This is a screen shot from a EBEL game in Villach between EC VSV and EC KAC. Take a look at number 36. What's that rectangle he's standing in? You can see five identical rectangles ranged along the near boards, and apparently they continue on down the length of the ice to the other goal, and you can just make out an identical row on the other side of the rink. At least some of them have a cross in the middle. What are they for? Horseshoes?
Vienna's Karl Marx-Hof is possibly the grandest and historically most significant public housing projects ever. It was built during the period of Social Democratic city government after WWI, and it was the scene of a battle in February 1934 when the fascists came looking for a fight. Despite having taken direct hits from artillery shells it's still in use, accommodating hundreds of Viennese to this day. If you know nothing about the Austrian Civil War, two good places to start reading are Naomi Mitchison's Vienna Diary and Martha Gellhorn's A Stricken Field. Source.
Hockey is politics by other means. Russia's KHL, with clubs in Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Latvia and Belarus, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Croatia, and soon Finland, fills a void left in the Russian soul by the departed USSR and Eastern Bloc, and prior to that, the Russian Empire. Austria's top hockey league the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga includes clubs from four former domains of the Habsburg Empire: the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Hungary and Italy. Austria's second-flight Inter-National League, headquartered in Vienna, has four members of the former Austrian National League, five from the Italian Serie A2, and six from the Slovenian Hockey League.
The INL started last year with four Austria and two Slovenian clubs. This year they expanded to fifteen by incorporating the rest of the Slovenian league, and the Italian A2. The fifteen clubs each play 28 games, then the league continues play as three five-team groups, after which best-of-five quarterfinals, semifinals and finals determine a champion. I'll understand it better after I've seen it done once. There's no promotion/relegation mechanism between the EBEL and the INL. The Italian and Slovenian clubs also maintain ties to their national competitions.
The clubs are:
EHC Bregenzerwald. IHL champions 2012-13. Colours: Green, white and black. They play at Messestadion Dornbirn which seats 4,270. Bregenzerwald is in the northern part of Vorarlberg.
VEU Feldkirch. Founded in 1927, refounded in 2000. VEU Feldkirck are historically one of the most successful Austrian clubs. Nine-time Austrian champions, four-time champions of the Alpenliga, and winners of the IIHF's short-lived European Hockey League in 1997-98. They competed in the 1998 Spengler Cup. Their rink is the 5,200-seat Vorarlberghalle. Red, white and black. Feldkirch is in western Voralberg, within spitting distance of Liechtenstein.
EHC Lustenau. Founded 1970. Rink: the Rheinhalle Lustenau, which holds 2,200. Yellow and green. Lustenau is in northwest Vorarlberg.
Vorarlberg is Austria's westernmost state and the only one to border Switzerland. The local dialect is Swabian, like German-speaking Switzerland, rather than the Bavarian German of the rest of Austria. After World War One the people of Voralberg voted to become a Swiss canton, but their wishes were thwarted by the other Austrians, President Wilson, and a lot of the Swiss.
EK Zell am See. The Ice Bears. Blue and yellow. They finished first in the regular season last year. The Eishalle Zell am See has room for 3,200 spectators. Zell am See is on Lake Zell in the state of Salzburg.
All five of these clubs are located in South Tyrol, a chunk of Alpine territory taken from Austria at the end of World War One, and where the German language still predominates.
HC Neumarkt-Egna Wild Goose. Founded in 1963. Their arena holds 2,500, which is half the population of the town. Blue, red and white. Neumarkt or Egna is in South Tyrol.
HC Eppan Pirates. Founded 1981. Yellow and blue. Eisstadion Eppan can accommodate 1,500. Eppan is a little north of Neumarkt/Egna.
HC Gherdëina. Originally founded as HC Gröden in 1927. Four-time Italian champions. Red and blue. Their rink is the Eisstadion Pravines which holds 2,000. Gherdëina is the Ladin name for Val Gardena (in Italian) or Gröden (in German). Ladin is the very tiny Romance language spoken thereabouts.
SV Kaltern. Founded 1962. They play at the Palaghiaccio Kaltern (1,800). Red, white and black. Their logo features a pike, pickerel or muskellunge, I'm not sure which. Kaltern borders Eppan and Neumarkt. The Italian name is Caldaro. The English name would be Kettle.
HC Merano. Eagles. Founded 1968. Italian champions 1986 and 1999. Meranarena holds 3,500. Black and white.
The Italian teams continue to function as the Italian Serie A2 while they play in the INL. How? The Italian hockey authorities throw out the games involving non-Italian clubs and make a table out of what's left.
HKMK Bled. Founded 1999. Bled Ice Hall holds 1,000. Blue and white. Duck logo. The MK stands for youth category, so probably a junior team. Bled is a resort town on a glacial lake in northwestern Slovenia.
HK Celje. This junior club began in 1998 to replace an earlier club that folded in 1993. Blue and yellow colours. Golovec Ice Hall can take 500 Celje fans. Celje is east of Ljubljana.
Team Jesenice. This club stands in for the defunct HK Jesenice, one of the winningest hockey clubs in Yugoslavia (23 times champion) and Slovenia (9 times champion), which went out of business in 2012. Podmežakla Hall holds 5,900. Jesenice is in northwesternern Slovenia, on the Austrian border.
HDK Maribor. The Foxes. Tabor Ice Hall (capacity 1,000). Orange and black. Founded in 1993, they played in the Slovenian league until last year when they hooked up with the Croatian league. Maribor is on the Drava in eastern Slovenia.
HK Slavija. Founded 1964. Slavija played in the INL last year. Black, yellow, white. Zaloh Ice Hall holds 1,000 Slavija fans. Their home town Ljubljana is the Slovenian capital.
HK Triglav. Founded 1968. Thrice champions of the old Jugoslav League. They played in the INL last year. Blue and white. Their rink is the Arena Zlato polje in Kranj (capacity 1,000). Kranj is on the Sava just upstream from Ljubljana.
HDD Olimpija Ljubljana, eight-time Yugoslav champions and twelve-time Slovenian champions, play in the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga.
An annual Slovenian playoff championship continues and includes all the top Slovenian clubs regardless of where they played their regular season.
If you're nostalgic for the Austro-Hungarian Empire, this is the hockey league for you. The Erste Bank Eishockey Liga (EBEL) includes twelve clubs, eight of them from Austria, and one each from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, and Croatia. It's the top pro ice hockey league in Austria, and perhaps three of the other four countries, though certainly not the Czech Republic. The name comes from the league's chief sponsor, Erste Bank.
I haven't found an explanation of the current system, but if things run as they did last year, the clubs will each play 40 games, and then the league will split into top and bottom halves and the teams in each half will play a further ten games. The six top half teams make the playoffs, plus the two teams from the bottom half that have the best record after the split.
Austria has been crowning hockey champions since 1923.
The clubs are:
Dornbirner EC. The Bulldogs were founded in 1992, and this is their first season in the EBEL. Their rink is the 4,270-seat Messestadion. Colours: black, yellow and red. Dornbirn is in Vorarlberg, right next to Switzerland.
Graz 99ers. Founded in 1999. They play at the 4,000-seat Eisstadion Graz Liebenau. Colours: black and gold. Team sponsor is Moser Medical, a name that would fit right in on Coburg Road in Halifax, NS. Graz is in Styria, not too far from the Croatia/Hungarian border. [Yomas Vanek of the Buffalo Sabres has signed with Graz.]
HC TWK Innsbruck. Short for HC Tiroler Wasserkraft Innsbruck. Also known as Die Haie, The Sharks, because they live, you know, so close to the ocean. Innsbruck is in the Austrian Tyrol and has hosted the Winter Olympics twice, in 1964 and 1976. Die Haie play at the 7,212-seat Olympiahalle. Team colours are red, white and blue. This club fills a void left by the demise of Innsbrucker EV, who won the Austrian championship seven times. [Andreas Nödl of the Carolina Hurricanes has signed with Innsbruck.]
EC KAC. Eishockey Club Klagenfurter Athletiksport-Club for long. This is the most successful club in Austrian hockey history, having won 29 championships including 11 in a row. Their colours are red and white, and their team crest appears to have been modeled on the Kit Kat logo. Klagenfurt is in Carinthia. Stadthalle Klagenfurt holds 5,500 fans. [Sam Gagner of the Edmonton Oilers and Andrew Cogliano of the Anaheim Ducks have signed with Klagenfurter.]
Black Wings Linz. These guys should play Malmö Redhawks for the championship of the sounds-like-an-NHL-team-name world. Black Wings Linz were founded in 1992, and wear a early-Nineties colour scheme of black, teal and orange. They are the current EBEL champions. They play at the Keine Sorgen Eisarena Linz (capacity 3,800). Linz is a city in Upper Austria, not too far from the German/Czech border.
Red Bull Salzburg. Part of the Red Bull sports empire that brought you the dive of Felix Baumgartner, Red Bull Salzburg have been Austrian champions four times this past decade. And they won the 2010 IIHF Continental Cup. They wear red, white and blue, and play at the 3,200-seat Eisarena Salzburg. Salzburg is right on the Bavarian border. [Tobias Enström of the Winnipeg Jets, David Clarkson of the NJ Devils, Johnny Boychuk of the Boston Bruins, and Derick Brassard and Derek Dorsett of the Columbus Blue Jackets have signed with Salzburg.]
Vienna Capitals. They play at the 7,000-seat Albert Schultz Eishalle in the capital city of Vienna. Albert Schultz was a politician. Founded in 2000, they were Austrian champions in 2005. Colours: red, black and yellow. This club hopes to fill the large shoes of 14-time champs Wiener EV, who went out of business at the end of the last century. [Corey Potter of the Oilers has signed with Vienna Capitals.]
EC VSV. The Eagles are six-time Austrian champions. They play at the Stadthalle Villach (which seats 4,800) in Villach, Carinthia, near the Slovenian/Croatia border. Team colours are blue and white. [Michel Rene Grabner of the Islanders has signed with Villacher.]
The four non-Austrian clubs can be EBEL champion, but not Austrian champion, and are allowed to participate in their own national championships, depending on their national rules. It's complicated.
HDD Olimpija Ljubljana. Olimpija, aka The Dragons, date back to 1929. They were Yugoslav champions 13 times before 1991 and 12 times Slovenian champs after. Green, white and black. [Jan Mursak of the Detroit Red Wings has signed with Olimpija.]
SAPA Fehérvár AV19. Founded in 1960, SAPA AV19 are 13-time Hungarian champions. They entered the EBEL in 2007, but still participate in the Hungarian playoffs. Colours: blue and white. Their rink is the Ifjabb Ocskay Gábor Ice Hall in Székesfehérvár in Central Hungary. It holds 3,500 fans.
KHL Medveščak Zagreb. Klub Hokeja na Ledu Medveščak Zagreb (The Bears) also wear blue and white. They were three-time champions of the Yugoslav league, and have dominated the Croatian league, taking 16 titles. They list two home addresses: the 6,400-seat Dom Sportova, and the 15,024-seat Arena Zagreb. They have expressed interest in joining the Russian KHL. [Dustin Jeffrey of the Pittsburgh Penguins was to have played with Tilburg Trappers of the Dutch league, but instead has signed with these guys.]
Orli Znojmo. More Eagles (Orli), but these ones are Czech. Orli Znojmo date back to 1933, but for the first sixty years they were Falcons (Sokol). They joined the top tier Czech Extraliga in 1999, but in 2009 sold their membership to another club. After two years in the second tier they departed for the EBEL. They play in the 5,500-seat Hostan Arena. Colours: red, white and black. Znojmo is a Moravian royal city near the border of Austria. [Bryan Bickell of the Chicago Blackhawks has signed with Orli Znojmo.]
The Red Bulls Face-Off is another one of those exhibition tournaments European hockey clubs use to warm up for league play. It was played September 1-3 in Salzburg, Austria, between the home Red Bulls, Sparta Praha, ERC Ingolstadt of Germany, ZSC Lions (Swiss), and two of my teams, Jokerit and Skellefteå AIK. Skellefteå beat Sparta Praha 5-4 the first day, lost 7-4 to the Red Bulls the next, and then faced Jokerit on the final day and lost 5-2, ending the tournament sixth out of six. Goal differential seems to be the determining factor in the standings. Skellefteå's top scorer was Magnus Wernblom. ZSC won.