ICE HOCKEY IN BELGIUM

On December 26th, 1895, king Leopold II opened the complex "Pole Nord" in Brussels with its showpiece - a brand new luxurious ice-rink.
Already ice hockey was played in several neighbour states and so it came that on December 17th, 1903, in Brussels the first Belgian Ice hockey club " La Fédération des Patineurs de Belgique (FPD) - The Federation of Belgian Skaters - was founded. It's first President being Victor Boin. The same man who, in 1920, at the start of the Olympics in Antwerp, would become the first athlete to take the Olympic oath.

First international match: Belgium - France

More than one year later, on March 4th, 1905, in Brussels the first international match between Belgium and France was played. The Belgians beat the French with 3 - 0.
All goals came of the stick of Belgian team captain Ernest Renard. Few days after this game, CPD ("Cercle des Patineurs de Bruxelles" - Circle of Brussels Skaters) was founded and in 1908 our capital hosted no less than three teams. All of them joined the UBSSA ("l'Union Belge de Sociétés des Sports Athlétiques - Union of Belgian Athletic Sport Clubs).

On Friday May 15th and Saturday May 16th, 1908, under the driving force of the Frenchman Louis Magnus, the "Ligue Internationale de Hockey sur Glace" (LIHG) - International Ice Hockey federation (IIHF) was founded by its founding members France, Belgium, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Bohemia.
In 1911 a second ice rink (56m x 15m) opened its doors in Brussels at the magnificent Saint Sauveur complex, from then on to become the home rink of Brussels.

In these pioneer days, the equipment of Belgian teams often consisted of a pair of long trousers, a white shirt and . . . a tie!

In 1911, the UBSSA was banned from the IIHF and replaced by the club "Brussels". Brussels, who at the helm had a young lawyer named Henry Van den Bulck, was asked by the IIHF to found a new and independent Belgian Ice hockey federation (BIJF). And so he did - in 1912. Vanity not being completely unknown to him, Van Den Bulck (1889 - 1947) also became its first President. Few weeks later - before the age of 23 - he also received the Presidents seat of the IIHF. Due to the Great War - WWI - he remained President until 1920.

Belgium: European Champion

The highlights of 1913, and in retrospect of the entire Belgian Ice hockey, were the European Championships held in Munich - Germany on February 25th and 26th.
Totally out of the blue, Belgium won the Gold medal. The Belgian Team featuring Henry Van den Bulck - Belgian Team Player, President of the IIHF, President of the BIJF and International Referee all in one.
The very same year both Liege and Antwerp ice rinks opened their doors.

1920: The Antwerp Olympics

Antwerp was honoured to organise the very first Ice hockey Olympics at the "Ijspaleis" on the Van Heurckstreet. A superior Canadian team won an easy final victory against the Swedes with self explanatory 12 - 1 figures. Those Canadians were the Winnipeg Falcons. A team that prior to the Olympics, had won the Allan Cup and consisted of players who, without exemption, all had Icelandic names.
The Americans introduced a novelty . . . wearing numbers on their back (?). Belgium finished at a disappointing sixth place.

1922: Paul Loicq - President of the IIHF

Paul Loicq (1888 - 1953) would become the only Belgian to write international ice hockey history.
In 1905 he joined the FPD and shortly after he became referee and international (later he became head of a company that produced medicinal cotton-wool) but in 1920 he succeeded Henry Van den Bulck as President of the Belgian Ice hockey Federation (BIJF) and in 1922 became President of the IIHF. A position he would keep for no less than a quarter of a century, until 1947.
The last time he was selected as a player for the Belgian National team was in 1925 (at the age of 37) and he would continue to referee into the late thirties.

As he passed on the Presidency of the IIHF in 1947 to his successor, Fritz Kraatz from Switzerland, he was immediately appointed Honorary President.
Paul Loicq passed away in Sint Genesius Rode on March 26th, 1953 and was the only Belgian ever to be awarded - later in 1961 - his very own place in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

1927: Second place E.C. and fairplay cup

In 1923 the last of the Brussels ice rinks closed down leaving Antwerp as the only city with ice hockey potential hosting "CPA" and "Le Puck" as principal clubs. During the 1927 European Championships in Vienna, the winner and host country succeeded in scoring the only goal against a superior Belgian Team, only in the last minutes of the game. This silver medal would turn out to be the last medal for Belgium in an international championship at the highest level. As a consolation prize, Belgium also won the fairplay cup. A prize, never heard off by "Sportwereld" - now Nieuwsblad - a sports page that ultimately wrote that Belgium returned home with the "beauty contest prize".

A national ice hockey disaster took place during the following summer of 1928 when the "Ijspaleis" in Antwerp was lost in a fire. The next year, the Belgian Championship was held on a frozen pond in Brussels.

1938: Ice at Sportpaleis

In between 1933 and 1935, three new ice rinks opened in Brussels; Saint Saveur, La Glacière and Pôle Nord. The man of the moment turned out to be Martial Van Schelle. Born in Merksplas (1899), he took participated in three Olympics games between 1920 and 1928 both as a swimmer (16 titles) as well as in bob-sleigh (5th place). This businessman was the owner of two ice rinks in Brussels and would later, on January 15th, 1943, after a collision with the German occupation, be arrested to be shot exactly two months later in the Breendonk prison camp.
In 1938, a beautiful new ice rink was built in the inner circle of the cycling-track of the Antwerp "Sportpaleis". Many new hockey clubs got started as well in Brussels as in Antwerp and the sport raised and flourished as never before. The Sportpaleis in Antwerp programmed top matches weekly with an absolute high light on January 29th, 1939. The game between "Brabo" and "Trail Smoke Eaters" was watched by 21.000 paying spectators.
The Trail Smoke Eaters were the Canadian representatives for the W.C. in Switzerland to be held in 1939.
This "Ice hockey - visitors record" would remain on the European charts for over 50 years.

Also Liege opened a new ice rink in 1939 where clubs as "CPL", "Standard Liège" and "Etoile du Sud" were formed.

During WWII, the arenas in Brussels, Liège and Antwerp remained open and an irregular competition was played.

1947: A strong National Team with weak results 

Paul Loicq, after 25 years of Presidency of the IIHF, resigned his post at a congress in Prague. In Prague, Belgium took part in the W.C. with, according to insiders, the best team ever. Our countrymen scored 15 goals in 7 games, but our goalies had to turn around no less that 102 times. An especially funny story is the one about Milo Jahn who became an international, straight from first being a supporter. But we will get back to that in a separate chapter.
During the fifties the 3 Belgian teams - Brussels, Liège and Antwerp played in the West European competition.
In 1951 the Belgian Ice hockey world was torn apart. On one side there was the "Belgische Wintersporten Verbond (BWV) - The union of Belgian winter sports and on the other end was the Belgian Ice hockey Federation (BIJF). Both federations playing cat and mouse with one and other, neither side ever coming out on top. Despite these differences the 1952 European Championship B Poule was held in Liège. The most popular player in those days, and ever, for that matter, was Jef Lekens who besides an all-time fighting ice hockey player was a natural entertainer.
Mid fifties, the arena's in Brussels and Liège shut their doors, again, leaving Antwerp as the only place to play the game. 

The sixties . . . Fire in Liège!

Liège re-opened its doors and besides the founding of Olympia IHC in Antwerp, there was little to do in ice hockey around 1960. Until Liège, starring 8 Maple Leafs, in the beginning of the sixties participated in the West European Cup and at its heights even won the International Cup. CPL played a full house every week, both at home and away and the Men from Liège lived up to their reputation of "the City of Fire". "Where ever Liège played there was blood", according to an old international of the Dutch team. At the parking in front of the rink bus windows and - tires were unsafe, to say the least. Inside, the spectator seats had to be replaced on a regular basis.

New Ice rinks . . . new clubs

In 1965 the Belgian Prime Minister Paul Van den Boeynants opened the brand new ice rink of Sint-Lambrechts-Woluwe where Brussels IHC was revitalised. Soon after followed the rinks of Charleroi (club CSI), Montignies (OMSI), La Louvière (Super Wolves), Deurne (Phantoms), Herentals (HYC), Hasselt (Haskey), Vorst (Brussels -formerly known as Poseidon), Heist op den Berg (Olympia - formerly known in Antwerp Sportpaleis), Gullegem (The Ice Hoppers TIH) and Jambes (Pingouins). The best Belgian player in those years is without any doubt Bob Morris Sr. of Olympia Antwerp who moved to Brussels in 1971 and who played his career top years in the Dutch Premier League.
In the late seventies, clubs such as "Super Nendaz Luik" and "Olympia Heist op den Berg" joined this Dutch competition, starring top teams such as Den Hague, Tilburg, Amsterdam and last but not least de famous Feenstra Flyers from Heerenveen. In those years the Netherlands ranked among the 8 best ice hockey countries in the world.

1977: The end of the K.B.IJ.V (Royal Belgian Ice Sports Federation)

As indicated earlier, the Belgian Ice Hockey Federation was founded in 1912. Later, ice hockey became part of the "Belgian Wintersport Verbond vzw. Once associations exist a minimum 50 years, it can apply to add "Royal" to its name. It was in 1964 that "Royal" was imbedded in the name of "Koninklijk Belgisch Wintersport Verbond. Soon after this name was changed into "Koninklijk Belgisch Ijssport Verbond (KBIJV) - Royal Belgian Ice sport Association - A federation servicing speed skating, figure skating as well as ice hockey. It took until the fall of 1973 before the "Belgische Ijshockey Federatie" - Belgian Ice hockey Federation, became the Royal Belgian Ice hockey federation. 
As a result of the federalisation of part of the political structures of Belgium during the mid seventies, the K.B.IJ.V. ceased to exist on September, 1977. Since then various disciplines such as speed skating, figure skating and ice hockey steer their own course with their own respective federations; K.B.S.F., K.B.K.F. and K.B.IJ.F.

The next generation: Griffoens, White Caps, Devils and Pirats

During the early eighties several new rinks were inaugurated and most of them carried a large enthusiasm for the game. In Wilrijk, Swa Brueren and Roland Leroy founded the "Antarctica Pirats" in 1980. This club, wearing black - white colours, lasted no more than three years. In Turnhout, a Dutchman with Swedish roots founded White Caps in 1981. That same year in Geel, the Griffoens (Griffons) saw their first light of day at the opening of their local rink. Within a few years the junior teams of Griffoens ruled the Belgian hockey scene. At full age, after 21 years, the owners sold the rink and the Griffoens members swarmed. Today, 2007, many a former red-yellow player takes a leading role in the senior divisions within Belgian Ice hockey; Turnhout, Leuven, Herentals, Hasselt, Deurne and Maaseik to name a few. The 1990 victory in the Belgian Cup cherries the sports cake of the team from Geel.
Early eighties were also the start of the "Leuven Ice Devils". Later on, this team merged with Chiefs and ICL Leuven and two years ago incorporated the Leest team "Devils".
A special mention has to go to "Cosmos" Herentals that went through life as a beer buddy-team. From 1981 till 1989 this team, that won approx. 30.000,= in a TV-game, played in the underground ice hockey scene to eventually join the Federation. Fifteen years later Cosmos merged with HYC Herentals.

Olympia Heist . . . seven consecutive titles

1982 proved to be the last time Brussels won the championship. In 1991 the "Ol' Glory" tried once more, but despite its huge (financial) efforts, the best it achieved was a Cup victory. After that HYC Herentals was on a role in 1984 and 1985, playing with locals and a few good Canadians, of which David Bluteau would turn out to become their best import ever.
In between 1986 and 1992 Olympia Heist op den Berg ruled with 7 consecutive champion titles. At the same time on the other front, the Cup competition, the bleu-whites constantly underachieved.

Ladies teams . . . at last

Until the nineties only one single ladies team CSHB (1935) from Brussels managed to stay on the ice for just a few months. After that we had to wait for a very long time for the "Super Nana's" from Liège to arrive. And all of the sudden - out of the bleu - there were four Belgian ladies teams ready to play the Cup of the Low Lands in 1996; the first mentioned "Super Nana's" (later merged with Grizzly/RCAE Liège), Leuven Chiefs Girls, WhitePhantoms ( a merger of both the women teams of Deurne and Turnhout) and the Puck Killers from Gullegem (originally from Eeklo). A few famous names from the women's league were "Ilse Van Gheel (who made it to goalie of the first men's team in Heist op den Berg), Isis D'Hossche, Sara Verpoest en the Dutch Ilse Robben of WhitePhantoms. Today, Ilse has become a well appreciated "linesman" in the Premier Division of the Dutch League for Men and was selected "linesman" in the women W.C. A Poole held in Canada (2007). Slowly women's hockey faded and with the last attempt of Misstral Liedekerke to revitalise the game, all we have today are the ladies from Liège that compete in the U16 men's competition. Amongst other teams and according to their age category, the ladies play side by side with their male colleagues.
This year (March 2007), Belgium will attend the W.C.-Division III in Sheffield - U.K.

The last born

BLOSO opened its third ice rink in 1984 in Liedekerke, but due to safety issues, it would take until 1995 before pucks were fired. Vincent Bosteels started the "Ice Stars Liedekerke" that eventually in 1998 were renamed the "Lions". These lions proved ambitious and took both the 2002 end 2003 Champions title in Division BD1 with a little help from a few well selected imports. Sensational news hits us from Maaseik !! The newly founded club "Moose" is going to participate in the Dutch Premier League. As could be expected and lucky for them, this turned out to be nothing more than a rumour.
During the last couple of years, the French part of Belgium is putting in some serious efforts. The situation in Jambes, that started a new club a few years back, is still unclear. On the other hand it turned out that "Olympic Club de Hockey sur Glace" Montignies (Charleroi) was the fastest growing club during the 2006/2007 season.

Anno 2007

During the mid nineties several top Belgian players such as Tim Vos, Ward Szarzynski, Koen Hermans, Jesse Raekelboom and other Björn Steijlen's found employment within various Dutch Premier League teams. In 1996 Phantoms Deurne joins this league to return to the Belgian competition in 1999.

The Cup of the Low Lands was played again in 2004 - 2005 - 2006 showing a painfully obvious difference in quality between the Belgian and Dutch teams. Even during the trimmed down version of the cup, played in 2005/2006, Belgian teams had no chance for success.
The Belgian Cup Final gets a semi-regular home rink in Hasselt. Over the last couple of years the largest cup in Belgian ice hockey found its way to Herentals, Deurne, Leuven and Turnhout. Those teams, together with outsider Olympia Heist, will be competing for the Belgian title towards the end of the season.
We would like to put a special spotlight on Tim Vos (°25-10-1969 present team Phantoms Deurne). From 1987 onwards till 2006, Tim participated no less than 17 times in a W.C. tournament. Except for 1988, when Belgium failed to delegate a team, and in 2001 and 2005 because of injuries, the most popular # 13 never missed his appointment on the international W.C. Scene.

Posted on September 1, 2013 at 02:31 by OVB