Hundred-year history of Czech ice hockey focus of new National Museum exhibition

A statue of Ivan Hlinka, photo: CTK

“One Century of Czech Ice Hockey” is the title of an exhibition which has just opened at Prague’s National Museum. It features photographs and documents from the history of the sport in this country, as well as valuable medals, jerseys and other memorabilia.

Former players Karel Gut and Jan Havel at the statue of Ivan Hlinka, photo: CTK
The history of Czech ice hockey began a century ago, in 1908, and Thursday’s exhibition launch was tied to a key moment in the development of the sport in this part of the world. Hana Havránková is the curator of the National Museum show.

“On this day exactly a hundred years ago the Czech Ice Hockey Association was founded. An interesting fact is that the man who established it, Emil Procházka, was quite forward looking and he himself had already become a member of the International Ice Hockey League at that time, and had won recognition from the Austro-Hungarian authorities.”

Former player František Pospíšil, photo: CTK
So when did ice hockey become popular here?

“Immediately! First bandy hockey was played, using a ball: it was basically field hockey on ice. When we played our first international game in 1909, in Chamonix, our players tried playing with a puck for the first time just an hour before the match. Bandy hockey was superseded by Canadian hockey, which is hockey as we know it today, with a puck. It basically drove bandy hockey from the lakes used in those days and from the ice rinks.”

Former player Gustav Bubník, photo: CTK
Hana Havránková says there have been so many important anniversaries – and linked exhibitions – this year that the century of ice hockey show isn’t as big as it might otherwise have been. Nonetheless, hockey fans are in for quite a treat.

“The most valuable items are of course Olympic winners’ medals. As well as that, we’ve got World Championships medals, and items which show how hockey became mixed up with politics, such as a banner that was unfurled by fans at the 1983 World Championships in Germany. Also we’ve got a jersey worn by Jan Havel with a little sticker over the five-pointed star on our state symbol, which some of our players wore in a game against the Soviet Union.”

A statue of Ivan Hlinka, photo: CTK
Also on show at the National Museum is a statue of the late Ivan Hlinka, who was a star forward for Czechoslovakia before going on to lead the Czech Republic to Olympic gold in 1998 as manager. Hlinka, a true legend of Czech hockey, figures in a “Team of the Century” poll published in Friday’s edition of the newspaper Sport. Winger Jaromír Jágr, the most successful Czech player in the history of the NHL, received the most points in the poll, followed by goaltender Dominik Hašek, winger Vladimír Martinec and defender Jan Suchý.