Czech floorball is celebrating its big anniversary. Exactly 30 years ago, the Czech Floorball Union was officially founded. Its origin was then staged by an enthusiast who laid the first foundations of the sport, which today ranks second in terms of the number of members in the entire republic in team sport. But how did floorball get to the Czech Republic and how did the whole union come into being?
The enthusiast was Martin Vaculík, who with his brother brought a set of equipment from Sweden with the help of the travel agency Excalibur in 1991. Thanks to that, floorball began to be played in Střešovice. However, this was not the first time that the “sahlíčko”, as it was famously nicknamed after the Finnish word for floorball (salibandy), appeared in the Czech Republic.
The first pioneers to bring floorball equipment to Czechoslovakia were students of the University of Economics. They first encountered the new sport in 1984 during an exchange with students at KY University in Helsinki. At that time, the Finns brought a set of several sticks and held the first unofficial match with Czech peers. The Finnish missionaries left the equipment here. A group of students around the later pioneers Michal Bauer and Petr Chaloupka played in a completely new sport about a year later, until they destroyed all the sticks.
As in the case of the Finnish visit to the University of Economics, floorball came from abroad to Eastern Bohemia. The Mettmenstetten Unicorns team then went to a pre-season training camp in Jaroměř, and so “unihockey”, as floorball is called in Switzerland, also appeared in the Hradec Králové region.
But let’s go back to the creation of the floorball union itself. It all started a few days before the official establishment. It was January 8, 1992, and four young men who came on the initiative of the aforementioned Vaculík gathered in the Střešovice hall. Their goal was to sign a document requesting the registration of the new organization and its statutes and send it to the Ministry of the Interior. On January 14, the floorball union was officially registered. The starting line has been crossed. Exactly thirty years have passed since then, and floorball has gradually become a sport that is no longer the domain of school gyms and a form of spending free time with friends but reaches the level of professional sports.
Two other people were next to Vaculík at the time of the signing. Both staunch hockey players who helped the floorball pioneer set up by contributing their experience in setting up a hockey association – Milan Syblík and Tomáš Březina. The former helped floorball to its origins and did not interfere more in its activities. Březina is still active as chairman of the disciplinary commission and, in addition, he was an essential part of the executive teams during the first world championships held in the Czech Republic.
Ladislav Kopec took on a vital role, writing the first statutes of the union, which at the time still used the English term floorball. The English expression was not refined until a year later. In addition to floorball and hockey, Kopec helped launch in-line hockey and tug-of-war associations in a similar way. But that’s not the end of it. It was necessary to establish competition rules, registration cards, and, last but not least, to establish clubs, the spread of new sports in the Czech Republic among schoolchildren, and the organization of competitions. All this was coordinated by the Preparatory Committee, which met for the first time in September 1992 in the Tatran meeting room. At that time, his brother Tomáš, Michal Bauer, Karel Bauer, Vladimír Zábojník, Marek Tymeš and Jiří Velička sat next to Vaculík.
Floorball grew unexpectedly fast. Zábojník, who distributed play equipment in schools in the capital city and organized the historically first floorball competition of children in the Czech territory, did a great deal of work in this. As a missionary, he went to schools, explained the rules, invited children to tournaments, and sold floorball sets. Marcel Pudich also has a great deal of credit for the rapid boom, who one day brought a bag full of floorballs by train to Ostrava, from where floorball also started to spread unstoppably. He helped bring many people from Ostrava to sports and initiated the establishment of several local clubs, which he helped with the first steps and presented sports news at schools.
Very soon, other cities, more clubs and more and more enthusiasts joined, discovering a new way of spending free time, new love, and often a new meaning of sports life. Stubbornness and dedicated work breathed life into the sport, which soon settled in almost every sports hall or gym in the Czech Republic. And not only that. The Czechs very soon became strong competitors in the international field, where today they are among the best in the world. All this would not be possible without the hard work of a few people who believed in their vision and were able to find the right co-workers.
What comes next? Let’s open the fourth decade of Czech floorball together! We will commemorate the previous three throughout the year in articles and interviews with Czech floorball personalities.