Today Morton travel to Excelsior Stadium, aka New Broomfield, for a clash with Airdrie United, aka the Diamonds, the luckiest club in Scottish football.
Airdrie finished fourth in the Second Division last season, one point ahead of Stenhousemuir. Mid-table, you'd say, but it just qualified them for the playoffs. They beat Ayr United, but then lost to Dumbarton, who were promoted. But then the newco Rangers were put in the Third Division, Dundee were invited into the SPL, and a space opened up in the First Division which Airdrie got to fill as playoff runners-up. This is the third time in recent years that Airdrie have gained a spot in the First Division through the insolvency of another club. Gretna in 2008, and Livingston in 2009 are the other instances.
Paul di Giacomo and Grant Evans, who were cut by Morton this summer, are now with Airdrie. Di Giacomo was the top scorer in the Scottish Challenge Cup last year.
Excelsior Stadium is one of six in the First Division with a 10,000+ capacity. The others are Dunfermline's East End Park, Morton's own Cappielow, Partick's Firhill, Livingston's Almondvale and Raith Rovers' Stark's Park. The two largest soccer stadia in Scotland, Hampden and Ibrox, are both in the Third Division.
Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, is in the very same neck of the woods as Coatbridge, home of Albion Rovers. Airdrie United and Albion Rovers would be natural rivals, their grounds being about two miles apart, but they've never played in the same division. Hamilton, Motherwell, Clyde, and Shotts Bon Accord are also all within bicycle range. There should be a derby. Let's call it the Lanarkshire Cup.
Morton sit in the unusual position of third place. Last September they were in first with the same number of points, but that didn't last long, and their top half position might not last long this year, so let's enjoy it while it lasts. After Airdrie, Morton play Partick and Dunfermline, the first- and second-place clubs. They should try to salt this win away. A win would make it a perfect September for the Ton.
Also doing well are Morton's team in the SFL's Reserve League. After three rounds the Ton reserves have three wins and sit second in the table behind ... Airdrie United.
[Sweet! Morton win 3 - 2. Goals by Campbell (2) and O'Brien.]
This week saw Round Three of the Scottish League Cup. Clubs advancing to the quarterfinals: Celtic, Hearts, Dundee United, St Johnstone, St Mirren, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Aberdeen, and Rangers who knocked off SPL leaders Motherwell.
There are no Third Division games today because it's Round Two of the Scottish Cup, when the survivors of Round One face the professionals of the SFL Third Div. Rangers are away to Forres to play the Mechanics. Queen's Park host Irving Meadow. Have Irving Meadow ever played at Hampden before? Inverurie Loco Works face Huntly in an all-Highland League match. [Third Division sides Peterhead and Montrose are knocked out. Rangers advance.]
[I got the Galician derby date wrong. It's October 28th.]
My barber is keen on South Korean football. Thursday Jeju beat Pohang 2 - 1 in league play.
Last night UCD hosted Bohemians. [2 - 2.] Tomorrow Mito entertain Giravanz Kitakyushu. [Mito win 3 - 1.]
Founded in 1994, the DEL is the top tier of professional hockey in Germany, and the most popular destination for North American hockey players looking for jobs in Europe. There are fourteen clubs, each playing 52 games from September to March. The top ten clubs make the playoffs. There are four playoff rounds: Qualifying (two best-of-three series involving regular season finishers 7 through 10); Quarterfinal (four best-of-seven series); Semifinal (two best-of-five series); and Final (best-of-five). The playoff champion is considered Deutscher Meister. There's an irregular promotion/relegation system that changes from year to year.
Currently the DEL is made up of these teams:
Augsburger Panther. One of five DEL clubs from Bavaria. They play in 7,774-seat Curt Frenzel Stadium, which until this year was open to the elements. They wear red, green and white. The club was founded in 1878, though when they took up hockey I do not know. The first German hockey championship was in 1912.
Eisbären Berlin. This is the only DEL club from Berlin, and the only one from the former DDR. They were formed in 1954 as SC Dynamo Berlin and were championships of East Germany 15 times, many of those years while there were only two clubs in the East German league. The Polar Bears have won the DEL six times, including last year and the year before. They play at O2 World, capacity 14,200. Their colours are red, white and blue. They are owned by Anschutz Entertainment, who also have a 50% stake in the LA Kings.
DEG Metro Stars. Eight times German champions, though only once in the DEL era, DEG (Düsseldorfer Eislauf Gemeinschaft = Düsseldorf Skating Community) started in 1935 and assumed the Metro Stars moniker in 2002. Their rink is the 13,400-seat ISS Dome. Their colours are red, yellow and black.
Hamburg Freezers. This is just not a club name I would have chosen. They play at O2 World (not to be confused with Berlin's O2 World), which seats 13,000. Like the Eisbären, they are owned by Anschutz. This really is a franchise, having started out in Munich in 1999 before moving to Hamburg in 2002, like some kind of AHL team. Their colours too are very AHL, or could we even say IHL: blue, teal, white and silver. [Jamie Benn of Dallas has signed with the Freezers.]
Hannover Scorpions. The Scorpions started out in Wedemark in 1975, then relocated to Hanover in the Nineties. They were DEL champion in 2010. Colours: red, white and black. Their TUI Arena seats 10,767. [Thomas Greiss of the San Jose Sharks has signed with the Scorpions.]
ERC Ingolstadt. Eishockey und Rollschuh Club Ingolstadt, aka Die Panther, play at the 4,815-seat Saturn Arena in Ingolstadt, Bavaria. There are just too many Panthers teams in Bavaria, considering there are no panthers in Bavaria. Colours: blue, white and black. Founded in 1964. [Alexander Sulzer of the Buffalo Sabres has signed with Ingolstadt.]
Iserlohn Roosters. This club in the Sauerland region of North Rhine-Westphalia traces its roots to a Canadian army team in the 1950s. Eissporthalle Iserlohn (capacity 4,976). Blue and white.
Kölner Haie. (English: Cologne Sharks.) Eight times German champion, and winner of the 1999 Spengler Cup. They play in the NHL-size Lanxess Arena (18,500). Colours red, white and black. Coach Uwe Krupp.
Krefeld Pinguine. The Penguins go back to 1936, and were German champs in 2003. They play at the 8,000-seat König Palast. Yellow and black. [Christian Ehrhoff of the Sabres has signed with Krefeld.]
Adler Mannheim. Perhaps because of their name (adler = eagles) this club's colours are red, white and blue. They are six-time German champions, most recently in 2007. They play at SAP Arena (13,600). [Marcel Goc of Florida, Dennis Seidenberg of the Bruins and Jason Pominville and Jochen Hecht of the Buffalo Sabres have signed with Mannheim. Hecht started out with Mannheim, and played for them during the last lockout.]
EHC Red Bull München. Part of the Red Bull sports empire, this club began in 1998, and entered the DEL in 2010. They play at Olympia Eishalle (capacity 6,256). Red, white and blue. [Blake Wheeler of the Winnipeg Jets and Paul Stastny of the Colorado Avalanche have signed with Munich.]
Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers Nürnberg. Begun in 1980, the Ice Tigers were founding members of the DEL in 1994. Thomas Sabo is the owner. They play at Arena Nürnberger Versicherung, capacity 6,500. Colours: red, white and blue. There is no such animal as the ice tiger. [Steve Reinprecht of the AHL's Chicago Wolves has signed with Nürnberg. This could be an example of the knock-on effect of NHL clubs sending big chunks their rosters down to the AHL for the duration of the lockout.]
Straubing Tigers. At this point I should mention that there are no tigers in Bavaria either. This club goes back to 1948 and entered the DEL in 2006. Colours: red, white, two kinds of blue, and silver. They play at the 5,800-seat Eisstadion am Pulverturm (the Ice Rink at the Gunpowder Tower).
EHC Wolfsburg Grizzly Adams. Sincerely, I kid you not! Founded 1975. Orange, black and white. They play at the 4,660-seat Eisarena Wolfsburg. Wolfsburg is the home of Volkswagen.
Miyoshi Umeki, Hokkaido-born singer and actress, won the Oscar as best supporting actress in 1958 for her role in Sayonara, the film of James Michener's novel about post-war Japan. She was later nominated for a Tony for her performance in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Flower Drum Song, and made the cover of Time on Dec. 22, 1958. Here's her Oscar acceptance speech. Here she is on the Gisele MacKenzie Show the week after. The "Strange Things Are Happening" song she begins to sing for Gisele is a novelty song by Red Buttons, who also won an Oscar for Sayonara, not the now more famous spiritual by Rosetta Tharp.
The National League A is the top professional ice hockey league in Switzerland. It comprises 12 clubs, each playing a 50 game schedule from September till February. The eight best teams go into the playoffs, and the playoff winner is declared Swiss champion. The bottom four teams play a tournament to see which one must face the top League B club in a relegation playoff.
The NLA is one of the strongest hockey leagues in Europe, and includes the club (SC Bern) with the highest attendance in Europe. Unlike the Swedish Elitserien, which has decided to stick with its policy of allowing only full-year player contracts, the NLA is expected to sign up a lot of idle NHLers by offering contracts for the term of the NHL lock-out. [The Elitserien has belated started to sign NHLers.] The Swiss league could turn out to be the strongest hockey league on the continent this year. (The Russians would disagree.) [As of November 1, every club in the NLA has signed at least one locked-out NHLer.]
This year's clubs are:
HC Ambrì-Piotta. The Bianco-Blu play in the northern part of the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, and are thus natural rivals of HC Lugano. They were founded in 1937 and play in the Valascia (capacity 7,000). They won the IIHF Continental Cup in 1999 and 2000. Kevin Constantine is coach. [Max Pacioretty of the Habs and Cory Schneider of the Canucks have signed here.]
SC Bern. Founded in 1931, SC Bern (Schlittschuh Club Bern) have been Swiss champions twelve times, most recently in 2010. Their rink, PostFinance Arena, seats 17,131 fans. One-time Ottawa Senator Antti Törmänen is coach. Colours red, yellow and black. [Bern has signed Islanders Mark Streit and John Tavares, and Roman Josi of Nashville.]
EHC Biel. (Or, in French, HC Bienne.) Founded in 1939, they have been Swiss champions three times. After winning the NLB three times in a row they dislodged EHC Basel from the NLA in 2008, an indication of how hard it is to gain promotion into this league. Eisstadion Biel holds 7,000. Red, yellow, white and blue. Chelios played for Biel during the 1994 lockout. [The Bruins' Tyler Seguin and the Blackhawks' Patrick Kane have signed with Biel.]
HC Davos. Founded in 1921, before four of the NHL's Original Six, Davos have won the Swiss championship 30 times, most recently in 2011. Since 1923 they have hosted the Spengler Cup and won it 15 times against opponents like Team Canada, Sparta Prague and Dinamo Riga. Their rink, Vaillant Arena, holds 7,080. Davos is in the partially-Romansh-speaking canton of Graubünden, originally a confederation outside the Swiss confederation. Blue and yellow. [Rick Nash and Joe Thornton have re-signed with Davos. Both played for Davos in 2004-05. Loui Eriksson of the Dallas Stars has signed.]
HC Fribourg-Gottéron. This club from the predominantly French canton of Fribourg wear a logo consciously modeled on the CH of the Montreal Canadiens, though the uniforms are black, red and turquoise. They have been around since 1938, but have never been Swiss champions, and are just getting over some bad financial times. It's their 75th season this year. Their BCF Arena holds 6,900. [And David Desharnais of the Habs has put on the FG.]
Genève-Servette HC. Founded in 1905, this club from the far west of Switzerland made it to the NLA in 2001. They play at the Patinoire des Vernets (capacity 7,382). Coach is Chris McSorley. Colours: maroon and gold. [They have signed Yannick Webber of Montreal and Logan Couture of San Jose.]
Kloten Flyers. This club goes back to 1934. Kloten have been Swiss champions five times, in 1967, and then four years in a row in the mid-1990s. They play at Kolping Arena (7,719). Colours are blue, red and white. Their coach is Anders Eldebrink, formerly of Södertälje and the Fredericton Express. [Brooks Laich of the Washington Capitals has signed with Kloten.]
SC Langnau Tigers. Tigers last entered the NLA in 1998, having won the Swiss championship once before in 1976. Colours: red, yellow, black and white. Their Ilfis Stadium holds 6,500. [Jared Spurgeon of Minnesota and Tyler Ennis of Buffalo have signed with Langnau.]
HC Lugano. The other team from Ticino. Started in 1941, Lugano have taken seven Swiss championships. Their rink is named Pista La Resega, and holds 7,800. They wear black, yellow and white. [Luca Sbisa of Anaheim and Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins have with Lugano.]
Rapperswil-Jona Lakers. Founded 1945. Entered the NHA in 1994. They play at the Diners Club Arena (with tables for 6,200). Colours: double blue, red and white. The lake in their name Lake Zurich. [Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators and Miachael Del Zotto of the NY Rangers have signed with the Lakers.]
EV Zug. Swiss champions 1998. They play in the Bossard Arena (capacity 7,015). Coached by former Pittsburgh Penguin Doug Shedden, who must put up with a lot of Doug/Zug jokes. Blue and gold. [Raphael Diaz of the Habs, and Damian Brunner and Henrik Zetterberg of the Red Wings have signed with Zug.]
ZSC Lions. Zürcher Schlittschuh Club Lions are seven-time and current Swiss champions, and three-time winners of the Spengler Cup. Plus they won the IIHF Continental Cup in 2001 and 2002. They play at the 10,700-seat Hallenstadion in Zürich. Colours: blue, white and red. Coach: Marc Crawford. [Dustin Brown of the LA Kings has signed with ZSC.]
As part of an ongoing programme to get out of the business of government, the British Government is closing the Clyde Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, located between Battery Park and the Esplanade in Greenock. In future, all sinking vessels are requested to call Belfast or Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis.
Speaking of closures, have you seen this video of East Stirlingshire's abandoned home Firs Park?
Raith Rovers come to Cappielow today. Morton, after victories over Dumbarton and Cowdenbeath, have an opportunity to make it three league wins in a row, something they have not accomplished since November 2008.
Morton's Willie Dyer played for Raith last season.
Celtic are not tearing up the SPL the way everyone expected when Rangers were sent to the Third Division. Currently they sit fifth, behind Motherwell, Hibs, St Mirren and Dundee United. Rangers are not feasting on their Third Division opponents either. They're in fourth place behind Elgin, Peterhead and Queen's Park. The one Glasgow club having no difficulty at all is Partick Thistle, who have five wins in five games and sit atop the First Division.
Ross County go into this weekend undefeated, with one win and five draws, two goals for, and one goal against. Inverness CT have nine goals for and fourteen against.
Ooooooh my God, Queen of the South knocked Rangers out of the Ramsdens Cup. QoS are the only club remaining that can win all three cups.
Raith visit Celtic Tuesday in Round 3 of the Scottish League Cup.
Last night UCD visited Derry City and won 2 - 1. Today it's Pohang at Seoul. [Seoul 3, Pohang 2.] Tomorrow, Mito at Kyoto. [Kyoto 4, Mito 1.]