Ireland does not have a great tradition in ice hockey but in recent years this fast-paced and exciting sport has become more popular here. Ice hockey does in fact have a long tradition in North America and Europe. The first professional ice hockey competition has been thrilling fans since the turn of the 20th century. The first professional league that was set up was the Western Pennsylvania Hockey League. This was founded in 1902 and was an immediate success with fans. The success of the first league led to the establishment of the National Hockey Association now known as the National Hockey League.
The success of the leagues inspired others and soon many European countries were setting up their own leagues. Many of these are still going strong to this day. There are professional leagues in Sweden, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and in the UK – the English Ice Hockey League (EIHL). One of the teams in this league is the Belfast Giants who regularly play against Scottish and English teams.