Ice hockey is a team sport played on ice, in which skaters use sticks to direct a puck into the opposing team's goal. It is a fast-paced and physical sport. Ice hockey is most popular in areas that are sufficiently cold for natural reliable seasonal ice cover, specifically northern Europe, North America and Siberia. It has retained its popularity in survivor nations of northern North America and Europe, as well as Socialist Siberia.
The sport had been popular pre-Doomsday in Canada, the United States, the Nordic and Baltic countries of Europe and in the Soviet Bloc countries of the USSR and Czechoslovakia.
Ice hockey was the national sport of Canada, which helped birth the largest and most powerful professional league pre-Doomsday, the North American National Hockey League (NHL). Professional leagues also existed in northern and central Europe, and their equivalents in the eastern bloc were popular and well-attended.
As with other sports, play, even at the amateur, informal level gave way to matters of survival in the first years after Doomsday.
In the late 1980s, however, people in surviving nations within the colder climates of the northern hemisphere picked up their hockey equipment - sometimes made from whatever material was available - and once again played the sport.
Ice hockey also is currently played, at least at an organized amateur level, in Superior, Vermont, Aroostook, Saguenay, the North American Union, the Alpine Confederation, the Nordic Union (especially Sweden, Finland and Norway), North Germany, Prussia, Socialist Siberia, the ANZC, and Mexico. The sport's existence in Mexico and former Australia is directly attributed to the interest of refugees from the former United States.
Domestic and regional leagues
Organized professional leagues began to be restored in 1991, when the Nordic Union nations decided to form the Nordic Hockey League. The Nordic Hockey League consists of the four national leagues that plays separately in each country and in a regional league (similar to association football's domestic leagues and UEFA Champions League). The national leagues in the Nordic Union are:
- Eliteserien - Norway and includes Iceland
- Superisligaen - Denmark
- Elitserien - Sweden
- SM-liiga - Finland
In the 2000s the Nordic League considered splitting into the respective domestic leagues, but the member clubs decided their best scenario was staying together. In 2008, a team from North Germany joined the Nordic League.
The Alpine Confederation followed suit, and professional leagues started on three occasions in the early 1990s. While the three initial leagues, established in 1992, 1994 and 1996, were only short-lived, the Alpine's fourth league, named the Alpine Ice Hockey League (Alpiner Eishockey Liga, AEL), established in 1997 would finally be permanent.
In 1999, Belarus established the Belarusian Extraliga (Белорусская экстралига).
In the 1990s, fans and surviving amateur and professional league officials started the Canadian Hockey League, in eastern Canada, intended as a successor to the old NHL at least in name, if not in talent. In former British Columbia, a similar effort led to the formation of the Victorian Hockey League.
In 1997, a government bill passed into law funded the creation of Superior's professional league. In 1998, leagues were founded in Superior and Victoria.
It remains the official national winter sport of Canada (both in the eastern Remainder Provinces and the Provisional Government in the west), where the game enjoys immense popularity, and is also the official national sport of the Republic of Victoria.
In 2009, businessmen from Manchester, Vermont attempted to apply for an expansion franchise in the Canadian Hockey League, only to run into resistance from Vermont government officials concerned about the effect on the nation's political status. Vermont later relented, and has given its blessing for Manchester to pursue a CHL franchise. The prospective owners, however, have spoken with CHL franchise owners and officials from both Saguenay and Superior about membership in a group called the Atlantic Hockey League for the 2010-11 or 2011-12 seasons. They have also proposed reviving the Stanley Cup (the trophy given to the champion of the old National Hockey League), awarding it to the winner of a playoff series between the Atlantic champion and the Victorian Hockey League champion. That has garnered some interest amongst fans and team owners, but the greatest concern, especially for Superior teams, is travel costs.
In Socialist Siberia, government officials saw sports as something that could unify their country and give citizens something to occupy their attention amidst the still harsh realities of life in a post-war society. So, ice hockey was one of the first sports formally restarted. In 1998, the Siberian Hockey League (SHL) (Russian: Сибирская Хоккейная Лига, Sibirskaya Khokkeynaya Liga) was established.
Prussia has had amateur leagues based in Berlin for the past five years, and is considering starting a professional league with help from Alpine clubs.
The International Ice Hockey Federation, headquartered in Zurich, Alpine Confederation, is the sport's international sanctioning body.
The national teams of the Alpine Confederation, Canada, Siberia, Belarus, Sweden and Finland, are considered to be the best in the world. The Norwegian and Danish national teams are among those with potential of becoming members of the big hockey nations, mainly due to heavy influence from Sweden and Finland, where most of the Norwegian and Danish hockey talents currently play.
The IIHF has plans to "plant" the sport in several nations over the next ten years, especially in the former Ukraine, Brazil, Japan, Singapore, and the United American Republic.
The first IIHF World Championship were held in Zürich in April 2010. Czechoslovakia and the Alpine Federation faced one another in the final. Czechoslovakia won the gold medal, while the Alpine Federation won silver. The bronze medal was won by Sweden in their final match against Canada.
The first postwar Olympic Games were held in Zürich in the winter of 2010. Canada and Siberia faced one another in both the men's and women's championship games; in a case of beautiful symmetry, Canada took home the men's gold medal, Siberia the women's. The men's and women's bronze medals were won by Belarus and Sweden, respectively.