France

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France
Flag of France.svg.png
Continent Europe
Population 65,350,000
Registered players 17,381
Referees 129
Rinks 129
National teams Men's
Women's
Junior
Women's U18
National federation FFHG
IIHF since October 20, 1908 (founding member)
IIHF ranking 14
Top league Ligue Magnus
Current champion Dragons de Rouen


France is a country in Western Europe. Paris is the capital and largest city.

Overview

National Teams

Domestic Teams

See Category:Ice hockey teams in France

Arenas

See Category:Arenas in France

Competitions

Competition Founded Folded Notes
Ligue Magnus 1906 - Top-level national competition
FFHG Division 1 1930 - Second-level national competition
FFHG Division 2 1972 - Third-level national competition
FFHG Division 3 1876 - Fourth-level national competition
Coupe de France 1975 - National cup competition
Coupe de la Ligue 2007 - League cup competition
Critérium des équipes secondes 1927 1930 Defunct second-level competition
3e série 1933 1935 Defunct third-level competition
French Women's Hockey League 1986 - Top-level women's competition
Coupe de France 1930 1933 Defunct women's competition
Women's 1re série 1933 1937 Defunct women's competition
French junior competitions - Various junior competitions

History of hockey in France

For more information on the early years, please see individual articles on the 1902-03, 1903-04, 1904-05, 1905-06, 1908-09, and 1909-10 seasons.

The January 26, 1864, edition of the Otago Daily Times (printed in Dunedin, New Zealand, of all places) reported that "hockey" had been played on Le Lac de Madrid: "..the plucky emperor, despite secret assassination and political troubles, escorted Eugenie and the Child of France to the skating districts, where, accompanied by groups of gay citizens, they disported their figures in the far famed Bois de Boulogne. Penny a liners tell us how Royalty played hop scotch and hockey with rue Parisian gusto on Le Lac de Madrid; how the Empress, all dressed in velvet and gold, measured her fair length of the frozen lake; how Majesty smiled when released from this undignified position; how the modern Caesar challenged 'the talent' for a two mile spin; and how L. N. looked somewhat older than he did fifteen years ago." Napoleon III was an ice skating enthusiast who created numerous skating areas on the Bois de Bolougne.

Later on, the French Emperor and Pierre de Coubertin (the founder of the International Olympic Committee), were bandy pioneers who took up playing the sport. Some bandy was played at the Grand lac du Bois-Boulogne in 1891.

The first ice rink in France, known as the Pole Nord, opened in Paris in 1892. A year later, a circular rink, the Rond point des Champs Elysées, was erected. George Meagher, a Canadian figure skater, introduced the game of ice hockey to France in 1894, when he brought a rule book, coaching instructions, as well as hockey sticks and pucks with him and began running practices in Paris.

The first French team, Hockey Club de Paris, was also formed by Meagher in 1894. The club staged inter-squad games and held practices. HCP took on Princes Ice Hockey Club of England in Paris in December 1897. This game was played with hockey sticks and a puck, making it one of the earliest such games to played in Europe. A series of matches were also played in Paris between local sides and the Scottish Ice Hockey Club that December. There had been talks of a Scottish team visiting Paris for several years. The December 25, 1894, edition of Le Figaro reported: "The success of Hockey (Polo) is strengthened day after day at Pôle Nord. Rumor tells that a Scottish team will soon compete in France against the members of the Hockey-Club. The match will be played at Pôle Nord."

Club des Patineurs de Paris was founded in 1902 and played their first two matches against SC Lyon in 1903. HCP merged with CdP the same year. The Lyon club was formed at the newly-opened Palais de Glace in Lyon) in 1903.[1] CdP played their first international game in 1904 against Princes, losing 2-0.

In 1903, an association known as the UFFSA (Union des Fédérations françaises des Sports de Glace - Union of French Federations of Ice Sports), began to manage all ice sports in France. In 1908, the Fédération française des Sports d'Hiver (French Federation of Winter Sports) was created with Louis Magnus as its first president. In 1920, a new association was formed under the name Union des Federations Française des Sports d'Hiver.

It was not until 1941, during the Second World War, that Georges Guérard and Jacques Lacarière asked the State of Vichy for the creation and official authorization of the French Federation of Ice Sports. The latter received ministerial approval (No. 1391) on November 4, 1942. This organization was responsible for the administration of ice hockey in France until the creation of the French Ice Hockey Federation in 2006.

France was one of the founding members of the Ligue Internationale de Hockey Sur glace (LIHG; the present-day IIHF) in 1908. Louis Magnus was the IIHF's first president, holding the position from 1908-1912 and again briefly in 1914.[2]

The national championship was first contested in 1907, following several years of unofficial competitions between Lyon and Paris.[3] France was the second European country to establish a national championship after Great Britain (1898).

The Lyon rink closed in 1908 and SC Lyon was forced to disband, leading to the cessation of the national championship. Chamonix Hockey Club was founded in 1910, allowing the national championship to be staged once again beginning in 1912. Chamonix became a stronghold of French hockey, appearing in the final of the French Championship almost every year until the end of World War II and winning a total of 30 national titles. CdP initially dominated Chamonix, winning all three championships over them from 1912-1914.

After World War I, the national championship restarted in 1920 and Chamonix broke through to claim their first of seven consecutive national titles in 1923. Ice hockey had a modest following in France until 1931, when the Vélodrome d'Hiver in Paris underwent a renovation and was re-opened as a multi-sport complex featuring an ice rink in a project spearheaded by American Jeff Dickson and his eponymous International Sports company. The national championship was renamed the 1re série in 1931 and the second-level 2e série was formed as well.

Dickson sought to popularize ice hockey in the French capital, and used a long-standing rivalry between the two major Parisian sports clubs - Racing Club de France and Stade Français - to accomplish this goal. He created ice hockey sections for both clubs and stocked the rosters with well-known French hockey stars such as Jacques Lacarrière, Philippe Lefébure and Alfred De Rauch. He also paid to import players from North America, including Charles Ramsay and Pete Bessone.

The 1930s were known as the "Roaring Twenties" of French ice hockey, as up to 20,000 fans packed the "Vel d'Hiv'" to watch the local Parisian derbies. The sport became a fashionable show in Paris and the best players became well-known stars in the capital. In order to keep the audience interested, Dickson increased the number of imported players, and soon entire teams were stocked with foreigners.

In 1937, some players (mainly the Canadians) of the Rapides de Paris (ex-Stade Français) and the Français Volants (the former Racing Club), who were playing in the English National League, settled permanently in England as the Manchester Rapids and Southampton Vikings. The reasons for the departure were mainly financial, as the fortunes of Jeff Dickson were on the decline. In order to make investments more profitable, Dickson increased the number of matches played, which led to the public growing weary and less money being made. Jeff Dickson's International Sports enterprise went bankrupt the same year. By 1938 the Francais Volants and Chamonix were the only teams remaining in the 1re série, and just a single game was played for the championship.

Chamonix was the dominant club for most of the ensuing three decades, with other clubs enjoying sporadic success. Other Alpine clubs entered the French championship during the 1950s, such as Gap, Briançon, Villard-de-Lans, and Saint-Gervais. In 1951, Jacques Lacarrière and Georges Guérard built a federal skating rink in Boulogne-Billancourt. The ACBB sports club then set up a hockey team in 1952, which moved into the "federal" in 1956. Philippe Potin (who was president of the French Ice Sports Federation from 1964-1967), then became the sponsor of the ACBB team, which soon became one of the best clubs in France, wining the national title in 1957, 1960 and 1962 and could even compete with the major European clubs - winning three consecutive Spengler Cups in 1959, 1960 and 1961, arguably the greatest European success enjoyed by a French club.

ACBB's dominance did not last long. Potin stopped his sponsorship of the club in 1962 - his support of the club coupled with bad investments had led to his financial ruin. The ACBB club remained in the best teams of France for the remainder of the 1960s, but after withdrawing from the 1re série in 1972, it never returned to the highest level of play.

1968 was a pivotal year in the development of French hockey. The 1968 Winter Olympics, hosted by Grenoble, sparked a renewed interest in the sport in France, as many people had watched the hockey matches broadcast on television. The number of ice rinks increased rapidly - from 12 in 1967 to more than 60 only two years later. Many new cities sprung up on the hockey map, with clubs being founded in Reims, Rouen, Tours, Amiens, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Strasbourg and Nice, among others. The increase in clubs led to a third-level championship being played for the first time since 1935 in 1973. Other areas began to experience success; Saint-Gervais won the national title in 1969 and 1975, while Gap won the 1977 and 1978 championships. The Coupe de France was first staged as the national cup competition in 1975.

Hockey continued to develop outside its historic strongholds: In 1979 Chamonix won its 30th and last title to date. In 1980, Tours won the national championship, becoming the first club created after the Grenoble Olympics and the first outside of the Alps, Paris, and Lyon to earn the distinction. Tours was the first club to recruit players and pay them openly, as professionals (semi-professionalism being the rule before).

The arrival of professionalism continued in 1984 with the opening of the Palais Omnisports in Paris-Bercy, to be used to host the matches of the Francais Volants, who had not had a fixed home in years. The arrival of the Volants at the highest level in the Bercy precinct provided a real media spotlight and the media began to follow ice hockey more closely. Some championship matches were even televised. But the Paris club, even favorite, was unable tp win the national title - a condition to stay in the POPB - and when they won the 1989 championship,the club was already relegated to the side ice rink. It must be said that the Paris club faced a very strong opposition from the Saint-Gervais club, even stronger opposition when the latter merged with Megève to form the Mont Blanc Hockey Club in 1986.

More clubs won national championships for the first time - Grenoble in 1981, Megève in 1984, Rouen in 1990 Brest in 1997 Amiens in 1999, and Reims in 2000. The Magnus Cup was also created for the 1985-1986 season.

In 1990-91, the Ligue Nationale was created as a self-governing "closed" professional league, whose clubs were supposed to be on file. The league only lasted two seasons, and many teams experienced financial difficulties and some went bankrupt, while the media began to become tired of covering the sport. Of the eight teams in the league, Rouen was the only club to avoid financial problems. Following the national league's collapse, some teams remained at the highest level (Amiens, Grenoble), others fall to the lowest national level (Tours, Briançon, Bordeaux, the Francais Volants). The sport was erased from the collective consciousness. Rouen positioned itself as the dominant club of the 1990s, winning four consecutive titles from 1992-1995.

Philippe Bozon, captain of the French national team, was recruited by the St. Louis Blues, becoming the first French born and trained player to play in the NHL on March 10, 1992. Less than a year later, the goaltender Cristobal Huet became the second French-trained player to reach the NHL. On January 24, 2007, he was the first French player to participate in the National Hockey League All-Star Game .

Rouen has remained the dominant club on the domestic scene, having won nine additional national championships since 2001. Clubs from Mulhouse, Brest, and Briancon, among others, have also enjoyed short-lived success in the competition in recent times. The French league was re-named the Ligue Magnus in honor of Louis Magnus in 2004. The finals of the Coupe de France have been held at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy since 2007. The games are generally very well attended, with as many as 13,000 spectators turning out to watch, the highest numbers since crowds 20,000 packed the Vel d'Hiv in the 1930s.

The French National Team made its international debut in 1909, playing in the first Coupe de Chamonix, in which they finished second.[4] France was represented at the tournament by Club des Patineurs de Paris They finished third at the LIHG Championships in 1913 and 1914. France participated in the European Championships four times - in 1923, 1924, 1926, and 1932. One of the best teams in Europe at the time, they won a silver medal in 1923 and a gold medal in 1924.

Some of the best players in the early years included goaltender Maurice del Valle, as well as Albert Kimmerling, Alfred de Rauch, Albert Hassler, Leon Quaglia, and Pierre Charpentier. Charles Ramsay and Pete Bessone were among the top imported players during the 1930s "boom" era.

The national team competed in the inaugural 1930 World Championship, finishing in a tie for sixth place. France remained near the bottom of the top grouping until 1950, when they were relegated to the newly-created B Pool. Between 1951 and 1991, they did not make a single appearance in the top division of the World Championships, playing exclusively in the lower tiers. The 1951 World Championship was held at the Veldorome d'Hiver in Paris. The host "blues", led by young Chamoniard Calixte Pianfetti, finished second in the B Pool.

The 1972 Winter Olympics were a terrible missed opportunity for the French. When they won their qualification at the 1971 world championships, the FFSG, at the behest of Colonel Marceau Crespin, decided not to send the hockey team to play in the tournament. This was a surprising decision, especially since decisions had been made in 1968 to "prepare for the future". The players then decided to boycott the 1972 B Pool World Championships in retaliation, and some stopped their international careers altogether. France had to start from scratch and wait 13 years to return to Group B.

France's long awaited return to the top-level came at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, and between 1992-2000 and 2008-2015, they played in the top division of the World Championship yearly. The men's national team has participated in the Olympic Games 10 times, their first appearance coming at the inaugural 1920 tournament. France has hosted three Winter Olympics - 1924 in Chamonix, 1968 in Grenoble, and 1992 in Albertville. France has not finished higher than sixth place at the Olympics since 1928.

In recent times, some of the best French players have been Stephane Botteri, Philippe Bozon, Jacques Lacarriere, Bernard LeBlond, Jean-Philippe Lemoine, Daniel Maric, Franck Pajonkowski, Andre Peloffy, Denis Perez, Serge Poudrier, Christian Pouget, Pierre Pousse, Antoine Richer, Christophe Ville, and Cristobal Huet.

The women's national team participated in the Women's European Championship Qualification in 1989, playing two games against Czechoslovakia. They played in the IIHF European Women Championships from 1991 to 1996. The French women first participated in the IIHF World Women's Championships in 1999. The women's U18 national team has played in the IIHF World Women's U18 Championships since 2009.

The junior national team first appeared at the IIHF World U20 Championships in 1979, finishing second in Pool B. They finished in 10th place in the Top Division in 2002. That remains their only appearance at the elite level to date.

References

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