|Europe according to Americans|
As both parties in the quarrel seem to be more focused on acting like spoiled brats than actually getting somewhere with the negotiations, we are facing another lockout - whether or not it lasts the whole season.
This being the situation, hockey fans have to turn to other leagues if they wish to get their daily doses of excitement, tears and joy. In North America there are plenty of junior leagues where to choose from (I’ve been told), but as I’m a European, I have no idea what is going with those so I shall focus on what I know best – Europe.
With the exception of KHL, European hockey leagues are national, so each of “top” hockey countries in Europe has their own league. The less merited hockey nations have of course their own leagues as well but to keep this simple, these posts only deal with KHL, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Germany.
Where: Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Latvia, Ukraine, Slovakia, and Czech Republic
History: KHL (Континентальная хоккейная лига, Kontinentalnaja hokkeinaja liga) was established for the 2007-2008 season, and it mostly contained teams from the former Russian Superleague. It has since expanded each season and the likelihood is that for the next season there will be teams from UK and Italy taking apart to KHL.
Regular Season 2012-13: September 4th - February 17th
System: The league is divided to 2 conferences (Western [Запад] and Eastern [Восток]), and each conference is divided to 2 divisions. Western conference contains 14 teams (7 in each division) and Eastern conference 12 (6 in each division).
"In the regular season all teams play 56 games (four against opponents in their own division and two games against opponents from other divisions); in the play-off series the best 16 teams of the regular season - eight from the Eastern Conference and eight from the Western - compete for the Gagarin Cup."
- Bobrov Division (Дивизион Боброва)
- Vityaz (Chekhov)
- Dinamo (Moscow) -> 2011-2012 Gagarin Cup winner
- Dinamo (Riga)
- SKA (Saint Petersburg)
- Donbass (Donetsk, Unkraine)
- Slovan (Bratislava, Slovakia)
- Lev (Prague, CR)
- Tarasov Division (Дивизион Тарасова)
- Atlant (Moscow region)
- Dinamo (Minks, Belarus)
- Severstal (Cherepovets)
- Spartak (Moscow)
- Torpedo (Nizhny Novgorod)
- CSKA (Moscow)
- Lokomotiv (Jaroslavl)
- Kharlamov Division (Дивизион Харламова)
- Avtomobilist (Ekaterinburg)
- Ak Bars (Kazan)
- Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)
- Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk)
- Traktor (Chelyabinsk)
- Yugra (Khanty-Maniysk)
- Chernishev Division (Дивизион Чернышева)
- Avangard (Omsk)
- Amur (Khabarovsk)
- Barys (Astanta, Kazakhstan)
- Metallurg (Novokuznetsk)
- Salavat Yulaev (Ufa)
- Sibir (Novosibirsk)
Players to follow: Everyone… Seriously though, KHL contains serious amount of talent and with the addition of (Russian) NHL players, it gets even better. Malkin and Gonchar are already signed to Magnitogorsk, Kovalchuk will play for SKA, and Datsyuk, Semin, Ovechkin, Varlamov etc. will probably sign with KHL teams as well.
But even without NHL help, KHL has players that make it worth to watch – Morozov, Radulov, Immonen, Kuznetsov, Thoresen etc.
Team you should root for: Ak Bars Kazan
Bonus: Ladies and gentlemen, the mascot of Traktor Chelyabinsk
History: Elitserien, or Swedish Elite league (SEL) was founded in 1975 and contained originally 10 teams but has since expanded to 12 teams. Swedish hockey league under different names has existed since 1922, and the current championship cup "Le Mat" has been handed to the winner since 1926.
Regular Season 2012-13: September 13th - March 5th
System: SEL teams aren't divided into conference nor divisions, and each team will play 55 game during the regular season. After the regular season the best 8 teams will continue to playoffs and worst 2 teams will face the best 2 teams of Hockey Allsvenskan (second best hockey league in Sweden) for "Kvalserien". Winners of the series will play next season in SEL, losers in Allsvenskan.
- AIK (Stockholm)
- Brynäs IF (Gävle) -> reigning champion
- Frölunda HC (Gotheburg)
- Färjestad BK (Karlstad)
- HV71 (Jönköping)
- Linköpings HC
- Luleå HF
- Modo (Örnsköldvik)
- Rödle BK (Ängelholm)
- Skellefteå AIK
- Timrå IK
- Växjö Lakers
Players to follow: Rickard Wallin! Oscar Möller seems to had a good start to the season. And you know, most of the talents.
Team you should root for: Frölunda. Because Göteborg (Gothenburg) is an awesome city.
Bonus: Since SEL decided to ban NHL players (unless they sign for the whole season), the Hockey Allsvenskan will get its share of NHL star dust as some of the Swedes have expressed the desire to play in their beloved home country. Also rumoured (or daydreamed by certain parts of Swedish media) to be on his way to Sweden is Stanley Cup winner Anže Kopitar, who played in Södertälje before landing to LA. And his brother plays in Allsvenskan.
History: SM-liiga (Finnish Championship League) or Finnish Elite League was founded in 1975 to replace the old league, that had been played 1928-1975.
Regular Season 2012-13: September 13th - March 12th
System: Every team plays 60 games during the regular season, after that the best 6 teams will automatically go to playoffs, and teams placing between 7th and 10th place will play "wildcard" round for the 2 remaining playoff spots. Winner of the playoffs will get the "Canada Cup".
The worst team in the league will play against the winner of the second best league, Mestis, for the place in the top league.
- HIFK (Helsinki)
- Jokerit (Helsinki)
- Blues (Espoo)
- TPS (Turku)
- Ilves (Tampere)
- Tappara (Tampere)
- HPK ( Hämeenlinna)
- Ässät (Pori)
- Lukko (Rauma)
- JYP (Jyväskylä)
- KalPa (Kuopio)
- SaiPa (Lappeenranta)
- Kärpät (Oulu)
Players to follow: SM-liiga contains currently some young talent as Markus “Mikael’s little brother” Granlund, Joel Armia and Aleksander Barkov are playing in the league. The old school is presented for example by Antero Niittymäki, Sami Kapanen, and the little bitch that shall not be mentioned here.
Of the possibly upcoming NHL-ers, obviously the Koivu's, the goalies etc...
Team you should root for: HIFK. TPS is also acceptable
Bonus: Root for Jokerit and we can’t be friends. You have been warned.
History: The current league was founded in 1999, but hockey has been played in Switzerland on league level before that, as the predecessor of the National League A was played 1916-1999.
Regular Season 2012-13: September 15th - February 26th
System: Apparently - "During the regular season, each of the 12 teams play 50 games. The top eight teams after the regular season qualify for the playoffs to determine the Swiss champion in best-of-seven series'. The bottom four teams in the standings play a relegation tournament with the loser then playing the winner of the National League B playoffs in a best-of-seven series for a spot in the successive NLA season." (Wikipedia)
- HC Ambrì-Piotta (Ambrì)
- SC Bern (Bern)
- EHC Biel (Biel/Bienne)
- HC Davos (Davos)
- HC Fribourg-Gottéron (Fribourg)
- Genève-Servette HC (Geneva)
- Kloten Flyers (Kloten)
- SCL Tigers (Langnau i.E.)
- HC Lugano (Lugano)
- Rapperswil-Jona Lakers (Rapperswil)
- EV Zug (Zug)
- ZSC Lions (Zurich) -> 2011-12 champion
Where: Czech Republic
History: Czech Extraliga (ELH) was founded 1993 after the breakup of Czechoslovakia. Currently it's called Tipsport Extraleague as the name of the league is leased to sponsors.
Regular Season 2012-13: September 13th -
System: According to the ever so knowledgeable Wikipedia - 14 teams compete in the league, with the top 6 teams at the end of the regular season play qualify for the playoffs to determine the league champion. The teams between 7th and 10th place play a series (best-of-five) to determine the remaining 2 spots.
The 4 lowest ranked teams (11–14) play a series with the loser then facing the winner of the First League. The last-place team after the play-out group plays with the winner of the First League playoff series (best-of-seven), The winner is qualified to play in Extraliga the following season while the losing team plays in the First League.
- Bílí Tygři Liberec
- HC Energie Karlovy Vary
- HC ČSOB Pojišťovna Pardubice
- HC Kometa Brno
- HC MOUNTFIELD
- HC Oceláři Třinec
- HC Slavia Praha
- HC Sparta Praha
- HC VERVA Litvínov
- HC VÍTKOVICE STEEL (Ostrava)
- HC Škoda Plzeň
- Piráti Chomutov
- PSG Zlín
- Rytíři Kladno
Team you should root for: Based on logos, I would suggest Piráti Chomutovia... or possibly Kladno (unless you hate Jágr).
History: Slovak Extraleague was founded in 1993. As the Czech league, also the Slovakian counterpart leases the name to sponsors, current one being Tipsport.
- HC Košice
- HC ’05 Banská Bystrica
- HK 36 Skalica
- HK Dukla Trenčín
- HK Nitra
- HK Orange 20 (Bratislava)
- HK Poprad
- HKm Zvolen
- MHC Mountfield (Martin)
- MsHK Žilina
- ŠHK 37 Piešťany
Players to follow: Quite likely the older Hossa
Team you should root for: Trenčín
History: German Ice Hockey League (DEL) was founded in 1994 and replaced the old league, Ice hockey Bundesliga (1957-1994).
Regular Season 2012-13: September 14th - March 10th
- Augsburger Panther
- Eisbären Berlin
- DEG Metro Stars (Düsseldorf)
- Hamburg Freezers
- Hannover Scorpions
- ERC Ingolstadt
- Iserlohn Roosters
- Kölner Haie (Cologne)
- Krefeld Pinguine
- Adler Mannheim
- EHC Red Bull München
- Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers (Nuremberg)
- Straubing Tigers
- Grizzly Adams Wolfsburg
Team you should root for: If you root for Penguins in NHL, I'd say go with Krefeld Pinguine. In other cases, Eisbären sounds like a good option.
History: Hockey league in Norway has existed in one form or another since 1935.
Regular Season: September-March
- Frisk Asker (Asker)
- Lørenskog IK
- Rosenborg Elite (Trondheim)
- Sparta Sarpsborg
- Stavanger Oilers
- Stjernen Heckey (Fredrikstad)
- Storhamar Dragons (Hamar)
- Tønsberg IH
- Vålerenga Ishockey (Oslo)
Players to follow: Tore Vikingstad
Who you should root for: Sparta Sarpsborg, obviously (they were formerly Sparta Warriors, so...). Or maybe the Storhamar Dragons.