The Canadian Space Agency provides this graphic of the International Space Station as it might appear if it were the broadcast gondola overhanging five newly-Zambonied hockey rinks. Canada currently employs two astronauts, neither of whom is scheduled to be on board the ISS before 2020, and we have no rockets or capsules of our own to get them there. But, look, hockey.
Yesterday Tornado Moscow Region won the European Women's Champions Cup for the fourth time, finishing first in the round robin tournament ahead of AIK Stockholm, Espoo Blues and ECS Planegg. All four clubs were champions of their respective countries in 2013. Tornado win for the fourth time, which ties them with AIK who dominated the early years of this tournament. Tornado's best attacker in the final game was Kelley Steadman, an American. Source.
Members of the Japanese women's hockey team show off their Olympic uniforms. There are four countries with red and white flags in the two hockey competitions at Sochi: Canada, Japan, Austria and Switzerland. All four wear uniforms of red, white and black. Black is generally agreed to be an intimidating accent colour. But a national colour? In the German Empire, or Yemen.
Vítkovice is 7th in the Czech Extraliga. The Steel played in last year's tournament, winning their group but losing in the semifinals. No Canadians, but they do have a guy who played major junior in Charlottetown.
CSKA Moscow is 3rd in the KHL's Bobrov Division. They won the 1991 Spengler Cup. Canadian Brandon Reid plays for them.
Team Canada is made up of Canadians playing for the other clubs in the Swiss league, and one each from the German, Italian and Norwegian leagues, plus two from the AHL. Here's the full roster. They are the defending champions.
The Rochester Americans appear for the second time. They took part in the 1996 tournament, finishing third with two wins and two loses, beating Leksands IF and Jokerit. They remain the only American professional club to play in the Spengler Cup, though the US Olympic team and the University of Minnesota and the University of North Dakota have sent amateur teams. The 1996-97 Amerks included Vaclav Varada and Rumun Ndur, and coach John Tortorella. They finished first in the Empire State Division that year. The Americans are the top farm team of the Buffalo Sabres, currently the NHL's worst team. Rochester won an outdoor game against the Lake Erie Monsters of Cleveland earlier this month. The Amerks and Monsters are currently second and third in the AHL's North Division. Rochester's top scorer is Phil Varone.
Every Spengler Cup final of the 21st Century has featured either HC Davos or Team Canada or both. However, since 2010 when the tournament was expanded from five clubs to six by adding a second Swiss club, there's the chance of an all-Swiss final, which has only happened four times before, all of them during World War Two, when Davos and ZSC each won twice.
[Genève-Servette beats CSKA in the final. Rochester loses all three of its games.]
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 Autria 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.
Asia League Ice Hockey is the top professional hockey league in Japan and South Korea, and also includes China's one professional team.
The eight teams each play a schedule of 42 games from September to March, after which the top four move on to the playoffs, with best-of-five semifinals and finals. The Japanese clubs take time out in February for the All Japan Ice Hockey Championship, which has been going on since 1930. The Korea Domestic Championship dates back to 1955.
The teams are:
Oji Eagles. Founded in 1925 as the company team of Oji Paper, the Eagles play at Hakucho Arena (capacity 4,015) in Tomakomai, on the southern coast of Hokkaido. They have won the Asia League championship twice, its forerunner the Japan League championship 13 times, and the anyone-can-enter All Japan Championship 35 times including last year. They wear blue, white, yellow and black. The squad includes Canadians Aaron Keller, Mike Kompon and T.J. Kemp.
Nippon Paper Cranes. Oji Eagles' rival on the ice and in the boardroom, Nippon Paper Cranes are owned by the Nippon Paper Group, and play at Kushiro Ice Arena (capacity 3,000) in Kushiro on the eastern coast of Hokkaido. They began in 1949, have won the Asia League three times and the All Japan Championship five. Black, red, blue and white. Canadian: Eric Regan. The club name puts you in mind of the art of origami.
Anyang Halla. Founded in 1994, they won the Korean Ice Hockey League five times, and then after 2003 the Asia League once plus one co-win. They play at the Anyang Sports Complex Arena attached to Anyang Stadium. Blue, yellow and white. Canadians: Brock Radunske, Dustin Wood. Anyang is a city of about two-thirds of a million on the southern outskirts of Seoul.
High1. Founded in 2004, High1 joined the Asia League the next year. They are based in Goyang, South Korea, on the north side of Seoul. Black and red. Canadians: Bryan Young who has played 17 games for Edmonton, David Brine who played 9 games for the Florida Panthers and later played for Medveščak Zagreb, and Michael Swift.
China Dragon. This club is an amalgamation of two venerable Chinese powerhouses, Harbin and Qiqihar, both founded in 1954 and neither based anywhere near Shanghai. The team roster closely matches that of the Chinese Olympic team. Colours: red and yellow. No Canadians.
Tohoku Free Blades. Founded 2008. Their home address is Niida Indoor Rink (capacity 1,576) in Hachinohe, Aomori, the northernmost prefecture on the island of Honshu. Blue, gray and white. They have won the championship once, and were declared co-winners the year of the tsunami. Canadians: Darrell Hay, Brad Farynuk and Ned Lukacevic.
Daemyung Sangmu. New this year. This is the hockey team of the South Korean military and is tasked with training the South Korean national team for the 2018 Olympics. They play at the Mokdong Ice Rink in Seoul. Black, yellow and red. No Canadians.
The league had a team in Khabarovsk, in the Far East of Russia, for one season. The KHL has since moved into that town and Vladivostok.
KHL Medveščak Zagreb opened their 2012-13 EBEL season with a pair of outdoor games played in the ancient Roman amphitheatre of Pula, Croatia. They lost 3 - 2 to HDD Olimpija Ljubljana in the first game but beat the Vienna Capitals 4 - 1 in the second.