SLOVAN Bratislava is among Slovakia’s oldest hockey clubs. The beginnings of hockey in Bratislava go back over 90 years.
In 1921, the untiring promoter Antonín Máša-Balík was instrumental in founding a hockey division within the 1st ČsŠK Bratislava sports club. At the beginning, it was just bandy hockey with a ball. After 1924, Canadian hockey started gaining popularity. Bratislava used the proximity of Vienna and the availability of an artificial ice rink at Engelmann. Accordingly, the Bratislava players’ first competitive game following Canadian rules took place in Vienna: they lost to Wiener EV, 1-6. That was in December 1924. In 1937, the club won the Regional Championship. Hockey’s prospects further brightened with the opening, on 14th December 1940, of the winter sports arena in Bratislava’s district of Tehelné pole – still Slovan’s home venue today.
For several decades after World War II, Slovan was recognized as Slovakia’s top team, and an elite team within the joint Czecho-Slovak league. During this time, Slovan’s roster successively boasted players such as the Jendek brothers, Starší, Fako, Černický, the Gregor brothers, Čapla, Golonka, Dzu¬rilla, Nedomanský and others who greatly helped spreading the club’s reputation. It’s also thanks to these stars that Slovan finished as the league’s runner-up in several seasons. Slovan’s only Championship in the men’s category in the Czecho-Slovak league came under the coach Ladislav Horský in the 1978/79 season.
The mainstays of the Championship-winning team were both older experienced players such as Sakáč, Ku¬že¬la, Bukovinský, Ujváry, Miklošovič, Žiška and Mrukvia, and young beginning players who later developed into outstanding players for Czechoslovakia’s national team, among them the brothers trio of Peter, Marián and Anton Šťastný, Rusnák, Pa¬šek, Černý, Jaško and Pokovič. Besides the main team’s success, Slovan also repeatedly won the Championship in the 1980s in both junior categories. Especially memorable is a stretch of 5 years from 1974 to 1979, when Slovan’s principal junior team won 4 Championships in 5 seasons, and the 1984/85 season, when the two Slovan junior teams won a Championship double. Whereas the younger junior team led by the coaching pair of Dzurilla and Venutti cruised through the entire season without losing a single point to become Champions of Slovakia, the principal junior team coached by Walter and Tománek triumphed at the final tournament in Nitra – amidst competing teams from České Budějovíce, Plzeň, Gottwaldov and Košice – to become Champions of Czechoslovakia. Players noticeable on those junior teams – Franta, Beňo, Králik, Bukna, Mosnár, Rus¬znyák, Búřil, Morávek, Ulehla, Kodet and others – later likewise developed into valuable national team players.
After Slovakia gained independence in 1993, Slovan extended its history of success. Starting from the 1993/94 season, Slovan became the Champion of Slovakia eight times (1997/98, 1999/2000, 2001/02, 2002/03, 2004/05, 2006/07, 2007/08, and finally in 2011/12 just before joining the KHL) among men, and won eleven Championships in various youth categories – from the minors to the junior team. In addition to those titles, all Slovan teams combined won a total of 18 silver and bronze medals in the era of Slovak independence. Should the Olympic criterion be applied to assign points, the conclusion would be that HC Slovan Bratislava has been Slovakia’s most successful hockey club for the last 19 seasons. During this time, the Slovan roster included or still includes such luminaries of Slovak hockey as Cíger, Kolník, Višňovský, Podhradský, Rybár, Li¬pian¬sky, Kapuš, Hreus, Hurtaj, Jánoš, Podkonický and Šatan, along with foreign players, among them Ilyin (Russia), Pankov (Belarus), Casey (Canada), Pavlas and Barta (Czech Rep.).
In addition to success at home, Slovan also won a number of prestigious trophies on international ice. It is the world’s only club to win the oldest European hockey tournament, Spengler Cup (played in Switzerland), in three straight years, and it is among 4 European clubs that played in all 4 installments of European Hockey League while always managing to advance to the finals from the group stage. Other international highlights were the victory in Continental Cup (2003/04 season), and the 3rd place in European Champions Cup in 2008.
CLUB ACHIEVEMENTS OVERVIEW
1921 hockey division of ČsŠK Bratislava sports club founded
1924 1st competitive game played according to Canadian hockey rules
1937 Regional Champion
1940 opening of winter sports arena at Tehelné pole
1978 - 1979 Champion of Czechoslovakia
1997 - 1998 Champion of Slovakia
1999 - 2000 Champion of Slovakia
2001 - 2002 Champion of Slovakia
2002 - 2003 Champion of Slovakia
2003 - 2004 Continental Cup winner
2004 - 2005 Champion of Slovakia
2006 - 2007 Champion of Slovakia
2008 3rd place in European Champions Cup
2007 - 2008 Champion of Slovakia
2008 - 2009 played in Champions Hockey League
2011 - 2012 Champion of Slovakia
Over the course of the club’s history, its name changed several times. Following the first designation of 1st ČsŠK Bra¬tis¬la¬va, the club was renamed to ŠK Bratislava in 1939, and under this name, it played until 1948. Starting from that year, it began using the name Slovan. For three seasons between 1949–1952, the club’s name changed to Sokol NV, but as of the season beginning in 1953, the club returned to the Slovan name, under which – modified only by the names of its principal partners – it has played ever since. After the previous unified sports club was divided into smaller units catering to individual sports, the acronym HC was prefixed to the hockey club’s name in 1993. The name later also included references to the club’s main partners, such as HTC and Harvard (the latter was used for seven years starting from April 1995).
The colours accompanying the club throughout its history have been (light) blue and white, today supplemented with burgundy red.
In terms of organization, the club today consists of a joint-stock company that also oversees a center for developing promising players in the categories of both younger and older juniors and among men, and a citizens’ association managing the activities of talented youth units in hockey-specialized sports schools, along with the hockey prep camp. In developing this structure, the club set out on a new path within the context of hockey movement in Slovakia. Following Slovan’s model, other Slovak clubs now start preparing their transformations.
Throughout the decades of Slovan’s existence, a large amount of personalities of Slovak and Czechoslovak hockey played on the team or acted as coaches. They are names such as the Jendek brothers, Starší, Fako, Černický, the Gregor brothers, Čapla, Golon¬ka, Dzurilla, Grantner, Mrukvia, Walter, Kordiak, Sakáč, Nedomanský, Haas, Kužela, Bu¬ko¬vin¬ský, Ujváry, Miklošovič, Žiška, the brothers Peter, Marián and Anton Šťastný, Rusnák, Pašek, Černý, Dor¬nič, Jaško, Pokovič, Pethö, Rusznyák, Mosnár, Višňovský, Podhradský, Rybár, Cíger, Kol¬ník, Lipiansky, Kapuš, Horský, Polóny, Gábriš, Nitka, Guriča, Jančuška, Mitošinka, Venutti and others too many to list here. Many of them repeatedly played on Slovakia’s – and previously Czechoslovakia’s – national teams at the World Championships and the Olympic Games.
Credit for the club’s results and achievements must also be given to spectators fervently supporting the players at the games. In the past, it was the famed "C" section where most of the club’s diehard supporters used to assemble. Attesting to the crowd’s faithfulness to Slovan colours is that even after an unfortunate relegation to the 2nd league (back in the times of Czechoslovakia), Slovan managed to sell out the arena for nearly all games. The 2nd league attendance record from that era still stands today.
In Slovan’s newest chapter following the arena’s reconstruction in 2009–11, the Bratislava crowd have again shown their high level of hockey sense. There has been a significant decrease of improprieties unbecoming to hockey fans and, conversely, sportsmanship as displayed by everyone attending the games is now more prominent. Attendance stats confirm that the crowd’s interest in the game has been on the rise. For example, within 5 recent seasons, 170 Slovak League regular season men’s games were seen by about 650,000 spectators, which equals to an average of nearly 4,000 per game. When you consider that the arena in those seasons used to sit 7,447 people, this indicates over 50% of capacity crowd per game. To these numbers, we must add a legion of fans around Slovakia who attend the team’s games outside Bra¬tis¬lava.
The Slovan Bratislava hockey club has also been a pioneer in other areas. It was Slovakia’s first hockey club to launch its own web site, and is to this day Slovakia’s only club whose staff can rely on their own internal computer network. Club officials strive to promote the most recent forms of communication, processing and evaluation of data not only at the club level, but also within the Slovak Ice Hockey Association, where they have been very active in its various structures – from professional hockey to educating a new generation.
Slovan Bratislava is both admired and reviled. It is a role model for many, and anathema to some. It is definitely a shining light attracting a large number of beginning players, but also those who are more experienced – all wishing to showcase their skills and mastery of the game. After all, there is only one Slovan!