Hockey in the Czech Republic

The National Sport: takes a look at the history of Czech hockey up to the current Czech Extraliga

Nick Young

Written by Nick Young Published on 21.08.2009 16:09:41 (updated on 21.08.2009) Reading time: 4 minutes

Without question there is one sport that rises far above the rest in Czech Republic due to its historic legacy and its ability to bring about a sense of national pride. It´s a sport that has made the country famous on the international stage of competition and has given the Czech athletes a legendary reputation. This sport, need you ask, is none other than ice hockey.

The Czechs have had a fascinating hockey history which spans back only to the beginning of the 20th century. It has seen terrible times; such as a plane crash in 1949 which killed six national team members, as well as the imprisonment of several national team members under a bogus accusation of espionage against the Communist Czechoslovak state in 1950. But it also has reached tremendous highs; including the winning of several world championships spanning five decades, and the ultimate victory, a gold medal in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano.

In many ways the tumultuous, tragic, and ultimately joyous history of Czech hockey has mirrored the ups and downs of the nation during the past 100 years, which is perhaps why the country holds the sport so dear.
There were an estimated 70,000 people who braved the chilly winter cold in Old Town and Wenceslas Squares to celebrate the winning of the gold medal in 1998. It´s reported that many in attendance wept as the national anthem played and kissed their flags in honor of the victory. There was even an opera created about this championship team entitled “Nagano.” It´s this passion, devotion, and love of the game which makes hockey the number one sport in the Czech Republic.

Of course producing some of the world´s greatest players doesn´t hurt when trying to win over fans. The Czech Republic/Czechoslovakia has spawned some of the greatest players in the modern era. Left winger Jaromír Jágr, known in his younger days for the long curly hair flowing across his shoulders (aka the ‘Jágr Mullet´), became one of the National Hockey League´s greatest goal scorers and still continues his career as a 37 year old in Russia with a reported $10 million per year contract. Jágr wears the number 68 to commemorate the ‘Prague Spring´ uprising of 1968.

Goalkeeper Dominik “The Dominator” Hašek was so popular amongst Czech fans after leading them to the gold medal in 1998 that some were calling for him to run for political office. He recently has signed a contract after several years away from hockey and will play next season for his local club HC Pardubice, the team that gave him his start in professional hockey nearly 30 years ago.

Other Czech luminaries such as Martin Straka, Petr Nedvěd, Patrik Eliáš, Bobby Holík, and Petr Sýkora have helped leave an indelible mark upon international hockey with their success. The Czechs as a whole comprise the third highest total number of players in the NHL, hockey´s highest professional league, after Canada and United States. That´s quite an achievement for a country with a population of only about 10 million people.

This reputation for high quality competition and the passion of Czechs for their national sport provides hockey fans a great opportunity to enjoy a match in the country´s professional league.  The Czech Extraliga ( consists of 14 teams spread around the country, including two teams in Prague. These teams are HC Slavia Praha ( and HC Sparta Praha (; heated rivals with supporters that share a fiery dislike of each other.

Sparta fans can boast a superior history with eight national championships over the team´s 108 year history and Slavia fans will tell you that their team has been better in recent years, including winning the Extraliga championship in 2008. If you should get the opportunity to attend a match between the two clubs and can witness the rivalry in person you´d better be prepared for a wild time where anything is possible.

The experience at a hockey match in Prague is most certainly a memorable one. Boisterous drum beating fans lead cheers throughout the entire match, cheerleaders perform dance routines during the breaks in play, and the action on the ice is fast moving and hard hitting. 

The value of a night at the arena is also tremendous. Most tickets go for under 150 CZK, the cost of beer is about what you´d pay normally outside the stadium, and plenty of delicious fatty, greasy snacks can be bought for cheap.

Tickets can be purchased on the team´s website or at the ticket window at the arena. Slavia plays at the modern, bright, state of the art O2 Arena (Českomoravská 9) while Sparta plays at Tesla Arena (Za elektrárnou 419/1) which can accurately be described as the old ugly cousin of O2 Arena, albeit the venue with more history and character.

The season starts in mid-September and packs in over 50 games which go on through most of the winter. If you are looking for an indoor activity during the cold months that features excitement, great value and gets you in touch with something that many Czechs value as much or more than any other national tradition, there is nothing better than to bring yourself to a hockey match.

Would you like us to write about your business? Find out more