s international hockey. During the 30 years since the tournament, numerous hockey federations have developed the women’s and girls’ game via community teams and national programs. But despite this focused effort one key question remains – what will it take to establish a sustainable female hockey system around the world?

The answer to this question depends upon the capacity of hockey leaders to ‘adopt and adapt’ existing practices and programs. Such a strategy fosters the growth of female hockey while at the same time utilizes both ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ pressures to drive necessary change. The modern-day professional and amateur hockey systems that exist within individual nations are complex and intricate. In order to advance the female game, hockey leaders must not only conform to the established programs and regulations of these sophisticated commercial and high-performance men’s hockey models, but also recognize how to modify the hockey structures and programs in order to generate a ‘made for women and girls’ approach.

The last four decades have seen tremendous growth for women’s and girls’ hockey. Since each emerged on the international sport scene, rapid change has occurred, particularly on-the-ice where advances in player performance are striking. But these areas of hockey, plus the emergence of other mass forms such as para ice hockey and veterans, where ice hockey was added to the 2017 Invictus Games, now enter the next transition stage where the need for process and organizational innovation is necessary. In management terms these areas of hockey may be considered new entrants to an existing market. Twomey and Gaziulusoy (2014) argue that the success of a new firm entering the marketplace depends upon product, process and organizational innovation.

In female hockey terms, it is clear that product innovation, in the form of player performance, has improved particularly at the international level. When the calibre of play from 1990, the first women’s world hockey championship, is compared to 2014 Olympic Winter Games tournament the advances in individual skills and tactics is evident. Further, on-the-ice player performance has been achieved at the international level by a larger selection of countries. For example, Switzerland and Russia have recently gained podium status with bronze medal wins at Olympic and World Championship competitions. However, in order to move to the next stage of elite women’s hockey development it is necessary to consider innovation off-the-ice in order to not only recruit new players but also retain players for recreational as well as elite levels.

Hockey, Institutional Development and Innovation

In order to address sustainability, it is critical to address change, and this, in turn, must be explained within the context of the broad international hockey system. After years of evolution this system reflects an institution with an elaborate structure that serves a high performance purpose. Over a century of formal hockey competition in many countries has culminated in what exists today - an intricate and complex global hockey system. A second model within this system is men’s professional hockey whereby commercial interest strongly influences the way hockey is managed and commdified. These two domains have become intertwined during the past two decades as the crossover between professional hockey leagues, such as the NHL, KHL and SHL, and the IIHF expands both on and off the ice. Situating men’s professional hockey as the dominant hockey model enables us to better understand other forms of hockey, such as women’s, para ice and mass, as peripheral models of the game. It is with a central-peripheral outlook that issues related to the retention and recruitment of girls and women in hockey must be discussed. Given the well-structured institutional nature of hockey, innovation and creativity will serve a central role in the success of new initiatives.

Creativity is a not something new when describing on-the-ice dynamics of hockey. The evolution of the sport has led to formalized international regulations however, the standardization of the rules does not cover the actual playing of the game. Cantelon (2001) claims playing styles may be subtly or vastly different because those who participate come from varied “cultural, political, economic and social settings” (p. 29). Hence, when a sport is introduced to a country there is both a tendency to reproduce the game and a possibility to transform the game. Given the cemented nature of hockey structures, such as competitions and governance, innovation is difficult particularly for sub-groups who must on one hand find ways to enable their alternate form of hockey to flourish, and on the other hand, conform to standardized high performance hockey practices.

When considering how to develop hockey ‘at the margins’ the idea of disruption is relevant. In the context of the marketplace, disruptive innovation describes a ‘process whereby a smaller company with fewer resources is able to successfully challenge incumbent businesses’ (Christensen, Raynor, & McDonald, 2015, p. 2). Christensen et al. (2015) describe how in a market setting entrant firms provide simpler, more convenient or less costly options compared to existing firms which enable them to take a foothold and in time, successfully compete upmarket. The challenge of recruitment and retention in female hockey, and other hockey sub-groups, aligns more closely with non-profit and amateur hockey rather than commercial and high performance hockey. However, positioning these sub-groups as entrants into an incumbent hockey system helps to better understand the following - What competitive structure works best for women’s hockey? - How should girl’s hockey be organized? - How might innovation help a country expand female hockey beyond just national teams?

System Differentiation and Integration

One key element of building recruitment and retention in women’s and girl’s hockey is to consider how the female game is organized. Does the male hockey structure work for female hockey? Examples of successful change for female hockey in Canada demonstrate two points. First, parts of the existing men’s system, such as league structures, recreational programs and high performance, easily translate into the women’s system. Second, other parts, namely competition structures, development programs, and governance, require modification in order to enable girls’ and women’s hockey. Research suggests a hybrid structure that combines existing and new structures is an effective strategy to enable new girls and women’s hockey clubs and organizations to emerge and build a grassroots to competitive base for female hockey. It remains to be seen if a separate or separate and integrated female hockey structure would work in another country.

Previous research has examined the process by which girls’ hockey recruitment occurred at the local or community level (Stevens & Adams, 2013; Adams & Stevens, 2007). A case study on the formation of a local girls’ hockey association reveals some insight about how best to organize and structure hockey governing bodies in order to best support women’s and girls’. In the community examined in the case study research, girls registered with the boys minor hockey association and played integrated with boy’s teams. As more girls joined the hockey club, there was interest for them to play together on girls’ teams and as a result a separate girls’ recreation league was created within the boy’s association. Despite its growth the girls’ league received much fewer resources compared to the boy’s leagues, especially much less ice time. Parents did not believe this was fair and mobilized.

What followed was a bottom-up effort to create a girls’ hockey association and attract more players. The parents, who served as the volunteer cohort for the new girls’ hockey club, decided to separate from the boy’s hockey association in order to develop programs specific for the girls and to ensure equal ice time for their daughters. Parents joined together and volunteered to serve on the board of directors for the girls’ hockey association. They met with city officials to obtain ice time and registration increased enough to build both recreational and competitive teams. Collective action at the grassroots level generated positive girls’ hockey recruitment results by creating a separate local girls’ hockey club whose sole intent was to deliver hockey programs to girls (Adams & Stevens, 2007).

 In Canada, a separate girls’ local hockey structure such as this exists to varying degrees in different regions but is most successful in Ontario. A key determinant of the stability and growth of a girls’ hockey association is separate governance where decision-making rests in the hands of the female hockey stakeholders. The governance structures of dominant stakeholders set the rules of the sport (Washington & Ventresca, 2008) and at the local level where clubs are strongly founded in the tradition of boy’s hockey, it is difficult for girls’ to find opportunities to play hockey within the boy’s structure. There is certainly a possibility this approach may create tension as the change process unfolds.

In this case study research example, the girls wanted to play hockey but were not supported by the local boy’s hockey association. Consequently, the parents of the players formed an advocacy group and through legal mechanisms to access fair ice time and the emotional drive to give their daughters fair play opportunities, formed a new hockey association specifically for the girls’.  The initial reaction from the existing boy’s hockey club was to resist the desire for girls to leave. Sport associations need members and setting two separate hockey associations could result in clashes over registrations and limited ice time. But as time passed volunteers within the boy’s and girls’ hockey clubs found it was easier to focus upon the specific needs of their members. The boy’s hockey club had a far more elaborate competitive structure and a well-established organization which made managing a new program rather challenging. The girls’ club began as a small innovative hockey association and could develop its organization and structure at a pace the matched the growth of player registrations. Today, which is now 20 years later, this girls’ minor hockey association is one of the largest, girls-only hockey clubs in the world with over 1,100 registered players, 50 house league (recreational) teams, and 22 competitive teams.
          Moving up the system from local to regional, or what is referred to in Canada as provincial hockey branches, raises questions about how best to incorporate women’s and girls’ hockey into the larger existing men’s hockey structure. Different models exist in Canada – there is either a separate but parallel female hockey provincial association or an integrated provincial hockey association that manages both male and female hockey. The former example reflects the context in Ontario where the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association has governed female hockey since its inception in 1975. The impact of this model is uncontested – Ontario boasts the highest number of women and girl hockey registrations in the country and has established a broad official, coach, and volunteer program base for the female game. The latter example exists in all other provinces and predominantly sets female hockey governance within incumbent male hockey structures. In most cases a specific women’s and girls’ hockey committee makes recommendations for change to the larger provincial hockey association board. However, there are some examples, such as Quebec, where the women’s and girls’ committee is given a great deal of decision-making latitude to act in ways to best serve women and girls’ playing hockey.

Finally, the national and international levels reflect a more complex organizational design. In Canada, a separate Dominion Women’s Amateur Hockey Association (DWAHA) was formed in 1933 and disbanded in the 1940s (Adams, 2008). The DWAHA operated alongside but separate from the male-oriented Canadian Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) that was created in 1914. It was responsible for the governance of women’s hockey in all facets, including rules, competition and the annual national championship. Various sport scholars recognize the self-governance structure as a fundamental reason why women’s sport flourishes (Birrell and Richter, 1987) and more specifically why women’s hockey flourished during the 1950s and 1930s in Canada (Hall, 2001; Kidd, 1996). Today, a separate women’s hockey national governance structure does not exist and much of the design of female hockey programming has become firmly settled through gradual organizational development during the past 30 years. However, options for unique structures, with decision-making control are effective strategies to initiate new female hockey development programs and viable options for individual national hockey federations.

The growth of female hockey within individual countries, and worldwide, involves a balance between existing and new structures. Strategies to develop female hockey fundamentally depend upon the organizational structure and governance of women’s and girls’ hockey. The same can be said for system-based innovation in relation to other peripheral forms of hockey. Since women’s hockey formally entered the international scene in 1990, iradical change has occurred within the female game across several countries. Important consideration must be given to how the female hockey model is different from the incumbent men’s hockey model (Stevens, 2000). At the international level, women’s hockey demonstrated a high degree of mutuality when participants at the 1987 World Tournament lobbied for inclusion in the World Championships, which ultimately occurred in 1990. But the rapid advancement of high performance women’s hockey has now created an environment where the stakes are great on the world stage and the realities of elite competition counter collective action.

Collective action is an important element when driving social change in sport (Cunningham, 2014). The competitive character of hockey is profound at the international level and in this context results are the primary goal. However, there are times when stakeholders must act interdependently and seek mutual goals particularly when it comes to off-the-ice change to include new opportunities for different forms of hockey. As the examples above indicate, growth occurs when new structures are formed and new pockets of hockey activity begin. In Canada, a country with significantly more girls’ hockey participation compared to other countries, success can be attributed to a unique separate-but-integrated governance structure.

In Canada, at the local level, the most successful growth occurs where a girls’ hockey association exists separate from a boy’s hockey association. At the provincial level, most women’s and girls’ hockey structures are integrated into the incumbent hockey association that operates both male and female hockey with one exception – the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association. Finally, at the national and international levels men’s and women’s hockey governance are integrated into a single hockey federation structure via the national hockey governing body, Hockey Canada and the IIHF. The key for future recruitment and retention rests with finding ways to enable better organization and governance of women’s hockey within this broader men’s hockey system.

Player Development Pathways

The second key area related to the recruitment and retention of women’s hockey is the female hockey player development pathway. Elite sport development typically follows the pyramid model where a broad recreational participant base feeds up the system to high performance and professional levels (Emrich & Güllich, 2013). How such a system operates varies from country to country but regardless of a specific nation’s unique take on player development, the pyramid model provides the basic building block (Vaeyens, Lenoir, Williams, & Philippaerts, 2008). In Canada, elite hockey development involves a network of different hockey organizations that move a player from introductory to elite hockey levels. These organizations typically exist in the non-profit or amateur sport domain that historically has been heavily directed and funded by government. However, new pockets of for-profit development programs have recently sprouted within the Canadian youth hockey system (Marr, 2014).

In Sweden, the well-established sport club model involves hockey programs from youth to professional men’s teams in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). This arrangement reflects a hybrid context where non-profit hockey clubs provide programs to youth but also operate and own the professional men’s team. A third example is demonstrated in Russia where a long history of state-directed sport faces change as commercial forces reconfigure sport delivery. In this climate hockey continues to build a youth participation base that still reflects some state-supported programs of the past while at the same time tries to integrate new developments through commercial support.

Within the dynamic sport development environment of these countries as well as others the trend towards one specific development pathway to professional and high performance is eliminating many players from boy’s hockey. In a news story about the growing prevalence of commercial hockey programs in the Canadian youth hockey system and the importance of these programs as stepping stones to future success in men’s hockey, Pecoskie (2016) found the cost of these opportunities is inordinate. The result is many players are either excluded from or prematurely eliminated from the player development pathway. Pecoskie (2016) also determined that in an urban centre in Canada, the cost per season for a boy to stay on track for future major junior development is approximately $15,000 CDN a year. Further it was found that “a highly significant number of the [Ontario Hockey League’s] Ontario-raised players come from a small and exclusive sliver of society where incomes, housing values and post-secondary education rates are abnormally high and poverty levels are extremely low” (Pecoskie, 2014, p10).

Given this trend in boy’s hockey, what would be the result if the same shift to market-based hockey programs happens in girls’ hockey? Research indicates a wide and long female player development pathway is most effective (Edwards & Stevens, 2014; Stevens & Edwards, 2014). Thus, the introduction of commercial program such as Pecoskie (2016) found female hockey development would likely result in less as opposed to more talent. A study on talent development in Canadian female hockey revealed the pathway consisted of two key transition points, ages 14 and 17 years, and three development stages, early, mid and late stages. Data also indicated there are multiple playing options for female players within each of these stages and when combined, these option generate 53 different pathways a player may take from grassroots to high performance. This is significantly more than what is typical for a boy who wishes to progress from a youth team to national and professional teams.

Despite this breadth, the trend during the past decade has been to narrow the female player pathway to more closely mirror existing men’s high performance programs, which in Canada refers to the Program of Excellence (Stevens, 2006). But is this the right option to sustain and expand participation by women and girls in the future? Given the small female hockey participant base in many countries, the narrow pyramid approach to player development is precarious. A wide pathway that includes a large number of players for a longer period of time may better serve growth in contexts where female hockey registration is low, at least low compared to Canada. During the past few decades, plethora of talent development models have emerged worldwide as individual countries seek superior international sport success (Bruner, Erikson, McFadden, Côté, 2009). The research on the Canadian female hockey development pathway indicates a broad number of options for women to follow as they move up the system but compared to 20 years ago, the number of options has declined. Whatever the specific design, the key considerations to build small-scale forms of hockey, such as women’s hockey, is first, to keep as many players on the development pathway as possible, and second, to keep them on the pathway for as long as possible.

Culture and Legitimacy

The final area of discussion for this report addresses the impact of culture upon the legitimacy of women’s hockey. Washington (2006) notes that “sport policy makers and managers should consider the historical context and institutional environment of their sport when making decisions” (p. 30). Consider when hockey took root in countries that currently dominate men’s international hockey. The men’s game had the time to emerge, work through early stages of formalization and competitive expansion and gradually evolve to reflect the professional and international norms evident today. Each country also enacted a unique culture through its on-ice style of play . For example, the emergence of (men’s) hockey in Sweden was coupled to the early success of a bronze medal at the 1954 World Championships in Stockholm. Stark (2001) notes the Swedish on-ice style of play is characterized as ‘pioneer individualism and poetic collectivism’ (p. 42), which today is evident through a national team playing style that incorporates comprehensive team play with sound individual skill.

In Russia, hockey was first introduced in 1932 and formal organization began in the 1946-47 season. Given the context at the time, the men’s game was based upon a very rational goal-oriented plan to ‘raise the skill level and tactical knowledge of the game at an accelerated pace’ (Cantelon, 2001, p. 32). Russian hockey authorities gathered information about the rules of the sport and then introduced innovations to create an original and distinct style of hockey. The style was highly successful at the world championship level throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, According to Cantelon (2001), Russian men’s league competition assumed an experimentation role to enable the leading team, Red Army, to improve well enough to ensure Russia would continue to dominant international hockey. Over time, the Russian men’s hockey system developed efficient structures and programs to organize and manage the game in a manner that reinforced this specific culture.

The forms of hockey ‘at the margin’ also embrace unique cultures that distinguish it from the dominant men’s professional and international hockey. This does not mean the desire for competition and international sport success is any less important to these stakeholders, but does mean there are some differences founded upon their unique origins. Historical accounts of women’s hockey in Canada, the United States and Sweden reveal the female game initially existed outside the men’s hockey system (Etue & Williams, 1996; Avery & Stevens, 1998; Gilenstam, Karp, & Henriksson-Larsen, 2008). As a result of its long and independent history, there is tension between how men’s and women’s hockey, and sport in general, is played particularly in relation to values and ethic (Hall, 2002).

Towards Sustainable Women’s Hockey

Innovation within the highly structured context of men’s international elite hockey is difficult yet it is necessary if female hockey is going to advance within individual countries and worldwide. On one hand there remains the necessity to establish a robust girls’ hockey participation base. On the other hand, national and international women’s high-performance programs continue to advance at an accelerated pace. Initiatives to build an integrated development-to-elite female hockey model are a challenge to create and implement in the short-term. However, when done effectively such effort provides the foundation for highly successful and sustainable national and international women’s hockey systems. So what then are some key recommendations for the strategic development of women’s and girls’ hockey, and other hockey stakeholders?

Huo (2011) claims sports in China have reached a “new peak at present and that their development is still unbalanced between competitive sports, mass sports and the sports industry”. Female hockey will continue to undergo radical and incremental change. The inclusion of women’s hockey to the world championships in 1990 and then to the Olympics a short eight years later quickened the pace of change. Unfortunately, the accelerated pace of change is counterproductive to talent development. Looking ahead, it is helpful to extend the time horizon at which key women’s hockey performance markers must be met. National governing bodies play an important role in this regard as they decide whether or not to fund both high performance and grassroots programs. While some countries have kept stride with the pace at which international women’s hockey has advanced, it is clear that other countries are still trying to catch up to the international scene. The countries will need more time to develop their women’s hockey structures.

Given that female hockey exists within the international and non-profit realms, it is important to consider the challenge of innovation in this context. According to McKinsey and Company (2001):

In most public or non-profit service organizations, innovation is seen as a luxury, not a necessity. So it does not receive the sustained investment, management, and talent development that it requires.... (p. 45).

It will take very patient strategic action over the long term. Women’s hockey is expanding at the high performance level but its readiness for full market enterprise operation is low. For example, note the different strategies by the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) and National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL). The CWHL has existed since 2007 but remains a six team, non-profit and non-professional entity that only recently made partnership inroads with Canadian-based NHL franchises. Compare this approach to that of the NWHL, a four team league created in 2015. Initially, the NWHL clearly situated itself within the commercial realm by entering payment contracts with players but recently cut player salaries due to lower than expected revenues. Situating women’s hockey in the commercial realm is clearly inadequate for long-term sustainability. Thus, any development of elite women’s hockey must be driven by a high performance as opposed to market enterprise rationale.

A similar perspective can be drawn from the transition Chinese sport currently experiences. Research on the changeover of high-performance sport in China indicates the elite level sport in the country reflects varying degrees of commercial, state (or amateur) and joint structures (Liu, Sobry, Li, & Liu, 2010). As key actors adjust to changes in social and economic conditions in China, each sport develops in a manner that best achieves balance across commercial and state domains (Tang, Zou, & Zhou, 2006). This nimbleness, or an ability to draw upon resources from both the commercial and amateur structures, must be a key element of women’s hockey expansion in the future.

Today, government policies continue to influence sport, including women’s hockey, in many countries. However, market pressures are more prevalent within the amateur sport domain. They drive new commercial structures into the female hockey player development pathway which in turn, become problematic. An example of the market-based rationale stifling women’s hockey recruitment is the decline of women’s senior teams among Swedish hockey clubs. Attrition has occurred in all leagues including the top tier Riksserien and Division I teams. In the case of the Vaxjo Lakers, the women’s team was dropped from the club program on the basis of cost. If market principles drive female hockey then its growth at elite levels will slow down and its grassroots expansion will stall.

Weik (2012) suggests creativity within the context of very rational institutional environments may arise when there are skilled change advocates and an openness to new ideas. Creativity within the context of female hockey, which must operate within the larger men’s hockey system, would need adequate time and space to flourish. Key idea champions need space within the governance structure to follow through on ideas and make decisions to support new initiatives. In addition, creativity needs time for new opportunities to take root. This is difficult at the international hockey level where a highly rational results-oriented environment operates. The pressure to perform is perpetual and it is nearly impossible to forego immediate performance success for a longer women’s hockey development purpose. However, the IIHF’s response to criticism about the women’s hockey program at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games is a recent and important example of how the federation has tried to take a long-term, broad-based approach to women’s hockey development.


This report outlines ideas regarding recruitment and retention in women’s hockey. The ideas are general and transferable to other areas of hockey that also operate as small-scale forms of the game, such as para ice hockey, adult recreational, students, and veterans. Hockey leaders within individual countries must consider how alternate forms of hockey may best suit the context of their hockey systems. While the past 30 years reveal much has been accomplished in women’s hockey, it is still evident that the female game remains in a state of transition. The same may be said of many realms of hockey that operate at the margins. There is ongoing progress with tension along the way. Each of these stakeholders seek to build upon the unique style and culture of their hockey traditions while at the same time expand into the international and professional areas of national and global hockey systems.

The IIHF Transfer of Knowledge Program could provide the basis for research to identify and share ‘best practices’ for female hockey player and system development within and among countries. Although the IIHF Ambassador-Mentor Program (AMP) for women’s hockey, which includes coach and athlete mentors, has generated improvements there is a need to review and revisit the strategy to ensure the program continues to build women’s and girls’ hockey as the needs of women’s and girls’ hockey change within each country. The shift to off-the-ice knowledge transfer will facilitate change by integrating structures. From there, hockey leaders may customize their programs in order to build girls’ and women’s hockey in a manner that addresses their unique national context. It would be helpful to examine the impact of IIHF initiatives such as the AMP, World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend, and the Global Girls’ Game. In instances where these program served as a catalyst to improve women’s hockey recruitment and retention the specific structure and organization that fostered this growth offers valuable insight that offers ‘best practice’ knowledge.

In conclusion, the IIHF has made great strides to expand its women’s hockey reach. Future qualification events will be held in a diverse range of countries including Austria, Turkey, Kazakhstan, France, Norway, Switzerland, Japan and Sweden. IIHF women’s hockey champions herald from the United States, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Australia, and Japan. The question of sustainability depends upon how these two characters – the unique women’s hockey community and the dominant system - integrate. In their remarks about strategies to build change within very fast-paced and turbulent times, Marquis and Raynard (2014) state “under such challenging conditions, strategies at shaping the institutional environment may be especially critical to an organization’s performance and long term survival” (p. 2). The same is true for women’s hockey -  how international and national hockey federations shape female hockey now will strongly influence its sustainability in the future.


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Мишель Виньо

Michel Vigneault

PhD, lecturer at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and McGill University, Canada

Michel Vigneault has a doctorate in history from Université Laval (2001).  His dissertation was about the beginnings of organized hockey in Montréal between 1875 and 1917.  He is currently a lecturer at both Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and McGill University where he teaches physical activity history.  He is also employed by Musée Pointe-à-Callière in Montréal as historian-consultant for an exhibit on hockey in Montréal which should be open by November 2017.  Since 1996, he is a member of the Editorial Board of Sport History Review.  He is also a member of the Society for International Hockey Research (SIHR) and of the North American Society for Sport History (NASSH).  His current research is about the origins of the sport of hockey, which is different from the origins of the game of hockey.

Previously, he was the guest-curator at McCord Museum for the exhibit «Montreal: tout est hockey» in 1996-1997; and has participated as historian-consultant for the movie «Maurice The Rocket Richard» (2005), the tv series at CBC «People’s History of Hockey» (2005) and for the exhibit «Le hockey dans la peau» in Québec City in 2011.

Montreal: The Cradle of Modern Ice Hockey

Michel Vigneault, Ph.D.

Like many Canadian sports, hockey has its roots in Montréal in the 19th century.  Don Morrow has referred the city as the “the cradle of Canadian sports” in his book A Concise History of Sport in Canada.[i]  Hockey is no exception to this.

Debates on the origins of hockey can’t settle where hockey was born.  But one thing is sure, modern hockey as we know it today was formed and rose in Montréal.  Many firsts in hockey happened in the city, such as the first hockey tournament, the first hockey league, the first puck, the first exclusive hockey rink, the first winner of the Stanley Cup, etc.  It is also the birthplace of the oldest hockey organization still playing (McGill University) and the oldest professional hockey team, which is also the winningest hockey team, and the major hockey league to name a few.  And today, if you come to the city, there is always something regarding hockey and about its team the Montreal Canadiens, even if it is in the middle of summer.

In this paper, we will survey the early history of hockey, and see what is the importance of the city on organized hockey even today by looking at how this sport is celebrated there.  We will start from the early organizations of hockey and end up with the recognition of hockey in the city, and others, through some museum exhibitions that were held in the recent years.

Hockey is a big part of the Canadian culture, and it is recognized as the national winter sport, lacrosse being the summer national sport.[ii]  For some, it is a religion as many gathered in front of their television, at home or with friends at the local bar, to watch every Saturday Hockey Night in Canada.[iii]


The beginnings of hockey in Montréal to the NHL


          Birth of organized hockey

On March 3rd 1875, one could read in The Gazette of Montreal a small article on page 3 stating “A game of Hockey will be played at the Victoria Skating Rink this evening…”[iv]  Some of the crowd that would assemble were to watch the game, but many more were there to skate not aware that the rink was rented for a hockey game.  The game started after a long delay, waiting presumably for the last players to show up.  By 9h30, the game was not finished but the skaters there tired of waiting started to lace up their skates and jump on the ice only to be attacked by the hockey players not happy to see them stopping their game.  Thus, the first known hockey game finished in a brawl between hockey players and skaters.

As mentioned in the article, the players were not new to hockey, they were considered as “experts of the game”.[v]  We know now that they were playing this game for at least their second season, mostly played on the ice of the Lachine Canal where they would make a small area for their game.  They were now renting the Victoria Rink when they were spotted by a journalist who asked them if they were willing to play in front of a crowd, thus the advertising of the game.

Although The Gazette said “… the spectators then adjourned well satisfied with the evening’s entertainment.”[vi], the Montreal Daily Star had another story from a letter to the editor of someone there for skating and relating the evening’s ending scuffle.[vii]  So, two newspapers and two different stories of one historical sport event.

But hockey’s rough debut did not stop this new game from evolving.  The group led by James George Aylwin Creighton would continue to play hockey for a few more years, and creating the first two teams, the Metropolitans and the St. James that would play each other for some time.  By 1877, a new team joined in, McGill University, where most of the first players were studying.  The Victoria Rink would also form its own team, the Montreal Victorias by 1879.  Some of the early players, after their studies at McGill, would then go back to their home town and introduced their friends to this new game.  Québec City would be the first to have a team outside Montreal in 1878[viii], followed quickly by Ottawa the following year.[ix]

In 1883, some snowshoe clubs in Montreal gathered together along some other notable people to organized the first Montreal Carnival, a festivity to celebrate winter.  Many activities would be added to snowshoeing, such as curling, tobogganing, skating, and hockey.  Curling and hockey would organize each a tournament on the ice of the St. Lawrence River in the port of Montreal.  Three teams would show up for the hockey tournament: McGill, Victorias and Québec City.  The latter brought in only seven players which is the way they played the game as a Montreal team was made up of nine players.  So to be fair, the two host teams decided to retire two players for the tournament.[x]  After the tournament, won by McGill, Montreal would decide to play with seven players for now on.  They like the idea to have more space on the ice.  It would become official at the next Carnival tournament in 1884.  Québec did not show up due to a miscommunication with a team in Montreal that did not travel to Québec City a week prior to the Carnival.  Instead, a team from Ottawa came in and won the tournament.[xi]  The 1885 tournament would be the first to be held inside a rink, at the Crystal Rink, won by the Montreal Hockey Club[xii], since from 1883 the Victoria Rink was used for skating with an ice grotto erected in the middle of the ice.  The McGill grounds hosted the tournament in 1884.

Following the success of those tournaments, the teams gathered at the Windsor Hotel in Montreal in December 1885 to organize a new form of tournament that would be called the Dominion Challenge.  Instead of playing in one week, the teams accepted to play during the whole winter a round-robin.  The four Montreal teams would play each other while Ottawa and Québec teams would play a home-and-home series.  The two winners will then play each other for the championship.[xiii]  Québec won over Ottawa while the Crystals won the Montreal series over the Montreal HC, Victorias and McGill.  The Crystals claimed victory after Québec left the ice in the middle of the second half been done with the rough play of their opponents.[xiv]

The idea to play a full season instead of a week gave the teams the sentiment that a league should be formed.  The Amateur Hockey Association of Canada was then created, but Québec did not show up because they were still upset from their last game against the Crystals.  But a new format for competition was introduced, the challenge system.[xv]  Each team can challenge the winner of the previous week, and the champion would be the last winner of the season.  So, the first challenge was launched to the Crystals, winner of the previous Dominion Challenge.  It worked until 1892 when the Montreal Hockey Club, then also affiliated to the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association, won the last challenge against Ottawa.  Ottawa won all their games, except the last one, while the MAAA won only one game, but were declared champions of the AHAC.  It was the last of the challenge system, and a regular calendar was now introduced for the 1893 season where all teams play the same amount of games.[xvi]

Montreal and the Stanley Cup

With a new calendar, came also a new trophy given by the Governor-General of Canada, Lord Stanley of Preston.  This trophy was to recognize the best amateur hockey team in Canada as it was named the Dominion Challenge Hockey Cup.  Since Lord Stanley was a fan of the Ottawa team, he was hoping his team would be the first to win it, but the Montreal AAA team won the AHAC championship and the Stanley Cup at the end of the season 1893 since the cup went to the champion of the league for that season.  Starting in 1894, champion teams of different leagues could then challenge the winner to become the Canadian champions.

For the first 10 seasons, a Montreal team (MAAA, Victorias, and Shamrocks) was always involved in all challenges until Ottawa became the champion of the Canadian Amateur Hockey League (it replaced the AHAC in 1898) in 1903.  In the 123 years of the cup history, six different Montreal teams has won the cup for a total of 41 victories.[xvii]  But these teams were also losers 16 times[xviii] and one series would have no winners.[xix]

As for the Montreal Canadien,  they were present at 10 consecutives finals between 1951 and 1960, winning a record five times in a row.  And they won a total of 24 times, which is also a record.  But it is now 23 years that a Montreal team was not in a final of the Stanley Cup.  Although Toronto has the longest drought for not winning or be present since 1967 in the NHL, Winnipeg has not been present in a final since 1902 in the cup history.[xx]

Another feature that could explain how Montreal is well connected to the Stanley Cup is by the cup trustees.  Lord Stanley had named two trustees to supervised the competition for his trophy, Philip Danken Ross (1893-1946) and the Ottawa sheriff John Sweetland (1893-1907).  Ross was born in Montréal but was then a Ottawa Journal sportwriter.  Other trustees with connection to Montreal were Cooper Smeaton (former NHL referee, 1946-1978), Merv “Red” Dutton (former Montreal Maroons player and former NHL president, (1950-1987), Clarence Campbell (former NHL president, 1979-1984), and the actual trustees Brian O’Neil (former NHL vice-president, since 1988) and Ian “Scotty” Morrison (former NHL referee and former Hockey Hall of Fame president, since 2002).  Only two other trustees had no ties with Montréal (William Foran, 1907-1945; and Willard Estey 1984-2002).[xxi]

Even though the cup was created in Ottawa, Montreal has claimed for a long time being the home city of the Stanley Cup, but the original cup now resides in Toronto at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Professional hockey

In 1904, a new league was created in the USA, the International Professional Hockey League, having teams in Pittsburgh, Calumet, Houghton and both Sault St. Mary (Canada and USA).  Made up of almost all Canadian players, this league lasted four seasons before the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association (that replaced the CAHL in 1906) decided to turn semi-professional in 1907.  With that move, many players playing south of the border quit to come back in their home country.

After winning the Stanley Cup in 1906, the Montreal Wanderers declared themselves a professional team, which propelled the move for the league to change status.  The ECAHA would drop the word Amateur in 1909 to become the ECHA.  This move also officialised that the Stanley Cup would now be challenged by professional teams only.  The trustees of the cup (Mr P.D. Ross and William Foran[xxii]) agreed to the change after much debate.

The Wanderers were created in 1904 by former players of the MAAA and Victorias who disagree on some conditions to play.[xxiii]  They also formed a new league, the Federal Amateur Hockey League, to compete against the CAHL.  Before the 1906 season, the Wanderers were accepted to join the CAHL which ceased to become the ECAHA.  Along with them, the Ottawa team rejoined the former league after joining the Federal league midway the 1904 season, bringing with them the Stanley Cup.

The 1904 CAHL champions, Québec team, refused to play for the cup against Ottawa asking the trustees to give them the cup as new champion of their league, but the trustees said the Ottawa team was the champion and as were qualified to receive any challenges whatever the league they play in.[xxiv]

During that time, between 1906 and 1909, a war was declared for the purpose of amateurs able to play with professionals without losing their status of amateurs.  It was called the “Athletic War”.[xxv]  The MAAA wanted to change the amateur definition by adding this article to the Canadian Amateur Athletic Union at the 1906 annual meeting.  Some organizations, mostly in Québec and the eastern parts of Ontario accepted the resolution, the rest of Canada voted against, stating that amateurs have to play with amateurs only.  It will take 3 years of debate to settle the resolution which would separate both sport athletes for many more decades.

The debate was for all sports in Canada, and hockey was not stranger to it.  This is why the ECAHA became semi-professional by 1907 having four of the six teams professional.  The only two that remained amateurs were the MAAA and Montreal Victorias.  Seeing the athletic war being lost, both teams quitted the ECAHA to form a fully new amateur league, the Interprovincial Amateur Hockey League.  The ECAHA became ECHA since it was now fully professional.

French hockey[xxvi]

Up to 1910, there were no French teams good enough to play in the major league.  Hockey entered the French Canadian culture later.  By 1895, a first Montreal organization wanted to launch a French hockey team, Le National.  It took its players from a classical college that just started to play hockey as well, Collège du Mont St-Louis.  Another college in Montréal, Collège Ste-Marie was playing hockey, but only its catholic Irish students were doing so.  By 1894, both colleges started to play each other, and by 1895 some French students joined in.  The best Irish students of both colleges later were part of the Shamrocks that won the Stanley Cup in 1899 and 1900.  In 1898, a new hockey team was created by a snowshoe club, Le Montagnard.  Hence, beside the friendly challenge between the two colleges, two civil clubs were also battling for the French hockey supremacy since Le Montagnard draw its players from Collège Ste-Marie.

In 1901, both French teams were accepted in the intermediate series of the CAHL.  The Montagnard were champions of their section and lost in finals to the second team of the MAAA.  French hockey was now moving forward that one day it could defeat any English teams for the Stanley Cup.

But the senior league did not want new teams coming from the intermediate league, so Le Montagnard decided to quit the intermediate league for the 1903 season seeing no future as a senior team.  Le National had already quit after its unsuccess in 1901.  But two French players were joining the senior ranks with the Shamrocks: Théophile Viau and Louis Hurtubise.  They had played two games in 1902 while with Le Montagnard and made good impressions with the Shamrocks.

With the creation of the Federal League in 1904, an opportunity was now opened for a French team to join the senior ranks.  The Wanderers newly formed asked Le National to join the new league.  Le National then asked Le Montagnard to merge and to form the best ever French team.  The end result was a second place for Le National in the league behind the Wanderers.  After this success, the CAHL asked Le National to join its league, which the French team accepted.  The Federal League then asked Le Montagnard to form a team to join the league.  So, in 1905, two French teams were now accepted in the senior ranks and had a chance to play for the Stanley Cup.  But successes were hard to come.

After two games, Le National lost its best player, Didier Pitre, who quitted to join Sault St. Mary (USA) in the International Pro League where his best friend, Jack Laviolette, was playing.  After the third game, Le National folded not able to win and to draw spectators.  It would come back in 1906 as a team without a league.

Le Montagnard stayed in the Federal League until 1907.  In its last season, Le Montagnard was on top of the league.  But the other teams put forward some protests against the French team to withdraw two wins and made them in second place behind Cornwall, the team of the league’s president.  Cornwall could then challenge the Wanderers for the Stanley Cup instead of Le Montagnard, but the cup trustees heard about the foul play, and refused the challenge.  But the French team could not either challenge, it had folded a week before the end of the season because it did not see any future in that league.  In fact, it was the end of Le Montagnard in hockey.

New leagues and new teams

In 1908 and 1909, no French teams were playing high level of hockey.  There was a team, Université Laval de Montréal, that was playing in the intercollegiate league with University of Toronto, Queen’s University and McGill University, but it did not attract many spectators or media reports.

In 1909, a friendly match was organized between a French team, made up for that occasion only, and the Wanderers.  It was a test to see if a French team could play against the best in hockey.  Le National sponsored the team with players coming from different parts of North America: Emile Coutu (goalie from Université Laval de Montréal), Jack Laviolette (defense, Shamrocks), Didier Pitre (defense, Renfrew), Eddie Robitaille (forward, Pittsburgh), Newsy Lalonde (forward, Cornwall), Joseph Dostaler (forward, Université Laval de Montréal), Alphonse Jetté (forward, Théâtre National Français).  This heteroclite team lost by 10-9.  But for many in the French society, it could prove that a French professional team could play against the best, even though only four players were professional in that game (Laviolette, Pitre, Robitaille, and Lalonde).[xxvii]

At the annual meeting of the ECHA in November 1909, a big news emerged.  The Wanderers asked to play their home games at another rink than the Westmount Arena, being the Jubille Rink.  The other ECHA teams voted against this move and even threw the Wanderers out of the league.  A Renfrew representative, J. Ambrose O’Brien, wanted to have his team joined the ECHA, but his request was not accepted.  So, the Wanderers and O’Brien seated together in another room at the Windsor Hotel to set up a new league to compete against the ECHA.  Renfrew was playing in the Ottawa Valley Hockey League with Cobalt and Haileybury and O’Brien suggested to the Wanderers to join the league and create a new one to be called the National Hockey Association.  Since the Wanderers wanted to play at the Jubilee, which was located in a Montreal French east ward, opposed to the Westmount Arena in the west end of Montreal, the Wanderers proposed to create a new French team to attract more spectators.  James Gardener, Wanderers’ representative, then said he could reach Jack Laviolette to form the team, and proposed the name, Le Canadien.[xxviii]

Meanwhile, the ECHA became the Canadian Hockey Association and asked Le National to form a team following the result of the 1909 game against the Wanderers.  Thus, the city could count now on five professional teams (National, Shamrocks and All-Montreal in the CHA; Wanderers and Canadien in the NHA), two of them being French. In total, there were five teams in each league, half of them then being in Montreal.  Since the season started only in January, the month of December was a busy month for signing players in both leagues.

On December 12, one player made the news by signing with two different teams on the same day.  Jack Laviolette asked his best friend to join Le Canadien, but Didier Pitre lived in Sault St. Mary, so he would jump in the train to Montreal, while Laviolette would meet him in Ottawa and would make him sign his contract.  But someone told Le National about this, and Alphone Lecours took the train to intercept Pitre in North Bay.  Pitre then sign with Le National, and later that day sign for Le Canadien.  Pitre would finally line up with Le Canadien and Le National would went to court against Pitre for breach of contract.  It would be settled out of court in February 1910.[xxix]

After two weeks into the season, Ottawa and the Shamrocks would jump league to join the NHA on January 15.  Le Canadien franchise was offered to Le National since O’Brien was putting the money for the club.  He wanted to give the franchise to anyone in the French community able to take it over.  Le National refused the offer because it would cost it too much.[xxx]  Instead Le National folded from the CHA and some players joined Le Canadien while Québec and All-Montreal, the last two teams from the CHA folded also and it was the end of the “old league”.  From five teams, Montreal would still have three teams after the merger, Le Canadien, the Shamrocks and the Wanderers.

In the following season, some teams disappeared.  Cobalt and Haileybury could not survive in a professional environment, while the Shamrocks decided to quit to return as an amateur team.  Québec would come back to professional hockey after being forgotten in the merger.  Ottawa, Renfrew, Canadien and Wanderers would complete the league.  Two franchises were also given to Toronto, but would come in only for the  1911-12 season.

As for Le Canadien, there was another problem by the end of the 1910 season.  The Club Athlétique Canadien sued the hockey team because it owned rights on the name Le Canadien.  The CAC was created in 1908 to sponsor professional boxing and wrestling under the leadership of George Kendall (also known as Kennedy) and Dr. Joseph-Pierre Gadbois.  By 1909, the club announced it would be interested to have a professional hockey team.  So, in the summer of 1910, the CAC went to court to defend its rights on the name.  After an out-of-court settlement, Le Canadien hockey team was given to the CAC[xxxi], as O’Brien was hoping earlier with Le National.  Now known as the CAC, the team would be incorporated in March 1916 with a new name, Club de Hockey Canadien / Canadien Hockey Club.  George Kendall would then become the leading owner.

First championship for a French team

Two weeks after the incorporation of the new name, Le Canadien won its first Stanley Cup against Portland of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association.[xxxii]  Le Canadien won the second half season while Toronto won the first half.  The Montreal team won the series and were then the host city of the final series against the PCHA champions, the Portland Rosebuds, at the Westmount Arena.  Since travelling between the two cities was impossible in a short time, it was agreed that each finals would be played in the city of one of the two teams, west being in odd years and east in even years.  The finals would be a best-of-five series.

Because the two leagues were playing with different rules, such as the number of players on the ice (PCHA was playing with seven, the NHA with six), the series was to be played one game with PCHA rules and the next one with NHA rules.  Le Canadien won three games to two.

The following season, Le Canadien won again the NHA championship and then travelled to Seattle to face the PCHA champions.  This time, the western team won in four games.  Le Canadien would travel again to Seattle in 1919 as the NHL champions, but this time there would be no winners since the series was tied two games apiece with one draw, the game being stopped because of a curfew after the overtime.  By the fifth game, some players got sick, and half of them were rushed to the hospital.  They were affected by the Spanish Influenza that ravaged Europe and North America after the First World War.  Joe Hall, of the Canadien, would die after five days at the hospital, and George Kendall would suffer a lot from this flu and would die two years later.  So the series was stopped and no winners were declared.[xxxiii]  Le Canadien would return to the finals five years later, but under the new management of Léo Dandurand, Louis Létourneau and Joseph Cattarinich who bought the team from Kendall’s widow in 1921.

National Hockey League

In February 1917, the two Toronto teams, Blueshirts and 228th Battalion, were dismantled for different reasons.  The army wanted the Battalion in Europe so the team quited the NHA.  As for the Blueshirts, their owner, Eddie Livingstone, was ejected from the league for being most of the times against the decisions made by the other owners and league president.  In November, Livingstone showed up at the league’s annual meeting at the Windsor Hotel in Montréal with an injunction against his dismissal.  So having no other options, the remaining owners decided to quit the NHA and Livingstone, and created a new league, the National Hockey League.

The NHL was then created by four teams, Canadien, Wanderers, Québec and Ottawa.  A new franchise was given to Toronto, the Arenas, to replace the Blueshirts.  But Québec decided not to play for the first two seasons due to financial problems.  Later, it was discovered that Livingstone was involved with the Arenas, but the franchise remained at one condition, that Livingstone could not attend any league meetings.  He would remain with the team for only two seasons and then sold his share to the other Toronto owners.

The Wanderers and the Canadien had bad news on January 2 1918 when the Westmount Arena was destroyed by a fire.  The Wanderers folded while the Canadien returned to their original rink, the Jubilee, while a new arena would be built for the 1919-20 season.  So, for the first two seasons, the NHL had only three teams.  After returning to the league for the 1919-20 season, the Québec team would move to Hamilton after a disastrous season.

In 1924-25, the league had two new teams.  For the first time, an American team would join a Canadian league, the Boston Bruins.  The other team was to replace the Wanderers in many Montreal English fans, and would be called the Maroons after the colour of the uniform.  The Maroons, or known officially as the Montreal Professional Hockey Club[xxxiv], also built its own hockey arena, the Forum.  Because the new artificial ice was not available at the Mont-Royal Arena where the Canadien were playing, the first ever game at the Forum saw the Canadien, and not the Maroons, being the home team.  In 1926, the Canadien ceased their lease at the Mont-Royal Arena, which was smaller than the Forum, to play their home games at their city opponent’s arena.

In the spring 1926, only at their second season, the Maroons won their first Stanley Cup agains Vancouver of the Western Hockey League.  This finals was the last involving the two professional leagues because the Western League would fold and sold their players to the NHL.  Three new teams would be created then in the NHL, the Detroit Cougars, the Chicago Blackhawks and the New York Rangers.  Meanwhile, the NHL had already accepted a new team the previous season, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Hamilton team had also moved in 1925 to New York to be known as the Americans.  So, for the 1926-27 season, the NHL had now 10 teams divided in two divisions, six of the teams being located in the USA.

After the economical crisis of the 1930s, the NHL would be reduced to six teams, which were be called later as the “Original Six” when the league would expand to 12 teams in 1967.

Hockey memories

Hockey history is now celebrated through many forms, like books, movies, tv series, board games, video games, table games, and exhibits in different kind of museums. 

As for museum exhibits, it all started with a dream, but it is now well alive.  History is a great part of all exhibits, but other aspects of hockey are as well included in these, such as equipments, technics, social aspects of the game, gender, fans, sponsors, and derived amusements like hockey cards, films, board games, etc.  Each exhibit also has a special local interest.

James Sutherland wanted to create a hall of fame to copy what baseball just did in 1939 at Cooperstown.  But he wanted it to be set up in his home town, Kingston, where he thought was the birthplace of hockey through a report he produced in 1942.[xxxv]  Only a virtual Hall of Fame existed from 1945 to 1960 while many stars were elected into it.  His idea was finally set up in Toronto in 1961 at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds along with the Canadian Sport Hall of Fame after the death of Sutherland.  No cities were willing to accept a hall of fame before, and none in Montréal saw the idea as a good one then, although there were rumours to be open at McGill University in the 1950s.  The new Hockey Hall of Fame was opened in downtown Toronto, at the BCE centre, in 1993.[xxxvi]

Kingston finally came up with the idea of Sutherland in 1965.  This museum was affiliated with the International Ice Hockey Federation from 1991 to 1997, thus became the International Hockey Hall of Fame and Museum, name that it is still known by today.[xxxvii]

In March 1996, the McCord Museum of Montréal put on an exhibit “Montreal: That’s Hockey” to retrace the history of hockey in that city.[xxxviii]  It opened while the Montreal Canadien was moving from the Forum to the Molson Centre (now Bell Centre).  Planed at first for 12 months, the exhibit had an extension for another six months due to popular demand.  In fact, about 1 million people came to see the exhibit in 18 months.  Most of the artefacts shown were loans from individual people who wanted to share their love of the sport and the city.  The Hockey Hall of Fame also contributed with a large number of artefacts.  It is considered as the first hockey exhibit since the creation of the Hockey Hall in Toronto.

Québec City was host to the exhibit “Hockey: It’s in our DNA” from March to October 2011.[xxxix]  It looked at the history of hockey in general with a part on the host city history.  The exhibit was then set up in Kitchener in January 2012, but no other cities took over the exhibit.

Some hockey teams have their own hall of fame.  The Montréal Canadien, with its rich history, set up a small exhibit with artefacts loaned by the fans.  Unfortunately, this museum did not last long, it was created for the centennial of the club in 2010 and dismantled in 2015, the artefacts being returned to their owners.

Coming in 2017, there will be two exhibits.  The first one is currently held at the Museum of Canadian History in Gatineau from March to September 2017 to be called “Hockey: More than just a game”.[xl]  The idea to be a travel exhibit is that it will be then held in Montréal at Pointe-à-Callière Museum in November 2017, using the same title.  Other places in Canada are looking to have this exhibit, which is done in the celebration of the NHL centennial, but none has so far been officially announced.


The city of Montréal has been a central point for the history of modern hockey since its beginnings.  The modern form was first played at the Victoria Skating Rink in March 1875; the oldest hockey team, the McGill University, was created in 1877; the first tournament was played during the Montreal Carnival in 1883; the first league, the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada was formed at the Windsor Hotel in 1887, like many others to follow; the first Stanley Cup winner was the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association in 1893; the first French teams were formed there in 1895; and the most wins of the Stanley Cup were the feat of Montreal teams.

As for the National Hockey League, the city was a central point also as being there that it was created in November 1917 at the Windsor Hotel.  And up to 1977, the president of the league was a Montreal citizen, thus having the NHL front office in the city.

Although the city is not any more a major central part of hockey, its rich history remains a focal point for anyone interested in the history of hockey.



[1] http://www.championshockeyleague.net/news/new-chl-format-for-2017-18-32-teams-and-on-ice-qualification-only/1727/ accessed on May 13th.

[2] http://www.iihf.com/home-of-hockey/news/attendance-2015-2016/ accessed on May 13th.

[3] http://www.iihf.com/home-of-hockey/championships/world-ranking/mens-world-ranking/2016-ranking/ accessed on May 4th.

[4] http://www.iihf.com/home-of-hockey/championships/world-ranking/womens-world-ranking/2017-ranking/ accessed on May 4th.

[5] http://www.hockeyfrance.com/ffhg/la-federation/présentation/chiffres-cles accessed May 4th.

[6] http://www.lemonde.fr/sports-de-glisse/article/2016/11/19/le-hockey-francais-a-son-palais-a-cergy-pontoise_5034082_1616666.html accessed May 16th.

[7] http://bfmbusiness.bfmtv.com/mediaplayer/video/le-match-la-france-peut-elle-devenir-une-grande-nation-de-hockey-sur-glace-2611-888979.html accessed on May 16th.

[8] http://www.sport365.fr/ligue-magnus-winter-game-grenoble-plus-fort-lyon-2870974.html accessed on May 16th.

[9] http://www.iihfworlds2017.com/en/teams/#FRA accessed on May 17th.

[10] http://www.liguemagnus.com/ligue-magnus/historique/structuration accessed on May 17th.

[11] http://bfmbusiness.bfmtv.com/mediaplayer/video/le-match-la-france-peut-elle-devenir-une-grande-nation-de-hockey-sur-glace-2611-888979.html accessed on May 16th.

[12] http://www.iihf.com/home-of-hockey/news/attendance-2016-2017/ accessed on May 16th.

[13] http://bfmbusiness.bfmtv.com/mediaplayer/video/le-match-la-france-peut-elle-devenir-une-grande-nation-de-hockey-sur-glace-2611-888979.html accessed on May 16th.

[14]Charles W. Chesnutt, “Literature in Its Relation to Life,” reprinted in Joseph R. McElrath, Jr et al., eds. Charles W. Chesnutt: Essays and Speeches (Palo Alto, Cal.: Stanford University Press, 1999) 114.

[15] Library and Archives of Canada, www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/, accessed 5 March 2017.

[16] The exhibit operated until January 22, 2016.  See https://thediscoverblog.com/tag/hockey/. Accessed 5 March 2017.

[17] Andrew C. Holman, ed. Canada’s Game: Hockey and Identity (Kingston & Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009) 3-4.

[18] Journalism is excluded. My focus here is on writing that has “shelf life” longer than the daily or weekly news cycle.

[19] Arthur Farrell, Hockey: Canada’s Royal Winter Game (Montreal: C.R. Corneil, 1899). For other examples, see Thomas K. Fisher, Ice Hockey: A Manual for Player and Coach (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1926); Mervyn Dutton, Hockey: The Fastest Game on Earth (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1938); Richard F. Vaughan and Holcomb York, Hockey, for Spectator, Coach and Player (New York: Whittlesey House, McGraw-Hill, 1939); Lloyd Percival, The Hockey Handbook (Toronto: Copp Clarl Company, 1951).

[20] Georges Laraque, Georges Laraque: The Story of the NHL’s Unlikeliest Tough Guy (Toronto: Viking Canada, 2011); Bobby Orr, Orr: My Story (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2013). Team biographies are another important elemnt in this genre.  See, for example, Chrys Goyens and Allan Turowetz, Lions in Winter

[21] Richard Gruneau and David Whitson, Hockey Night in Canada: Sport, Identities, and Cultural Politics (Scarborough, Ont. Garamond Press, 1993).

[22] Jamie Dopp and Richard Harrison, Now is the Winter: Thinking about Hockey (Hamilton, Ont.: Wolsak & Wynn, 2009); Jason Blake, Canadian Hockey Literature (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010); Michael Robidoux, Stickhandling through the Margins: First Nations Hockey in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012).

[23] Blake, Canadian Hockey Literature; Michael Buma, Refereeing Identity: The Cultural Work of Canadian Hockey Novels (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2012).

[24] Cara Hedley, Twenty Miles (Toronto: Coach House Books, 20014).

[25] Richard Wagamese, Indian Horse (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2012).

[26] “Hockey in Society: Exploring Critical Social Issues in Hockey,” https://hockeyinsociety.com/ (accessed 29 April 2017).

[27] Al Purdy, “Hockey Players” in Michael P.J. Kennedy, ed. Going Top Shelf: An Anthology of Canadian Hockey Poetry (Surrey, B.C.: Heritage House, 2005) 25-26.

[28] Randall Maggs, Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems (London, Ont.: Brick Books, 2008)

[29] Beth Goobie, “a hockey player’s body” in Dale Jacobs, ed. Ice: New Writing about Hockey (Edmonton, Alta: Spotted Cow Press, 1999) 27-29.

[30] Richard Harrison, “Russians,” in Hero of the Play (Toronto: Wolsak & Wynn, 2004) 33.


[i] Don Morrow, A Concise History of Sport in Canada, Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1989.  See the Chapter 1 “Montreal: the cradle of organized sport”.

[ii] Bill C-212 was voted in 1994 by the Canadian government : https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/National_Sports_of_Canada_Act

[iii] Or La soirée du hockey for the French audience.

[iv] « Victoria Rink », The Gazette, 3rd March 1875, p. 3

[v] One player, Henry Joseph, would tell how Creighton and his friends started to play hockey in: D.A.L. MacDonald, “The winter stadium”, McGill News, Winter 1956, pp. 21-25.

[vi] « Hockey », The Gazette, 4th March 1875, p. 3

[vii] « The Victoria Rink », Montreal Daily Star, 4th March 1875, p. 3

[viii] Marc Durand, La Coupe à Québec, Québec, Éditions Sylvain Harvey, 2012.

[ix] Paul Kitchen

[x] The Gazette, 28 January 1883, p. 8

[xi] The Gazette, 5 February 1884, p. 5

[xii] The Gazette, 2 February 1885, p. 5

[xiii] Montreal Daily Star, 5 January 1886, p. 9

[xiv] “Hockey”, The Gazette, 20 March 1886, p. 8

[xv] “The Dominion Association”, The Gazette, 23 December 1886, p. 8

[xvi] Donald Guay, L’histoire du hockey au Québec, Chicoutimi, Éditions JCL, 1990, p. 81

[xvii] MAAA (1893, 1894, 1902, 1903), Victorias (1895, 1896, 1897, 1898, 1899), Shamrocks (1899, 1900), Wanderers (1906, 1907, 1908, 1910), Maroons (1926, 1935), and Canadiens (1916, 1924, 1930, 1931, 1944, 1946, 1953, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1986, 1993)

[xviii] Victorias (1896, 1903), Shamrocks (1901), MAAA (1903), Wanderers (1904, 1907), Maroons (1928), Canadien (1917, 1925, 1947, 1951, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1967, 1989)

[xix] In 1919, the series between Seattle and Le Canadien had no winners.  See further in the text.

[xx] The Winnipeg Victorias of the Manitoba League won the Stanley Cup in 1896 and 1901. Their last presence in a final was in 1902 when they lost to the MAAA.

[xxi] http://www.hhof.com/htmlSilverware/silver_stTrustees.shtml

[xxii] William Foran replaced the original trustee John Sweetland who was appointed by Lord Stanley upon his departure as Governor-General,  The trustees were named to supervise the competition for the cup.  The trustees are now Brian O’Neil and Scotty Morrison.

[xxiii] “Du grabuge chez les hockeyistes“, La Patrie, 1 December 1903, p. 2

[xxiv] Marc Durand, op.cit., p. 54

[xxv] Don Morrow, “A case-study in amateur conflict: the Athletic War in Canada, 1906-1909”, British Journal of the History of Sport, vol.3 no. 2, September 1986, pp. 173-190

[xxvi] All this section is based on Michel Vigneault, La naissance d’un sport organise au Canada: le hockey à Montréal, 1875-1917, Ph.D. thesis, Université Laval, 2001

[xxvii] “Le National fait bonne figure”, La Presse, 11 March 1909, p. 3

[xxviii] “Five leagues here”, The Gazette, 27 November 1909, p. 2

[xxix] “Une course peu banale”, La Patrie, 13 December 1909, p. 2

[xxx] “Le National n’existe plus”, La Patrie, 18 January 1910, p. 2

[xxxi] Gilles Janson et al., Dictionnaire des grands oubliés du sport au Québec 1850-1950, Québec, Septentrion, 2013, p. 226

[xxxii] The PCHA was founded by Lester and Frank Patrick in 1912.  After being unsuccessful to challenge for the Stanley Cup in 1913 against Québec, the Bulldogs and the trustees did not accept the challenge, the PCHA got an agreement with the NHA starting in 1914 for having a final series for the Stanley Cup, being the only two professional leagues in North America.  This agreement came after another agreement to stop the battle for players between the leagues.  To learn more about the Patrick brothers and their league, see Eric Whitehead, The Patricks, Hockey’s Royal Family, Toronto, Doubleday Canada, 1980.

[xxxiii] Gilles Janson et al., op.cit., p. 227

[xxxiv] For a complete history of the Maroons, see William Brown, The Montreal Maroons, Montréal, Véhicule Press, 1999

[xxxv] Origin of hockey in Canada, Report submitted to the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association Annual Meeting, Toronto, April 1942

[xxxvi] For the history of the Hockey Hall of Fame:  http://www.hhof.com/htmlGeneralInfo/gi20300.shtml

[xxxvii] For the history of the International Hockey Hall of Fame and Museum:  http://www.originalhockeyhalloffame.com/about/

[xxxviii] The author was the curator of the exhibit.  The French title was “Montréal: tout est hockey

[xxxix] The French title was « Le hockey dans la peau »

[xl] The French title is « Le hockey, plus qu’un jeu »


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