|National federation||Estonian Ice Hockey Association|
|IIHF since||February 17, 1935|
|Current champion||Tartu Kalev-Välk|
Estonia is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. Tallinn is the capital and largest city.
|Meistriliiga||1990||-||Top-level national competition|
|Estonian Bandy Championship||1916||1953||Defunct bandy competition|
|Estonian Championship||1934||1941||Defunct top-level competition|
|Estonian SSR Championship||1945||1990||Defunct Soviet-era competition|
|Esiliiga||2006||2008||Defunct second-level competition|
|Estonian Cup||1996||2007||Defunct cup competition|
|Estonian Supercup||2008||2008||Defunct cup competition|
|Estonian Women's Hockey League||2004||Top-level women's competition|
|Estonian junior competitions||-||Various junior competitions|
History of hockey in Estonia
Ice hockey in Estonia developed from bandy, a sport that was first played in the country prior to World War I. The first Estonian Bandy Championship was held in 1916.
Bandy remained the dominant game until the first Estonian Championship in ice hockey was contested in 1934. There was no ice hockey championship in 1935 while a bandy competition was arranged, but after that ice hockey usurped bandy, as it was the sole sport to compete for a championship from 1936-1940. Tallinna Kalev and ASK Tartu won two titles each and Tallinna Sport won one title in the pre-World War II hockey championship. Bandy championships were later held again in 1941, 1947, and 1950-1953, but hockey remained the more popular sport.
The Estonian Ice Hockey Association, the governing body of ice hockey in the country, was founded in 1921. Estonia first joined the IIHF on February 17, 1935, and were members until the country was annexed into the Soviet Union. The IIHF officially revoked their membership on April 27, 1946. When Estonia became independent again, their membership was restored on May 6, 1992.
During Soviet times, the Estonian SSR Championship was contested from 1946 to 1990. Dynamo Tallinn played in the Soviet Championship League during its inaugural 1946-47 campaign until 1953. The Meistriliiga was formed as the top league in independent Estonia in 1991. Kreenholm/Narva 2000 won the first six league titles (1991-1996). In 1997 the Kreenholm dominance was broken mainly because they lost eight players from the previous year. The new champion was Tartu Kalev-Välk, who before the season had bought about ten very good players thanks to strong sponsors, but they didn't even have their own rink. A lot of their games were played on outdoor rinks, when it was freezing cold. Kreenholm reclaimed the title in 1998, but overall, Kalev-Välk has been the top team since then, winning a total of nine league championships.
The men's national team first played in an international game in Helsinki on February 20, 1937. The Finns won by a close 2-1 margin. On February 18, 1938, they avenged the loss and won 2-1 in Tallinn. Their third and last game against the Finns came on January 20, 1939, in Helsinki were they lost 9-1. Estonia played a total of eight games on the international scene. The last one came in February 1941 when they beat Lithuania 2-0 in Kaunas. It would take over 50 years before Estonia would play their next game.
Estonia's most famous player at that time was the 6'6" giant Tipner. He was particularly famous in soccer circles around Europe where he was a very good goalie. Another well known Estonian player from that time was Juha Savo who even became a pro in Germany for HC Augsburg. The only international Estonian world championship appearance was by a referee named Raoul Saue who refereed in the 1938 World Ice Hockey Championships.
The Estonian SSR fielded teams at the Winter Spartakiad when it was part of the Soviet Union. Estonia made its international comeback at the 1992 C Pool World Championship Qualification tournament, played from November 6-8 in Riga they were to play qualification games against Latvia and Lithuania. The winner would get a place in the C-Pool. Estonia played their first game against Lithuania, their last opponent from 51 years ago. The Estonians didn't have a problem with the Lithuanians and won comfortably 6-1. However the next game against home team Latvia was a much tougher task. Estonia played well but couldn't match Latvia's speed and skills and eventually lost 6-3. Estonia failed to qualify in their first attempt but they quickly looked forward to their next try.
Next year Estonia played qualification games against their old rivals Lithuania. Estonia won the first game in Tallinn 8-3 on November 7, 1993 and also won the return game 8-1 in Elektrenai on November 20,1993. The victories gave Estonia a place in the C2 Pool.
Estonia's first appearance in an actual World Championship tournament at the 1994 C2 Pool ended in an easy victory and they advanced to the C1 pool. The tournament was divided into two groups,with the two best teams in each group advancing to a final group. They beat Belgium 12-0, South Korea 10-0 and South Africa 27-1 in the preliminary group. Then in the final group they won against Croatia 8-0 and Spain 9-0. They only surrendered one goal in five games and had a 66-1 goal difference. The Estonian team didn't have to break any sweat in the games, they were superior to the other teams in all facets.
After fourth and fifth place finishes, respectively, in the C Pool in 1995 and 1996, Estonia played host to the 1997 tournament, hoping for a better result. Eight teams were divided into two groups; the two best teams then advanced to a final group. In the preliminary round Estonia managed to get a surprising 2-2 tie against Japan and also managed to tie Hungary 5-5. They trailed 3-0 after only 12 minutes and 3-1 after two periods, but an impressive rally earned them a 5-5 tie after that Igor Ossipenko evened the score with only 30 seconds left of the game. The 2000 in the crowd were ecstatic. Estonia also easily beat Lithuania 11-5. In the final round Estonia lost to Ukraine 2-1 and tied Slovenia 3-3. The third place finish was good enough for Estonia to be promoted to the B-Pool.
Estonia played really well in the 1998 B-Pool and finished third. It was better than expected. They only lost to Poland 3-0, Ukraine 3-1 and Slovenia 3-0. They tied Denmark 3-3 and beat Norway 2-1, the Netherlands 4-2 and Great Britain 5-4. The only problem for the Estonians was their offense. It was evident that it's much more difficult to score in the B-Pool. 15 goals in 7 games was not good enough. On the other hand Estonia only yielded 19 goals behind the superb play by goalie Alexei Terentiev.
Since 1998 Estonia has mostly played in the B Pool (now known as Division I). Only on five occasions have they wound up back in Division II (the old C Pool), and never for more than two seasons. Estonia is a solid country in international play, although they have yet to qualify for the Olympics or play in a top-level World Championship.
Some of the best Estonian players have been: Juha Savo, Andrus Ahl, Vyacheslav Kulpin, Valeri Lebedev, Andrei Griskun, Eduard Valiullin, Ivan Loginov, Mikhail Korshunov, Igor Osipenkov, Vyacheslav Skvortsov, Oleg Puzanov, Gennadi Ryzkov, Aleksandr Slapnikov, Anatoli Zacharov and Aleksandr Kolpakov.
The women's national team made its international debut in 2005, playing a friendly game against Iceland, which they won 8-2. In 2006, they participated in a tournament held in Riga, Latvia. They failed to win a game at the tournament, and finished in fourth and place. Estonia made their debut at the IIHF World Women's Championships in 2007, playing in Division IV. They also participated in Division IV in 2008, but have not appeared on the international scene since then.
The junior national team played in the IIHF World U20 Championship Pool C Qualification tournaments in 1992 and 1993. They made their debut at the World Junior (U20) Championships in 1994 in the C2 Pool. They have mostly participated in the Division I and II tournaments.
Special thanks to Patrick H. for supplying information on this country.