|National teams|| Men's|
|National federation||South African Ice Hockey Association|
|IIHF since||February 25, 1933|
|Top league||South African Super League|
|Current champion||Gauteng Wildcats|
South Africa is a country in the southern tip of Africa. Pretoria is the executive capital, Bloemfontein is the judicial capital, and Cape Town is the legislative capital. Johannesburg is the largest city.
- South African Ice Hockey Association
- Western Province Ice Hockey Association
- Gauteng Ice Hockey Association
- Eastern Province Ice Hockey Association
- Kwa-Zulu Natal Ice Hockey Association
|South African Super League||2015||-||Top-level national competition|
|Gauteng League||1937||-||Regional competition|
|Western Province Ice Hockey League||?||-||Regional competition|
|Durban League||?||-||Regional competition|
|Interprovincial Championship||2002||2010||Interprovincial competition|
|Inter-Club Championship||2011||2014||Nationwide club competition|
History of hockey in South Africa
The first ice rink in South Africa (started by Mrs. Dale Lace), the Niagara, was built in Johannesburg in 1909 on the property where the Grand National Hotel was later erected. There are no indications that hockey was played at the rink. The country's next ice rink was opened at Wembley Stadium in Johannesburg in the 1936. It was built for the British Empire Expedition, which was held in Johannesburg at the time.
The first two games played in South Africa were exhibition games between the English Oxford and Cambridge universities, but in the third was South Africa ready to play their first ice hockey game ever. The first-ever selected South African team roster included the following eleven players: Goalkeeper: L. Campbell (Maple Leafs). Defensemen: T.E.Riddle and J.M. Rennie (both Maple Leafs), J.C. Britton and H. Lowenheim (both Mohawks). Forwards: J. Oliver, W.R. Thomas, R.F. Palmer and W.T. Stobart (all Maple Leafs) W. Oppenheim (Wanderers), Heinz Ball (Lions). With the exception of Oppenheim, Ball and Lowenheim the players on the South African team were all Canadians. Ball and Lowenheim were Germans, Oppenheim had played ice hockey in Vienna, Austria. They lost to Oxford 7-5, Cambridge 5-3, and to an Oxford-Cambridge combination 9-4, 5-3, and 6-4.
When the Empire Exhibition came to an end in late October 1936, the ice equipment and machinery used for the rink was purchased by J. Dorfmann, who formed a company which built the Union Ice Rink in Wembley at Turffontein Road. The new rink was opened in June 1937, and after a lapse of eight months, ice hockey again had a home. The South African Ice Hockey Association was founded in 1936, and the country joined the IIHF a year later, on February 25, 1937. The Transvaal League was first set up as well, and featured four teams (Maple Leafs, Mohawks, Lions, and Protea).
German expat Heinz Ball was appointed as the first manager for the rink. To celebrate the rink's opening, the Austrian club Wiener EV, bolstered by several players from other Vienna clubs, were invited by the directors to play eight games against local opponents. For more information on the tour, please see 1937 Wiener EV Tour of South Africa.
When World War II broke out there were five clubs in existence, consisting of about 200 players who played in the senior (Transvaal) and recently-established junior league. The local players received excellent instruction from foreigners such as Jimmy Britton, Bobby Oppenheim, Stewart Morgan and Rolland Desilets. During the war years, the SAIHA had a hard task to keeping interest alive, as from 1942 to 1944, there were hardly any players around. There were occasional games when enough players were available.
The league restarted in 1945-46 and many young players appeared on the scene. There were three different competitions in those days - the Conrad, Dorfman and Olympia trophies. One of the best players in the mid-1940s was Canadian Les Prehn, who played right wing for the Lions, and represented South Africa against an Austrian team. Prehn moved from Lions to Mohawks in 1944. In that same club young Gerald Geffen played his first season. Geffen decided a couple of years later to go to Canada where he could learn more about the game. He left in 1952 and for three years he played for a club in Toronto. He later became one of the top South African players during the late 1950s and early 1960s.
In 1950, one of the eminent European players prior to World War II, German Rudi Ball, began playing in the Transvaal League. He had relocated to South Africa in 1948, joining his brother Heinz (the same Heinz Ball who had been appointed as Union Ice Rink director in 1937). Rudi played for Tigers and later for Wolves. In 1953, the SAIHA president Mr. Conrad, brought Canadian Tommy Durling to South Africa to try and boost the standard of play. Durling had played and coached both in Britain and Switzerland before and after the War.
During the 1950s and 1960s Durban, situated in the Natal province, was the epicenter of South African hockey. A strong league existed at the Durban Icedrome, which was built in 1955. Ice hockey was first played at the Durban rink in early 1956, when games were staged between the Johannesburg clubs. In 1957 Natal had their own side and an inter-provincial series began between the two provinces. A key figure in the development ice hockey in Durban was London-born Eric Sellers who helped propagate the game there. He was a member of the Tech Rangers when they became Natal champions in 1960.
Due to financial reasons, there was no league competition in Johannesburg during the 1957 and 1958 seasons, so the Johannesburg based players were required to Durban to practice and play. This elevated the level of play there significantly.
Gauteng then took over the lead in South African ice hockey for more than 40 years. Ice hockey was very popular in the region during the late 1960s and early 1970s when a semi-professional league was staged at the Wembley rink. Numerous internationals from Europe (mainly Austria, Switzerland, Germany and Sweden) along with some Canadians were imported to strengthen local teams. As the league ran during the South African winter stretching from March-September (as they had been since the 1950s), the players could still compete in their old leagues, but also play in South Africa during the off-season for some additional "pocket-money".
Hymie Sofer, an astute and shrewd businessman, was instrumental in ushering in this "golden era" of South African domestic hockey. He bought the Wembley Ice Rink in 1964 and poured R 30,000 into ice hockey during his first three years as rink owner. He paid for significant renovations at the rink and also sent South African international Gerry Geffen (participated in 1961 and 1966 for South Africa in World Championships) to Canada on a scouting mission. Geffen signed three young players from Toronto, Billy le Page, Dave Park and goalkeeper Doug Scott. All three became important figures in the South African game for many seasons.
Austrian international forwards Walter Brandstatter and Heinz Knoflach arrived in the middle of the 1966 season and were also profiles for many years. The Wembley rink was jammed with 3,000 spectators for the games on every Tuesday night. The games were usually sellouts and seats often sold out in advance. In 1967, the German club Eintracht Frankfurt played several games in Johannesburg.
During the 1970s a lot of quality players played in the South African league. A Swiss owned team named the Swiss Bears had for example some of the best Swiss players ever playing there. Jakob Kölliker and Guido Lindemann were two of them. Defenseman Kölliker played 201 games for the Swiss national team and Lindemann won a couple of scoring titles in Switzerland. Finnish player Timo Lahtinen played for the Jungle Jets during the 1974-75 season. He had previously played in the Finnish Elite league. He later coached Swedish teams to league titles.
Interest in the league began to decline towards the end of the decade. Crowds plummeted and the declining value of the Rand against other currencies made the importation of overseas players very expensive. When coupled with the drop in attendances, this became uneconomical for the organizes, and the league slowly became more centered around native South Africans, although many of the overseas players from before took up permanent residence and continued to play.
The opening of the Grandwest Ice Arena (Cape Town, opened 1974), Carlton Skyrink (Johannesburg, 1974-2001) and Horizon Ice Rink (Roodepoort, 1976-1990) during the early 1970s, and later facilities in Pretoria, Cresta and Boksburg, helped grow the game domestically. The most famous of these rinks was the Carlton Skyrink, which was situated on the eighth floor of Hotel Carlton's parking lot. It had a capacity of 2500 and hosted the 1992 and 95 C and D-Pool World Championships.
Two more rinks opened in April 1994 in Krugersdorp (about 19 miles West of Johannesburg) and in September 1995 in Pretoria (the Kolonnade Ice Arena). Both of these rinks co-hosted both the C and D-Pool World Championships in 1995 and 1998. The Krugersdorp rink also hosted the 1999 WC and Cape Town's Grandwest Ice Arena has had the tournament four times since 2002.
A second "golden era" began during the mid-1990s when the level of play again increased. There were also regional leagues in existence in Durban and the Western Province. The rinks there were smaller there so they played four on four and three on three. There was a national league in South Africa that was described as a "5 team televised league" played during the 2002 season.
The Interprovinical Championship, featuring select teams from the different provinces, was first held in 2002. Later the Inter-Club Championship was staged between club teams. The South African Super League was established as a nationwide competition in 2015.
In 1938 a South African combination played exhibition games against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The national team's first international appearance came at the 1961 World Championship C Pool played in Geneva and Lausanne. The South Africans played well considering that it was their first appearance ever on the international scene. They lost to Romania (0-14), France (2-11), Yugoslavia (3-12), Holland (4-8) but beat Belgium 9-2 to avoid last place and registered their first ever victory. Of the twenty-one registered players only five were born outside South Africa (two in England, two in Canada and one in Sweden). One of the Canadians was the playing manager Tommy Durling. The Swede was a guy named Ulf Josephsson who was from Saltsjöbaden (in the Stockholm area), who moved with his family to Johannesburg in 1951 as a 13-year old.
Five years later in 1966 it was time again for South Africa to appear in the World Championship. It was the C-Pool in Ljubljana and Zagreb. Nine of the twenty-one players that played in 1961 were on the 1966 roster as well, among them Josephsson. South Africa played a total of four games. Two against Italy (0-17 and 2-18) and two against Denmark (0-9 and 2-6). They did win the Fair Play Cup, however. One of the players was the British born "Specs" Yates who 26 years later would become the manager of the South African team.
Due to the apartheid politics in South Africa, they were banned from any international tournaments by the IIHF for many years, only returning after the end of apartheid in 1992. 26 years after their last international game in Yugoslavia, it was time for a comeback. It came on home ice in Johannesburg in the C-Pool (Group 2) of the Worlds Championship. The whole tournament was a success with many games played before a capacity crowd (2500) in the Carlton Skyrink, despite temperatures in the 100's outside.
The South Africans played an entertaining style of hockey thanks to their Canadian coaches Denis Anderson and Paul Giokas who put the emphasis on offense. They started by beating Luxembourg 23-0 and Turkey 18-1. Then they extended their winning record by beating Israel 5-1 and Greece 9-4. This set up a final against Spain, who won easily 12-0, but it didn't matter much because the main thing was that South Africa was back on the international scene again, and had enjoyed a splendid performance tournament.
Some of the better players on the South African team was goalie Geoffrey Pelger and defenseman Arn Potter who was voted as the best defenseman in the tournament. Willie Botha who played great along the boards was another key player. The scoring king on the team was the offensively talented Alan Verwey who got 14 points (10+4) in 5 games. Second was Chad Lawrence who had 13 points (4+9) in 5 games. Worth noting is that Chad Lawrence's father Ted "Blackie" Lawrence represented South Africa in the first two tournaments in 1961 and 66.
In 1993, South Africa returned to the same place (Ljubljana) where they had played their last tournament before being gone from the international scene for 26 years. With Canadian coach Lloyd McKinney and former South African player Ted "Blackie" Lawrence in charge of the team, there were high hopes after the successful 1992 tournament. But the result in the European comeback could have been better. They lost all five games and their best effort came in a 9-3 loss to Australia. South Africa won two things in the tournament though. The Fair Play Cup (for least penalty minutes) and the Slovenian crowds hearts. When the Fair Play Cup was presented to them, the Slovenian crowd gave them a thunderous ovation
The following year, South Africa was placed in a group together with Estonia, South Korea and Belgium. Once again, South Africa didn't win any games, but they did win the people's sympathies because of their nice and friendly attitude off the ice. Only one player was born in Canada,one in Slovakia and one in Hungary. The rest of the team had players born in South Africa and other exotic places like Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Canadian born Denis Anderson who was the teams coach in 1992 put on his skates in the tournament and was probably South Africa's best player getting 4 points (1+3) in 5 games. Ronnie Crichton had 3 points (1+2) in 5 games. Eight players on the squad had played both in the 1992 and 1993 tournaments. Among them Ronnie Crichton, Alan Verwey and the two Potter's, Arn and Sean. The manager was "Specs" Yates and their coach Jim Fuyarchuk was a last minute replacement for Ted "Blackie" Lawrence who shortly before the tournament resigned as the coach.
South Africa again were the hosts in 1995, with Krugersdorp and Johannesburg sharing the honors. Ted "Blackie" Lawrence was back as a coach and the manager was a gentleman from Kenya named Larry Paul. The South Africans again went winless. Center Chad Lawrence was the leading with 9 points (3+6) in 6 games. He was followed by Ronnie Crichton (3+2), Andy Milne (1+3) and Alan Verwey (3+0). South Africa didn't compete internationally 1996 and in 1997 they played in the unofficial E Pool tournament, but were back in 1998.
South Africa played in the same group as Belgium, Israel and Greece in the D Pool that year. They lost their first two games before easily beating Greece 11-2. In the relegation pool, they handily defeated New Zealand 5-2 and Turkey 12-3. South Africa played a very physical North American style of hockey in the tournament accumulating 220 PIMs in only 5 games - a total contrast to the years where they won the Fair Play Cup. There was an infusion of young talent as three youngsters were among the best players on the South African team - Chet Meyer, Michael Edwards and Bruce Rodger (all born in 1978). Meyer led the team with 10 points (9+1) in 5 games ahead of Jacques Booysen who had 9 points (6+3) in 5 games. Edwards was the third best scorer on the team with 7 points (2+5) in 5 games. The tournament was the swan song for Alan Verwey. Verwey, once a dangerous forward, had switched to defense the last couple of years and had done it well. He retired as the all time leading goalscorer on the South African national team. (25 goals in 30 games). Edwards has since on gone to surpass him.
South Africa again played host to the D Pool tournament in 1999, and has bounced between the Division II (formerly Pool C) and Division III (Pool D) tournaments since then. They won their first ever gold medal on home ice in Cape Town at the 2013 Division III tournament. Macky Reinecke (4+14), Joshua Reinecke (9+7), and Uthman Samaai (5+10) were the three leading scorers at the tournament, while goaltender Jack Nebe had the best GAA (1.85).
Some of the best South African players during the 1990s included: Alan Verwey, Ronnie Crichton, Andy Milne, Geoffrey Pelger, Arn Potter, Michael Edwards, Chet Meyer, Jacques Booysen and Otto le Roux. Czech born goalie Vojta Svoboda and Canadians Denis Anderson and Andrew Boushy were also good.
The only player with NHL experience to have played in the South African league was Mike Baumgartner. This Minnesota-born defenseman played 17 games for the Kansas City Scouts in 1974-75. He played for Edelweiss in South Africa 1977. The only South African born player ever in the NHL is goalie Olaf Kolzig who was born in Johannesburg but moved to Europe and then Canada at an early age. He guided Washington Capitals to the 1998 Stanley Cup finals and played in over 700 NHL games.
The women's national team first participated in the IIHF World Women's Championships qualification tournament in 1999. They have played exclusively in the lower divisions throughout their history. Their best finish was second in Division IIBQ in 2014.
The junior national team made its debut at the IIHF World U20 Championships in 1996, finishing in sixth place in Pool D. They have played exclusively in the lower pools of the world juniors. The U18 national team played in the IIHF Asian Oceanic U18 Championships in 1999, finishing in second place in Division II. They have participated in the IIHF World U18 Championships since 2000.
Special thanks to Patrick H. for supplying information on this country.