Date: 12. May 2023
Time to read: 3 min
The Slovenian men’s national ice hockey team will play at the World Championship in the elite division for the 10th time this year, the first time since 2017. Risi (The Lynx) are returning to the world’s hockey elite after six years, a place they secured by winning the Ice Hockey World Championship Division I, Group A in Ljubljana last May.
The World Championship will take place in Riga, Latvia, and Tampere, Finland, from 12 to 18 May, and the Slovenian hockey players will play at least seven games. Their goal is to stay in the elite division of world ice hockey, which may seem modest to some, but considering that Slovenia has only seven indoor hockey rinks, the achievements of the national team are all the more notable.
After Slovenia’s national hockey team began its breakthrough among the world’s best following the country’s independence, the turning point for Slovenian ice hockey came on 21 April 2001. That was the day when the Slovenian national team won a place among the world’s elite in a decisive game at the World Championship Division 1, Group B in Ljubljana.
Slovenia has since its independence played in ten elite division championships and qualified for the Olympic Games twice (Sochi 2024 and Pyeongchang 2018).
The Lynx – the symbol of Slovenian ice hockey players
When Slovenia joined the ranks of the hockey superpowers, the Ice Hockey Federation of Slovenia chose the Lynx as the hallmark of Slovenian hockey, which is worn on the chest of the Slovenian national team players, both men and women.
Tomaž Razingar made the most appearances for the Slovenian national team playing 212 games, while Tomaž Vnuk scored the most goals (171) for Slovenia. Both were long-time captains of the Lynx.
The biggest star
The biggest star of Slovenian hockey is undisputedly Anže Kopitar, captain of the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League (NHL) and two-time Stanley Cup winner. Unfortunately, he will not play in this year’s championship due to injury, but he has come to the aid of his teammates on several occasions.
Head coach of the national team is Matjaž Kopitar.
Team captain is Jan Urbas.
Nevertheless, ice hockey is one of the sports that has significantly shaped the identity of Slovenians in the field of sports. It is one of the traditionally popular winter sports, with the first official ice hockey game in Slovenia being played on 7 February 1932 between the teams of Ilirija and Kamnik, while the first international game was played on 21 February 1932, when Ljubljana’s Ilirija played KAC from Klagenfurt.
Ever since, this fastest team sport in the world has been a delight for fans in Slovenia, which has also been marked by the rivalry between the clubs of Olimpija and Jesenice, which have played more than 500 games against each other.
In the world, this rivalry is comparable to the rivalry between Toronto and Montreal in Canada, which have played more than 800 games, or Villach and Klagenfurt in Austria.