Awesome Tips Bucket List Worthy
Hockey may be Canada’s favourite pastime, but the Great White North isn’t the only place to catch a thrilling game of action on the ice. The European Continent rivals North America in terms of world-renowned hockey players, an impressive number of leagues and fans who can’t ever get enough of the sport. Many hockey-loving travelers don’t know that some of Europe’s most culture-filled towns and cities are the best places to revisit some of hockey’s most historic moments or watch two star-studded teams duke it out in person.
That’s why our team of Flight Network travel analysts spent months gathering the most up-to-date data, researching destinations, surveying hockey fans and communicating with international hockey organizations. This list, showcasing 42 of Europe’s Absolute Best Hockey Towns, ranks each destination based on an in-depth analysis of its hockey team, league, arena, unforgettable fans and unique hockey culture. The list serves as a travel guide to the top places for catching a hockey game in Europe, while encouraging visitors of all interests to discover some of the continent’s must-visit destinations.
City/Population: Moscow / 12,200,000
Team: HC Moscow
Arena: VTB Ice Palace
It’s almost impossible to put our finger on what to call Moscow. From its obvious roots as the heart of Russia to its spectrum of social, architectural ad cultural delights, the capital is both fundamental and still figuring itself out, which is magical. After we devoured many of the city’s famous sites and glorious constructions, we tracked down another one of their other time-honoured treasures, HC Dynamo Moscow!
Even to the neophyte Canadian hockey fans, Russians team needs no introduction. We were beside ourselves whilst learning about such a significant team to both European and Canadian hockey culture. They hold a monstrous total of 24 championship cups in the KHL, Soviet League and European League, including two Spengler cups.
The brand-new VTB Ice Palace opened its doors in 2015 and is ready to take Russian hockey into the modern ages of European hockey. Nicknamed Legends Arena, this massive stadium is the first of its kind in Europe with three ice rinks and all the latest technological gadgets to give Dynamo fans the most complete hockey experience possible.
City/Population: Zurich / 1.8 Million
Team: ZSC Lions
League: National League A
Zurich already has so much to boast about. It’s one of the most stunning and modern cities you’ll ever visit, it has been a multiple nominee for the best quality of life on the planet and the top ten best quality of life in the world. Switzerland’s largest city is on everyone’s bucket list, but it has an extra incentive for hockey fans. Yes, the cornerstone of the modern world is also home to one of Europe’s most outstanding hockey teams.
The Lions, formerly the Zurich Skating Club, formed in 1930 and has since won 8 championship titles in the Swiss Hockey League. Upon merging with Grasshopper Club Zurich, they became the ZSC Lions in 1997, affectionately called “Z” by fans. They were also the 2008-2009 Champion’s Hockey League winners which qualified them for the Victoria Cup against NHL Semifinalist team The Chicago Blackhawks. In a shocking upset the Lions defeated the Blackhawks 2-1 and won the cup!
Hallenstadion is almost as old the Zurich’s hockey franchise, dating back to 1939. The ZSC Lions’ home turf has hosted some very historic live events and is a landmark of the city’s architectural makeup. Aside from hosting sporting events like the Ice hockey World Championships and the Victoria Cup, the over 11,000-seat stadium has welcomed the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Kiss, Pink Floyd, Bob Marley and Queen.
City/Population: Gothenburg / 550,000
Team: Frölunda Indians
League: SHL (Swedish Hockey League)
The easiest way to explain Gothenburg is that it would be an amazing place to live. This old trading colony has kept much of its original European cityscape like the old 2-story European walk-ups and Dutch-influenced canals. The city beautiful parks and museums, and welcomes an array of music, art and film festivals year-round. Wandering around the city makes you feel like you’re in a crossover between Quebec City and Amsterdam. We found that even the people of Gothenburg were filled with the same charm and vibrancy that we felt as we explored the city.
The Indians, Gothenburg’s beloved team dates back to 1938 and has become one of Sweden’s most popular teams. Led by Joel Lunqvist, twin brother of New York Ranger’s All-star goalie Henrik Lunqvist, the team became dual champions by winning the SHL and Champion’s Hockey League titles in the same year in 2016. Since the CHL started just three years ago, Frolunda Gothenburg has reached the final all three times. This year was the second year they won the title.
Not only is the Scandinavium beautifully designed but it can light up like a flare in the night sky. The awe-inspiring show of colourful lights turns this edifice into a shining beacon and symbol of the Gothenburg Indians. Just over 12,000 seats is a relatively large capacity for a town with only half a million people, but the building still swells with the town’s proud and adoring hockey fans.
City/Population: Cologne / 1 Million
Team:: Kolner Haie
Arena:: Lanxess Arena
League:: Deutsche Eishockey Liga
Cologne is the oldest city in Germany. It’s a haven for jaw-dropping medieval architecture and is saturated with European history. The famed Cologne Cathedral only scratches the surface of what this German city offers to tourists and locals alike. But within a community that cherishes its Epochal Gothic structures live some of the most dedicated and passionate hockey fans in the country.
Founded in 1972, Kolner Haie (The Cologne Sharks) are a relatively young team, but they’re in no short supply of talent or spirit. The eight-time National League Champions even have a Spengler Cup to their name. But it’s the fans that make the hockey in Cologne so attractive to Canadian travelers. They live and breathe hockey and often sell out their 18,000 plus capacity arena to watch the Kolner play. They even have a rivalry reminiscent of the Bruins-Habs grudge matches with their nemeses, Dusseldorfer EG.
With 18,500 seats, it’s the largest Arena in all of Europe, and hockey-hungry Cologne natives still pack the seats to watch their team play. Lanxess Arena is still a baby considering the city is technically about 2,000 years old, but it’s already had an amazing history. It has hosted championship hockey games and welcomed superstars Madonna and Adele in 2016. It was the venue for the very first Ultimate Fighting Championship held in Germany in 1999.
City/Population: Helsinki / 630,000
Arena: Helsinki Ice Arena
Helsinki dares to be the black sheep of the Scandinavian capitals with a boutique trendiness and a devil-may-care personality. They’d call themselves avant-garde, but that wouldn’t be very avant-garde. What balances its dizzying but exciting atmosphere is the Finnish capital’s still very robust historic scene. Classic Nordic-flavoured structures mingle with a tapestry of 20th century art-nouveau buildings off the Vantaa River. You can do anything here, and we ended it by watching hockey… of course.
Finland’s HIFK team was founded in 1897, yes you read that right. The Finnish team has endured and triumphed for 120 years, making it one of the oldest hockey towns in the whole of Europe. They’ve won the Finnish Championship Cup seven times, with the ’98 champions still widely considered one of the best teams to ever play together.
Helsinki Ice Stadium was built in 1966, and still headquarters the HIFK team. Its capacity is an often sold out 8,200 seats. It’s widely considered the biggest and most famous venue in Finland and the Nordic countries put together.
City/Population: Pilsen / 170,000
Team: HC Plzen
Arena: Home Monitoring Aréna
League: Czech Extraliga
If you think Pilsen sounds a lot like pilsner, you’d be more than a little right. The city of Pilsen is actually the birthplace of pilsner beer as well as the location of one of the world’s oldest breweries, Pilsner Urquell. As beer fans we found this place irresistible, but this western Czech city didn’t earn EU’s Culture Capital award in 2015 because it pours a good pint. The roads wire around some incredible European-style buildings which come to a point at their charming town square. Museums, art, science, it’s all here and wrapped in a package of good times and simple pleasures and small-town friendliness.
HC Plzen’s origins can be traced back ass early as the late 20s, but they didn’t start making a splash until the 1950s when they attained the Czech league’s division A. The fans themselves are a big part of the team and you can sense a real camaraderie when they watch games together. The team has spawned such talents as Tuukka Rask, Yaroslav Spacek and Martin Straka. Their best year was in 2013 when they finally captured the Czech Extraliga Championship… what an after party that must have been.
With a capacity of 8,236, the Home Monitoring Center is more than capable of housing its passionate, energized and thirsty fans. During home games and as we understand it, pretty much all the time, the only beer the locals will drink is their beloved Plzner Urquell. It’s truly a testament to their commitment to Pilsen’s heritage, and it’s also a really great beer.
City/Population: Bern / 141,000
Team: SC Bern
Arena: PostFinance Arena
League: National League A
No other capital city smells the roses quite like Bern does. Their effortless slow-paced way of life is a testament to their respect for tradition and history. And that quintessential dedication was undeniable when we walked by their many fountains, sheltered markets, and through Old Town’s majestic 12th Century architecture. The warmth of this historical city was more than mirrored by its hospitable townspeople, it almost seemed out-of-place that the Bernese are such die-hard hockey fans!
SC Bern has been around since the thirties and is one of the most well-known clubs in and out of Switzerland. They’ve won the National League A Championship a staggering fourteen times, not to mention three times in the NLB. SC Bern’s fans are as notorious as they are numerous, something you wouldn’t think from such calm people.
Last year, Bern’s fans had even more to celebrate as they broke the turnout record to make the PostFinance Arena games the most attended in all of Europe. The 17,000 capacity stadium averaged over 16,000 per game during the 2015/2016 season.
City/Population: Tampere / 216,295
Team: Ilves Tampere
Arena: Hakametsän Jäähalli
League: SM Liiga
Tampere has a Jekkyl and Hyde persona that threw us for a loop at first, but in a good way. The largest of the Nordic Cities, this Finnish tourist favourite had an almost rhythmic casualness to it. We weaved through its quaint streets lined with cafes, shops and pubs, accepting the calm and gracious hospitality the locals extended toward us. But when it came time to check out Ilves Tampere, their world-class hockey club, our once laid back hosts became as fervent as the die-hard fans from Canada!
Tampere has won the most championships in Finland, and the team has sent players like Jyrki Lumme and Tuukka Rask to the NHL. The Ilves icon Raimo Helminen has played the most national team matches in the world, and he has played in six olympics (which is world record for hockey players.
Tampere holds the only real rivalry in the Finnish league with two local teams, Ilves and Tappara. Not only are they rivals, but the two most successful teams in the Finnish hockey history, both having won the championship 16 times. It is said that one chooses his/her side at the delivery ward.
Hakametsän Jäähalli comfortably houses 7,300 screaming Ilves Tampere fans.
City/Population: Zagreb. 700,000
Team: KHL Medveščak
Arena: Dom Sportova
League: Kontinental Hockey League (KHL)
In Croatia’s capital, the old world most definitely meets the new, especially in terms on the cityscape. the beautiful, modern buildings in their city’s center is surrounded by amazing districts of classic Eastern European architecture. But it’s the people of Zagreb that really make this a worthwhile visit to any Canadian abroad. According to its denizens, you’re never allowed to feel alone here because everyone has a big heart and a story to tell. And what’s more, they love their hockey!
Croatia’s top hockey team, KHL Medveščak Zagreb (the Zagreb Bears) were formed in 1961 and are part of the Kontinental Hockey League. Prior to joining the KHL, they had won 19 championships in Croatia with an 11-season championship streak, and were consistent semi and quarter-finalists in the Erste Bank Ice Hockey League since their debut in 2009.
Zagreb’s modestly sized and historic Dom Sportova has hosted some legendary talent since its construction in 1972. It’s the main arena used by the Bear’s for their home games and a venue for international sporting competitions and music concerts. It has opened its 5,000 seats to such events as the European Basketball Championships and has welcomed world-renowned artists such as Elton John, the Ramones, Pearl Jam and the Rolling Stones.
City/Population: Kostice. 240,000
Team: HC Kosice
Arena: Steel Arena
League: Slovak Extraliga
Kosice is a mecca of European culture and is well-known for its beautiful architecture, its museums and its die-hard love of hockey. Because this large Slovakian city is home to amazing sights and a rich history, it was awarded the prestigious title of European Capital of Culture in 2013. Kosice’s charm and old-world beauty rivals tourist heavy hitters like Paris and Rome, but with a traditional and genuine small-town ambiance that’s a big hit with Canadians.
Within their one-of-a-kind culture is a passion for hockey that dates back to the 1920s. Their team, HC Kosice won the Championship of Slovakia 8 times and even won the Championship of Czechoslovakia twice. Kosice has also bred some of the top players to end up in the NHL including Peter Bondra, Ladislav Nagy and Vincent Lukac.
The Kosice Steel Arena is the team’s new training ground, built in 2006. The beautiful and modern 8,347-seat structure has already hosted the IIHF world Championship in 2011 and is set to host again in 2019. Kosice is truly a wonder in Eastern Europe and their passion for hockey is a definite bonus for any fan of the sport.
City/Population: Ufa / 1.1 Million
Team: Salavat Yulaev
Arena: Ufa Arena
This amazing Eastern European city is renowned as a cultural, economic and scientific hub and is home to some of the best historic and scientific museums in Europe. Places like the Bashkir State Art Museum and the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography are unlike anything in North America. But don’t be fooled, Ufa’s citizens aren’t just buried in books and visiting art centers. They’re big fans of hockey… really big. And when we asked them about their favourite sport, they had a lot to say!
We’ve interviewed clubs and fans all over Europe and we have to say that Ufa speaks more passionately than most about ice hockey, which is saying a lot. Possibly the only team to ever be named after a local hero, Salavat Yulaev is a force to be reckoned with on the ice. Before the KHL was born in 2007, they were the last team to win the cup in the Russian hockey league. Since then, they’ve won the Continental Cup twice and the Gagarin Cup once. They consider themselves the new capital of hockey in Russia, and if you ever catch a game at the Ufa Arena, you’ll see exactly why that’s most likely true.
The Ufa Arena is a brand-new modern stadium and the new home of Salavat Yulaev Ufa. It has a seating capacity of 8,250, and brand new jumbotron and it’s filled with cool activities for fans like hockey demonstrations, training machines and even VR helmets. If you ever visit the Ufa Arena during a home game, you’ll feel right at home cheering, chanting and watching one of the best in action.
City/Population: Kazan/ 1.2 million
Team: Ak Bars Kazan
Arena: TatNeft Arena
When you think of classic Russian empire architecture, you must be thinking of anywhere but Kazan. The Ottoman Empire’s influence on this historic city is not subtle, but it’s absolutely breathtaking. Kazan, meaning cooking pot in Tatar, is an a propos epithet for the Tartastan capital. With so much diversity, culture and a strangely perfect marriage of contrasting styles and personalities, Kazan was hypnotic. But hockey? No there’s absolutely nothing divergent about hockey culture here.
Kazan describes itself as the hockey capital of Russia. It stands to reason too, the Ak Bars were the first winners of the KHL Gagarin Cup and their continued success has rekindled the flames of hockey fever across the country for the past ten years.
Ak Bars Kazan’s home is the TatNeft Arena. The massive facility is only ten years old and can hold 10,000 hockey fans. Other than headquartering the KHL team, the stadium holds the TatNeft Cup, an annual kickboxing championship.
City/Population: Zug / 30,000
Team: EV Zug
Arena: Bossard Arena
League: National League A
Zug is your classic sleepy lakeside town in Switzerland. What threw us for a bit of a loop was that the tiny 30,000-resident city is a an economic powerhouse. Zug’s low taxes and proximity to Zurich has made it a headquarters for many large multinational companies. Other than that, it’s an impressively quiet and charming town complete with gorgeous medieval architecture and peaceful promenades.
EV Zug’s team is an A-league team with a championship win in 1998, with more than a half-dozen semi-finalist placements. Zug’s players love the team and its talent pool is calculated at about 250 juniors, which will secure great possibilities for years to come.
Bossard Arena’s 7,000 capacity building holds some of Switzerland’s most energetic fans. The stadium opened its doors in 2010 and has become a force for Swiss hockey.
City/Population: Frankfurt / 730,000
Team: Lowen Frankfurt
Arena: Frankfurt Ice Sports Hall
League: DEL 2
Frankfurt’s financial and corporate importance was obvious considering the slick, polished appearance of the downtown area. We loved what this tourism hub had to offer us in terms of fun and entertainment. It was the most dynamic city in Germany, but that’s just our humble opinion. Along with many other bright new installations in Frankfurt, the Lowen Frankfurt hockey team was a playing its 6th year.
Formerly the DEL-1 league contending Frankfurt Lions, Lowen Frankfurt took over when they the team dissolved due to financial problems. Since their 2010 debut, Lowen has used their grit, experience and spirit to make it to the DEL 2 league in 2014, with no signs of slowing down.
Eissporthalle Frankfurt is Frankfurt’s famous four rink arena and has supported its home teams since the first day it opened its doors in the early eighties. The stadium is home to about 20 sub-leagues in hockey, as well as other ice sports. It’s literally where hockey is played in Frankfurt.
City/Population: Gjovik / 30,000
Team: Gjovik Mammuts
Arena: Gjovik Olympic Cavern Hall
League: 1st Division Ice Hockey for Men
Compared to the other entries on this list, Gjovik is a tiny city with a very young team. But we made it a point to include it because if you’re a hockey fan (and even if you’re not), this quiet Norwegian town has tons of hidden gems to discover. And like all gems, you’ll find them underground. That’s right, Gjovik’s arena is a man-made underground cavern and, as the title suggests, was carved using about 170 tons of dynamite!
It’s an impressive centerpiece to a visit that we found had much to offer us as we explored the nooks and crannies of this seemingly unassuming city.
the Mammuts were founded in 1990 and are still top runners in Norway’s 1st division hockey league, which is saying a lot for a Norwegian team. For a young team, they’re a delight to watch, especially considering the town and the arena where they play.
The hall is one of many underground structures in Norway and it was designed with the idea it would take up much less central real estate in Gjovik downtown area. The 5,500 capacity arena broke ground in 1991 and opened its doors a full two years later in ’93. Although the arena is modern, some of its design was made to reflect Norwegian culture and the hall itself pays homage to Scandinavian folklore, making it one of the most unique arenas on the planet.
City/Population: Biel-Bienne / 55,000
Team: EHC Biel
Arena: Tissot Arena
League: National League A
Biel is the cradle of the watch manufacturing industry in Switzerland and also the nation’s largest bilingual city; known as Biel to its German speaking residents and as Bienne to French speakers. The city has numerous cultural attractions and hosts international events every year. The facades of the houses in Biel’s old town still echo the style of the 18th and early 19th centuries, with traces of older constructions and the outlines of late medieval foundations visible everywhere. With Biel’s splendid Gothic cathedral, its venerable guild houses and classical fountains, the Old Town is a delight to explore on foot. Explore Lake Biel and the mystic St. Peter’s island on boat, discover the historic wine growing villages, hike through the imposing Twannbach gorge or bike through the “Grosses Moos”, the vegetable garden of Switzerland.
Although it’s known as more of a stopover to switch trains or head or head to the port, the town has an Old-Montreal flavour that is definitely worth extending your layover.
This charming gateway town’s hockey team packs quite a punch. With 3 NLA and 5 NLB championship wins, EHC Biel is one of Germany’s top teams and boasts an aggressively loyal fan base. They even chant in two languages; again, very Montreal!
EHC’s home base is the newly-built Tissot Arena and Switzerland’s first multiplex stadium. The arena holds 6,500 excited hockey fans that electrify the building from the ice to the roof.
City/Population: Langnau / 8,500
Team: SCL Tigers
Arena: Ilfis Stadium
League: National League A
Nestled near Switzerland’s capital city lies the sleepy municipality of Langnau im Emmental. The town is known for lush forests, rolling hills and is said to be the sunniest place in all of Switzerland. Their hockey team, The SCL Tigers have been a fixture of the community for decades.
Born in 1946, the Tigers have played top-level hockey for a generation. The National League A team has had a loyal fan following, averaging about 5,700 fans per game in their modestly-sized arena.
Ilfis Stadium is the 6,000 capacity arena that is home to the Tigers. The recently renovated ice rink and stadium grounds have even more appeal to their fans and continues to be a huge part of everyday life in Langnau.
City/Population: Talinn / 445,000
Team: HC Vikings
Arena: Tondiraba Ice Hall
League: Master League
The Estonian capital city was a vibrant adventure through the intermingling of the modern and the medieval. It’s hard to imagine Talinn being somewhat overlooked as a travel destination, its energy is rivaled only by a cascade of cultural activities that kept us consistently swept off of our feet. After a day in Old Town and Town Hall Square, we were ready to check out the local hockey talent.
Having been formed in 2010, The Vikings are still in their infancy, but that hasn’t stopped them from winning two championships in the Master League.
Tondiraba Ice Hall is even younger than the team itself, opening its doors in 2014. It has all the bells and whistles of an international stadium and seats 7,700 fans for HC home games and tons of local and international sporting events.
City/Population: Saratov / 880,000
Arena: Kristal Sports Center
Saratov’s provincial setting was a quaint and relaxing experience. The old Volga merchant streets are still astir with lively shopping districts, great restaurants and unique little mom-and-pop stops. The city’s architectural canvas has some definite Eastern-European brushstrokes, which we thought really set it apart.
Kristall is one of the top teams in the Volga region of Russia, and has been for over fifty years. Early in its career, the team consistently won gold, silver and bronze in the Soviet Hockey Championships.
Landshut’s provincial setting is a sweet blend of classic Bavarian style, colourful riverside residences and the modern-goth architectural flavour that German towns do so well. We didn’t linger too long is this stopover town but it wasn’t because of the town’s lack of character. Before we moved on we headed to Landshut Stadium for some hockey action.
Landshut is responsible for producing all-star world players like Erich Kühnhackl and Gerd Truntschka as well as NHL veterans Marco Strum and Christoph Schubert. You can say it’s a bit of a star factory for German hockey. Currently, EV Landshut’s DEL 2 league is striving to become on top of their game and are an amazing team to watch.
The 7,000 seat arena has both an indoor and an outdoor skating rink. Home to EV Landhut’s formerly named Cannibals, the arena opened its doors 1957 and has been a landmark for European ice hockey for over half a century.
City/Population: Torun / 200.000
Team: TKH Torun
Arena: Lodowisko Tor-Tor
League: PHL (Polish Hockey League)
Torun’s origins are still very much painted on the wall. The old city’s Teutonic inception was apparent in every medieval building we strolled by, and we were loving every second of it. Add a tapestry of friendly locals and classical Polish eateries and pubs and this not-so-touristy destination had everything a tourist could want. And as far as ice hockey goes here, its tradition is an imprint on the pulse of Torun’s citizens; long-standing, dedicated and true.
Likely the oldest team on this list and one of the oldest in Europe, TKH Torun has had a long and proud hockey tradition. dating back all the way to 1924, the club has undergone many transformations, but has kept its love affair with the sport strong. In the past decade, Torun has developed a world-class junior team and TKH has won the Polish Championship Cup.
This modest 3,000 capacity edifice is home to team TKH. Affectionately called “Tor-Tor” or “Tor-Tor Torun” by the locals, the arena is where fans get gather to watch a great game of hockey. It’s great to see that even the stadium in Torun reflects what’s in the locals’ hearts. They prove that you don’t need flashy lights or modern gadgets to be a hockey fan, just good friends, good beer and a pure love of the game.
City/Population: Bordeaux / 250,000
Team: Boxers de Bordeaux
Arena: Rink Mériadeck
Federation: Fédération Francaise de Hockey sur Glace
League: Magnus League
Fine wine, stunning sunsets, majestic architecture… and hockey? This entry definitely almost made us do a spit take, but the city made famous by its grapes has a hockey team, and they’re good. The Bordeaux Boxers (we love saying it) might sound like a contrast by name, but they’re a beautiful pairing with sun-kissed strolls across Pont-de-Pierre, idling in riverside cafes and days exploring the city’s quiet grandeur. So we say: Go Boxers!
Founded in the late nineties, the Boxers are still in their toddler years, but their teething process seems to be pretty short. They’ve already attained the Magnus League, France’s highest, after winning a championship in 2015.
Rink Mériadeck is Bordeaux’s modest ice hockey and figure skating rink. The Boxers play their home games here and the young stadium, which is ranked among the top three in the country, has hosted many Skating Championships and has provided locals and visitors with some great hockey. Part of the Federation Française de Hockey sur Glace (French Ice Hockey Federation), the Boxers are looking toward a bright future. Hockey is a growing sport in France, and this year, the federation will host the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
City/Population: Esbjerg / 72,000
Team: Esbjerg Energy
Arena: Granly Arena
League: Metal League or DHL
Esbjerg’s first impression wasn’t unique for busy port towns. Its visual pallet was a bit rough around the edges, giving it more grit and character than similar cities; more than a welcome surprise! Their hockey team, the Esbjerg Energy, were perfectly named.
Part of Denmark’s premier league, the esbjerg Energy are new, aggressive and exciting to watch. In their 10 year existence, they’ve gone from barely making the playoffs to becoming the DHL Champions last year.
The Granly Arena seats 4,200 of Esbjerg’s loudest hockey fans. You can literally feel the Energy, pun intended, when the home games are played. The stadium has been a fixture in the city since the mid-seventies.
City/Population: Bremerhaven / 115,000
Team: Fischtown Penguins
Arena: Ice Arena Bremerhaven
Stretched along the Weser River, Bremerhaven’s port town charm has undeniable romantic appeal. The industrial town had a salty vibe that made our adventurer’s hearts beat a bit faster. the modern skyline tapered off towards the shoreline, revealing the gritty charm of the old shipyards. When it came time to check out the local team, this sailor’s haven didn’t hold back.
Since the 70s the Fischtown Penguins have been battling it out in the DEL leagues. The now DEL A league team is preparing to have a tremendous season, having replaced the Hamburg Freezers, who had to withdraw.
Bremerhaven’s ice arena’s 4,600 seats are home to the Penguins and their fans. With their recent induction to the highest level in German hockey, locals are more excited than ever to cheer their team on.
City/Population: Linkoping / 104,000
Team: Linkoping Hockey Club
Arena: Saab Center
League: Swedish Hockey League
Stories of Linkoping’s medieval architecture reached our ear by the famous “Bloodbath at Linkoping” following the Battle of Strangebro. The city itself is far from being cringe-worthy with an inlet of modernized boroughs in city center and is home to a host of activities including concerts, museums and a vast shopping sitting north of the downtown area. We checked out the local team at the Saab Center to see what kind of club they had .
Team LHC is a pure offensive team the likes of which we haven’t seen the eighties. Sweet nostalgia! If anyone deserves to go all the way, it’s HC. Their top-level club has reached the playoffs eight times, reaching the finals twice, only to be upset twice.
One Linkoping’s largest local companies is Saab Automobiles and the Saab center is HC Linkoping’s church. With a capacity of 8,500, the arena hosts their huge following for some pretty electrifying ice hockey.
City/Population: Kloten / 17,000
Team: EHC Kloten
Arena: SWISS Arena
League: National League A
Kloten is a small municipality with a surprisingly disciplined and successful hockey team. With under 20,000 people living in this quaint community outside of Zurich, we were ready for some sports, rural style. So as far as watching their team play, we didn’t need convincing.
EHC Kloten, formerly the Kloten Flyers, has four consecutive National League Championship under its belt. M This was pretty mind-blowing considering the town’s size. In perspective, think what you’d feel if you found out Prince Rupert, British Columbia won the Stanley Cup 4 times in 4 years. And that’s exactly why we love this game, it could happen!
The 7,500 seat citadel -inspired SWISS Arena is home to EHC hockey. The building has been around since the 50s but is still a great piece of Kloten’s architectural fingerprint.
City/Population: Krefeld / 225,000
Team: Krefled Penguine
Arena: Konig Palast
League: German Ice hockey League
Krefeld, also known as the city of Velvet and Silk, has the feeling of a medieval city on a grander scale. Although it’s a bustling metropolis northwest of Düsseldorf, we couldn’t help but feel visually anchored by the old ways with sites such as Castle of Linn, the recently refurbished 18th-century synagogue, and the Lange and Esters houses. Their tradition shines through to their local hockey team dubbed one of the best in Germany, which is quite a thing.
Rebranded as the Penguins in the nineties, the team was actually founded back in 1936. They won their first championship in the German league in the fifties and then again as the Penguins in 2003. The Penguins are definite contenders in any league, and any place that produces players like all-star defenceman Christian Ernhoff shouldn’t be underestimated.
The reflectively-named Konig (King’s) Palace Arena is 15 years old and is a big part of the city of Krefeld. The Penguins’ home games heat up in this 9,000 capacity stadium, making it one of the must-see sporting events in northern Germany’s hockey cities.
City/Population: Grenoble / 163,000
Team: Grenoble Bruleurs de Loups
Arena: Pole Sud Arena
League: Magnus League
Grenoble is sincerely ahead of its time while destroying stereotypes that modern cities have to look modern. This classic French design harmonizes with its surroundings and offers a quality of life that you won’t find in many other places. Nestled at the foot of the French Alps, Grenoble’s visual aesthetic was penetrating and left a distinct impression on us.
The Bruleur de Loups or the Grenoble Burning Wolves have our vote for coolest team name by a landslide. And unlike their sibling team the Bordeaux Bulldogs, this team has been around for over fifty years and boast numerous championship wins. They’re also the first, and we believe only French team to pull off a quadruple, winning the Champions Cup, the French Cup, the Coupe de la Ligue and the Magnus Cup in the 2008/2009 season.
The relatively small 3,000-seater has attained a 90+ percent capacity average for years. They’re fiercely loyal fans of the Wolves and the arena and its fans have set a precedent for hockey fans in France.
City/Population: Edinburgh / 230,000
Team: Edinburgh Capitals
Arena: Murrayfield Ice Rink
League: Elite Ice Hockey League
The rolling hills, the lively city and the colourful residents have made Edinburgh one of the biggest hot spots on the planet. And whatever reason might bring you to visit the intoxicating cityscape that is Scotland’s capital, you’ll leave wanting more. The rolling hills, energetic vibe a timeless charm of the town’s center invigorated us. We just spent the day drinking in the quirks and imperfections that make Edinburgh so great, and got in a good game of hockey too.
The Capitals were formed in the late nineties and even though they aren’t a contending team yet, their fan base is solid and passionate and love the game. These underdogs fearlessly take on heavy hitters in the league and still manage a few surprises along the way.
With just under 4,000 seats, Murrayfield Ice Rink still manages to feel like a stadium twice its size. Locals pack the seats to watch their team fight it out against all odds. The building itself is part of the city’s many timepieces too, having been built in 1938.
City/Population: Basel / 175,000
Team: EHC Basel
Arena: St.Jakob Arena
League: National League B
Basel’s serene setting lays along the river Rhine gave us a lot without asking for too much in return. The art and culture scene was bordered on decadent with museums, urban design and period-inspired neighborhoods like Old Town. It’s technically the only port town in Switzerland as it closely borders Germany and France.
Like many European teams, EHC Basel dates back over seventy years and has a long and passionate history with hockey. As one of the top teams in the National League B with five championships won, EHC frequently makes it to the A league and contends with the best teams in the league.
St Jakob Arena opened in early 2002 and has been the home of EHC Basel and its loyal following of crazy fans. With just under 7,000 seats, this hockey hall gets very loud when the home team scores.
City/Population: Nordhorn / 53,000
Team: EC Nordhorn
Arena: Eissporthalle Grafschaft Bentheim
League: National League
The Southwestern most town in Lower Saxony seems to have about as many stories as there are people living there. The now 150 square kilometer man-made canals and classic German red brick buildings gave Nordhorn an unspoiled energy that adds to the historic feel as we walked along old mills, hotels and farms.
EC Nordhorn’s history is as rich as their namesake city. The team came out of the late 70s and eventually rose to be an A-league national team. As competitive as they were, the team eventually folded due to financial problems, only to be reborn as EC Nordhorn in 2015. The townspeople speak fondly of their team and the whole town is invested in seeing their club back in regular season play in the top league in Germany.
The 3,500-seat ice sports hall is home to EC Nordhorn’s team and dedicated fans. It too is just getting back in the swing of things since the return of their hockey team and it’s given new hope to the future of hockey in Nordhorn.
City/Population: Balashikha / 228,567
Arena: Arena Balashikha
Balashikha is a city in Moscow region, located east of Moscow, dating back to 1830. Granted town status in 1939, the small town has escalated into scenic city characterized by the Pekhorka River system and countless other small lakes and waterways. The city is rich in arts and culture, drawing musicians, artists, and other creative minds from around the globe.
Balashikha’s hockey history is rich, but you won’t find it in the number of championships the team has won. Of course, great Soviet defenseman, Yuri Lyapkin was born here, but exactly Balashikha’s hockey teams is not so world-famous. At once HK MVD, played in Gagarin Cup, final of KHL, but now two teams from Balashikha – “Dynamo” and HK MVD is playing in VHL ( its second league in Russia) and MHL (junior league) – and they demonstrates interesting and progressive game – especially “Dynamo”.
The 6,000-seat Balashikha Arena replaced the Vityaz Ice Palace and opened its doors in 2007.
City/Population: Davos / 11,000
Team: HC Davos
Arena: Vaillant Arena
League: National League A
Davos is the embodiment of a resort ski getaway in the Swiss Alps. The tiny town lives and breathes winter sports and its small-population makes it a prize destination for tourists who love the idea of a quaint and sequestered community where they can unwind and mingle with the locals. If you’re after some a quiet, snow-covered setting, our pick is Davos.
HC Davos is a legacy team that dominated the Swiss leagues for 30 years. It’s one of the oldest and most successful teams in Swiss hockey history, boasting an incredible thirty-one National League Championships and fifteen Spengler cups. Davos’ citizens are truly devoted to the sport and its tradition, this is truly a hockey town.
The famous arena has been the site of the Spengler Cup invitational, every year, since 1923. That kind of record i unheard of almost any sport on the planet and its tradition is deeply rooted in Davos’ identity. Vaillant stadium still has its wood beam-supported roof, distinguishing it from almost any other arena on the planet.
City/Population: Sofia / 1,260,000
Team: HC CSKA Sofia
Arena: Sofia Winter Sports Palace
League: Bulgarian Hockey League
As the capital of Bulgaria and the country’s largest city, Sofia is a city full of character and culture. The metropolis’ location at the foot of Vitosha Mountain means visitors enjoy stunning mountain views from nearly every point in the city. Discover Sofia’s ancient history (dating back to 7000 BC), explore the local cultural institutions, or simply enjoy the budget-friendly eateries, accommodations, and attractions in one of Europe’s most affordable capital cities.
The HC CSKA Sofia hockey team was founded in 1964 as part of the Bulgarian Ice Hockey Federation, and has since won 13 Bulgarian Hockey League championships. They dominated the rink from 1964 to 1987 and won all of their Bulgarian Cup titles in that time. While recent years have been more trying for the team, they took home a second place finish in the cup in 2009.
The Sofia Winter Sports Palace contains two rinks and holds 4,600 fans. It is one of two major ice rink complexes in the city.
City/Population: Canillo / 5,000
Team: Andorra HG
Arena: Palau de Gel d’Andorra
League: International Ice Hockey Federation
The Southwestern European state of Andorra is a country that’s often overshadowed by its neighbors Spain and France. As the sixth-smallest country in Europe, Andorra offers far more attractions to tourists than you’d expect from its small size. Centuries of history, a stunning location in the eastern Pyrenees, and a culture rich in winter sports make Andorra a bucket-list destination for all types of travelers. But hockey fans won’t want to miss a visit to the small mountain town of Canillo when the Andorra HG hockey club and an onslaught of fans fill Palau de Gel d’Andorra on game night.
As part of the Federació Andorrana d’Esports de Gel (FAEG), Andorra HG has brought this tiny European country into the international hockey scene. The team was founded in 1990, and seeing them play remains a highlight of hockey season visits to the town of Canillo.
Located in Canillo, Palau de Gel d’Andorra holds 1,500 people in a stunning setting surrounded by mountain peaks.
City/Population: Andorra / 542,664
Team: Hockey Punks Vilnius
Arena: Akropolis Ice Arena
The capital of Lithuania, Vilnius, is also the country’s largest city, but that’s not what attracts tourists to this charming and historic Baltic gem. Cruise the baroque old town on foot, and you’ll discover winding cobblestone alleyways, traditional workshops, and ancient steeples. Vilnius is one of those majestic off-the-beaten-path destinations that feels much more like a village than a capital city.
The Hockey Punks Vilnius were founded in 2008, making them one of Europe’s newer hockey establishments.
The Vilnius Akropolis is the largest shopping and entertainment center in the city. Located inside the Akropolis is the fun-filled Akropolis Ice Arena, home to the Hockey Punks Vilnius and an exciting place to catch a game or try your hand at ice skating where the pros play nearly any day of the week.
City/Population: Székesfehérvár / 100,000
Arena:Ocskay Gábor Ice Hall
League: Erste Bank Ice Hockey League
Székesfehérvár was completely rebuilt and still has the aesthetic and personality of a much older city. Its townhouses, cathedrals and magnificent Bory Castle blanket the town in timeless beauty. And with a dusting of new-world amenities, the Hungarian city capital was effortless in keeping our tourist’s appetite satiated. When it comes to hockey, Székesfehérvár kept its promise of being one of the best teams in Europe.
Fehérvár AV19 turned fifty this year and, in its five decades of of league play, have managed to capture thirteen championship titles, seven Hungarian Cup titles and 2 Interliga Championships. Their Arena is a famous place for young players to test their mettle against hundreds other players.
Fehérvár AV19 calls the 3,000-seat Ocskay Gábor Ice Hall, whose namesake was a champion forward in the league who tragically passed away at only 33 years old. His tribute Arena, nicknamed the Devil’s Cauldron, is frequently packed with screaming hockey fans cheering on their fallen comrade and his extraordinary teammates.
City/Population: Budapest / 1,732,000
Team: Vasas Budapest Hockey Club
Arena: Budapest- Koriközpont Arena
League: OB I Bajnoksag, MOL Liga
Budapest is a European capital city that draws tourists to its ancient buildings and iconic museums nestled along the River Danube. The Budapest History Museum, Buda’s Old Town and the 13th-century Matthias Church in Trinity Square are just a few of the countless attractions that make Budapest a bucket-list city. However, few tourists know that Budapest is one of the biggest up-and-coming hockey cities in Europe.
Formerly the Budapest Stars, the Vasas Budapest Hockey Club was initially founded in 2001, and the team was welcomed into the capital city with open arms. As part of the thriving Hungarian Ice Hockey Federation, the Vasas, which took control of the Stars in the 2010/11 season, are a new team that are quickly becoming a major draw to the Budapest Icecenter and the entire city.
The Budapest- Koriközpont Arena currently serves as the home rink for the Vasas Budapest Hockey Club. The rink reigned as the only indoor rink in the capital city for years, and is also home to a number of smaller Hungarian hockey clubs.
The Tüskecsarnok/Spike Hall arena also opened in 2014, offering another space for Hungarian hockey fans and visitors from around the world to join in on the action.
City/Population: Lyon / 485,000
Team: LHC Lions
Arena: Charlemagne Arena
League: Magnus League
Lyon is the height of French sophistication and modern pleasures draped across period architecture and historic culture. The country’s third largest city is a banking and commercial juggernaut with a business casual vibe that has given birth to some of the coolest bars, cafes and nightlife activities around.
Lions hockey is truly something to behold. The Magnus League club takes hockey seriously and want to give the fans a team they can really get behind. For a team that is only 24-years old, playing in one of the top leagues in Europe is already quite a feat.
Charlemagne Arena has hosted many international events since opening its doors in 1969. The 4,500-capacity building is a landmark and a statement to the city’s commitment to ice sports and their local Lions.
City/Population: Freiberg / 224,000
Team: HC Freiburg Wolves
Arena: Franz-Siegel Hall
League: DEL 2
Freiburg is a charming Southern German design with a youthful glow given by its university crowd. The town is a cookie-cutter image of a sunny European setting with its cobblestone roads, sloping landscapes and lush greenery. Beneath Freiburg’s very palatable small-town warmth we found a remarkably great bar crowd and an undeniably fun nightlife. You can say that the adult and the kid in us had fun.
HC Siegel’s proud tradition revolves around its awesome hockey arena, which we were told gives the ultimate home team advantage. The arena’s old-school design is often dubbed “too cold and too loud” by their visiting opposition. The huge all filled with cheering local fans account for both those problems. Whether you can count them as factors or not, they won all 21 of their regular season games in 2011/2012 and took the championship in the 2014/2015 to earn their place back in division two.
“The Franz-Siegel-Halle reminds me of a hockey movie from the 1940’s. It would be a fantastic place to make a movie,” said Wayne Gretzky during his visit on his 99er’s tour in 1994. Whether he meant to or not, The Great One said it all. The 5,800 capacity arena stands as a monument to classic hockey with its quirks, its personality and all of its adoring fans.
City/Population: Paisley / 76,000
Team: Paisley Pirates
Arena: Braehead Arena
League: Scottish Hockey League
Although most tourists don’t find an attraction to small countryside towns, they’re never lacking in history, or stories, and Paisley has plenty of stories to tell. The town is known around the world as the home of the Paisley Pattern – and is currently bidding to be the UK City of Culture 2021.
The Paisley Pirates must be the only hockey team we’ve met that are run entirely by volunteers from the town. They act as referees, DJs, announcers and some even lace up their skates. They do this because the Pirates are a labour of love run for their community, in the community and by the community. And who can argue with something so fundamental.
Braehead Arena hosts both the Paisley Pirates and the Braehead Clan hockey teams. Pirate fans flock to the 4,000 seat arena to watch the home games for their team, but the stadium hosts numerous events year round.Fantasia, Deadmau5 and the WWE have all visited this arena for their shows.
City/Population: Berlin / 3.5 Million
Team: Berlin Polar Bears
Arena: Mercedes-Benz Arena
Where to begin? The German capital’s unapologetic joie-de-vivre took us by force and we offered no resistance. The huge city is cultural metropolis with an unquenchable thirst for celebration and laid-back fun. The locals’ friendliness set the tone as we were whisked away from place to place, enjoying the glamour the washes over the iconic cityscape.
The Polar Bears play to win, and have done so for about 60 years. The Berlin troupe has electrified their fans with fast action, hard hits and highlight-worthy goals for 15 East German Championships, as well as the German Ice Hockey Cu in 2007 and the European Cup in 2010.
The gargantuan Mercedes-Benz Arena is home to over 14,000 Polar Bear fans per game. At less than a decade old, the massive stadium has hosted an amazing array of events including concerts from Sting, Metallica and Pearl Jam, and in 2009 hosted the Euro League Final Four.
Although we had to have a cutoff for the best teams, we did recognize some great hockey federations from up-and-coming and historical hockey countries.
Bulgaria has 16 hockey clubs and it has big ambitions for its league. Headquartered in Sofia, theirs s a tradition that has a small country’s passion.
The principality of Andorra has one team and one arena. This tiny hockey federation has a huge appetite for hockey and was launched in 1992 and they’ve finally begun their league, both for men and women.
One of the fastest-growing leagues in international play is the Lithuanian Federation of Hockey. The 60-team league has some amazing talent and 14 incredible arenas across the country.