After a prolonged wrangle the National Gallery in Prague is exhibiting the twenty humungous canvasses that make up Alphonse Mucha's Slav Epic. Admission 180 krona, or about nine bucks. The composition above, Holy Mount Athos, painted in 1926, makes good use of church architecture and iconography to incorporate Mucha's signature form, the circle.
Prague has three pro hockey teams: Sparta and Slavia of the Czech Extraliga, and Lev of the KHL. Rather than research and write a long piece about it, which was my original plan, I'll refer you to the superior article here.
Today Sparta host Slavia. The two clubs are nearly tied in the league table, Slavia third and Sparta fifth, separated by two points. As a win is worth three they can swap positions today. [But no. Slavia win.]
The Extraliga is the top hockey league in the Czech Republic, and one of the strongest in Europe.
Fourteen clubs play 52 games each from September to February, after which the top ten take part in four rounds of playoffs: two best-of-five series involving the 7th- through 10th-place teams, followed by best-of-seven quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. The 11th- through 14th-place teams participate in a playout tournament, the loser of which must play the winner of the second-tier First League for a spot in next year's Extraliga.
The teams are:
Kometa Brno. Comets. Founded 1953. Eleven-time Czechoslovakian champions, and winners of the 1955 Spengler Cup. They play at the Kajot Arena, which seats 7,200. Colours: blue and white. Brno was the capital city of Moravia back in the day.
Mountfield České Budějovice. Founded in 1928 as a bandy club. Colours: red and white. Rink: Budvar Arena (capacity 6,421). Czechoslovakian champions 1950-51. České Budějovice is in southern Bohemia and is the original home of Budweiser beer. [Andrew Ference of the Bruins, Radek Martinek and Vaclav Prospal of the Blue Jackets, Milan Michalek of the Senators, Martin Hanzal of the Coyotes have signed with České Budějovice.]
Piráti Chomutov. Pirates! This is the first Extraliga season for Piráti, but they've been around in one form or another since 1945. Rink: Multifunkční aréna Chomutov (with seating for 5,250). Colours: blue and white. Chomutov is close to what used to be the East German border. [Michael Frolik of the Chicago Blackhawks, Milan Jurcina of the NY Islanders, and Jason Chimera of the Washington Capitals have signed with Chomutov.]
Energie Karlovy Vary. Founded in 1932. 2008-09 Extraliga champions. Rink: KV Arena (6,000). Colours: green, gold, black and white. Karlovy Vary is near the western tip of the country, and is home to the famous Carlsbad springs. [Andy MacDonald of the Islanders and Tomas Vokoun of the Pittsburgh Penguins have signed with Karlovy Vary.]
Rytíři Kladno. Jaromir Jagr's home team. He started out as a junior with the club, and has played for them during each of the NHL's three lockouts. He now owns the team. Founded 1924. They were six-time Czechoslovakian champs. Rink: Zimní Stadion (capacity 8,600). Colours: blue and white. Kladno is a little to the west of Prague. [Jiri Tlusty of the Hurricanes, Tomas Plekanec of the Habs, Jagr (Dallas Stars), Marek Zidlicky of the Devils, and Tomas Kaberle of the Habs have signed with Kladno.]
Bílí Tygři Liberec. White Tigers. Another blue and white team. They play at Tipsport Arena (capacity 7,250). Liberec is in the north near the German/Polish border. [Ondrej Pavelec of the Jets, Ladislav Smid of the Oilers, Wayne Simmonds of the Flyers and Chris Stewart of the Blues have signed with Liberec.]
Verva Litvínov. Founded in 1945. They play at Ivan Hlinka Stadion, which seats 7,000. Yellow and black. Litvínov is in the same neck of the woods as Chomutov.
ČSOB Pojišťovna Pardubice. Pardubice are three-time Czechoslovakian and three-time Extraliga champs, most recently last year. Their rink is named ČEZ Aréna, and seats 10,194. The team crest, a white horse on a red background, is based on the city coat of arms. Pardubice is on the Elbe river, east of Prague. [Ales Hemsky of the Oilers and Jakub Kindl of the Red Wings have signed with Pardubice.]
Škoda Plzeň. Founded in 1929. Indian head logo. Rink: another ČEZ Aréna (8,420). Colours: blue and white. Plzeň is the home of Pilsner beer.
Slavia Praha. Founded in 1900, Slavia have won the Extraliga championship twice. They play at the NHL-sized O2 Arena, which seats 18,000. Red and white. [Vladimir Sobotka of the Blues and Roman Cervenka of the Flames have signed with Slavia Praha.]
Sparta Praha. Founded in 1903 as a bandy club, they started playing hockey in 1936, and have won four Czechoslovakian and four Extraliga championships. And two Spengler Cups. Colours: red, yellow and blue. Their S logo is almost identical to those of Södertälje SK and Syracuse University. Their Tipsport Arena seats 14,144. [Michal Neuvirth of the Capitals has signed with Sparta Praha.]
Oceláři Třinec. Steelworkers. Red and white. Extraliga champs 2010-11. Werk Arena seats 5,200. Třinec is at the eastern tip of the Czech Republic, and was for a time part of Poland. Václav Varaďa and Radek Bonk play for Třinec. [Rostislav Klesla of the Coyotes has signed up here. Jiri Hudler of the Calgary Flames has moved to Třinec after a stint in the KHL with Lev Praha.]
Vítkovice Steel. Founded in 1928. Twice Czechoslovakian champions. Blue and white. They play at the 12,500-seat ČEZ Aréna in Ostrava, which is about 50 km from the Polish/Slovak border. [Pavel Kubina of the Flyers, Roman Polak of the Blues and Filip Kuba of the Panthers have signed with Vítkovice.]
PSG Zlín. Founded 1928. Extraliga champions in 2003-04. Rink: Zimní stadion Luďka Čajky (capacity 7,500). Blue and yellow. Zlín, near the Slovakian border, is the home of the Bata Shoe empire; in fact the original name of the club was SK Baťa Zlín.
There is also a Czech club, Lev Praha, playing in the KHL, and a former Extraliga club, Orli Znojmo, in the Austrian league.