The Romanians have been playing ice hockey (hochei pe gheață) since 1924. The Campionatul Naţional (CN) is the top league, with six clubs. But because two of the six are also members of the MOL Liga, the CN plays two parallel regular seasons, each with its own standings, one of four teams, and the other of six. There is also the Cupa României which is played in December by the six teams.
It was the European Women's Champions Cup this weekend in Espoo, Finland. Four national champions took part in a round robin: HC Lugano, Linkopings HC, SKIF Nizhniy Novgorod, and Espoo Blues. SKIF won.
The MOL Liga is the top hockey league in Hungary. Several of the clubs are located in neighbouring Romania and Slovakia, but all of them are within the historic boundaries of the Kingdom of Hungary, which just goes to show that old empires don't die, they reformulate themselves as sporting organizations. MOL, a Hungarian petrochemical company, is the league sponsor.
Each team plays a 42-game season stretching from September to February. Six teams make the playoffs. The Hungarian and Romanian clubs also participate in national championships in their home countries.
The clubs are:
DAB-Docler. The Steel Bulls. Founded in 1977. 6-time Hungarian champion, and twice MOL Liga winner. Colours: red, white and black. Their rink, Dunaújvárosi Jégcsarnok, holds 4,000. Dunaújváros is a steel town smack in the middle of Hungary.
Ferencvárosi TC. Founded 1928. 25-time Hungarian champion. Green and white. Pesterzsébeti Jégcsarnok in Budapest holds 1,500.
Miskolci JJSE. Ice Bears. Founded 1978. They play at Miskolc Ice Hall, capacity 1,304. Black, yellow and white. Miskolc is a steel town in northeast Hungary.
Újpesti TE. ÚTE for short. Founded 1955. 13-time Hungarian champion. Újpesti Jégcsarnok in Budapest holds 2,200. Purple and white.
ASC Corona 2010 Braşov. Wolves. From Brașov, Transylvania. Corona is an alternate name for the place, meaning crown. It was also known as Stalin City for a few years. The club was founded in 2007. They play at Brașov Olympic Ice Rink, capacity 2,000. Yellow and blue.
HSC Csíkszereda. Founded 1929. They play in 4,000-seat Lajos Vákár Ice Hall in Miercurea Ciuc in the Hungarian-speaking part of Transylvania. 15-time Romanian champion, and 2010-11 MOL Liga winner. Blue and white.
HK FTC Nové Zámky. 2013-14 MOL Liga champion. Founded in 1965, they played in the second-tier of Slovak hockey until 2008. The club's logo and colours (green, white, blue) are based on the coat of arms of Nové Zámky which depict the city's 17th-century fortifications. Their arena holds 3,000.
Debreceni HK. Founded 1989. Red, yellow, white and black. Their rink holds 500. Debrecen is the largest city in eastern Hungary.
Hungarian is one of those rare languages with its own name for ice hockey: jégkorong.
It's the Spengler Cup. This year's entrants are Team Canada, HC Davos, HC Genève-Servette, HC Salavat Yulaev Ufa, Jokerit Helsinki and Medveščak Zagreb.
Salavat, Jokerit and Medveščak, though from three different countries, are all members of the KHL. But will they be next year? International sanctions, coupled with the collapse of the price of oil, have given the KHL a double whammy. Many of the clubs have been backed by oil money, but now some clubs aren't meeting the payroll.
Team Canada. Largely made up of Canadians playing in Switzerland, plus a few from some of the other European leagues and the AHL. They have won the tournament 12 times. Colours: red, white and black. Roster.
Davos. The host. Currently top of the Swiss league. They have won 15 times. Blue and yellow.
Genève-Servette. Last year's winner. Sixth in the Swiss league. Maroon and gold. Canadians: Daniel Vukovic, Paul Ranger, Tom Pyatt, Matthew Lombardi, Taylor Pyatt, Jeremy Wick, Tim Traber, Matt D'Agostini, Alexandre Picard, Cody Almond. Coach Chris McSorley.
Salavat. In fifth place in the KHL East. This is their third Spengler Cup tournament. They have yet to win the trophy. Green and white. Canadian: Leland Irving.
Jokerit. In second place in the West in this their first KHL season. This is their seventh Spengler Cup. They have never won it. Blue, red and yellow. Jokerit have the best logo, apart from the Quebec Citadelles.
Medveščak. In last place in the KHL West. This is their first time here. Blue and white. Canadians: Eric Beaudoin, Carle Mathieu, Mark Flood, Geoffrey Kinrade, Krystofer Kolanos, Kurtis McLean, Shaone Morrisonn, Pascal Pelletier, Brandon Segal, Martin St. Pierre, James Wright.
The Japanese women's hockey team remember to bow to each other after scoring. They have beaten out the Czechs to earn the eighth spot in the coming women's world championship, which will be held in Malmö at the end of March. Photo by Toshinobu Himori, via IIHF Twitter feed.
Kontinental Hockey League: The KHL has three new teams for 2014-15: Lada Togliatti, who were expelled several years ago for not having a KHL-worthy rink and have been playing in the second flight VHL since; Jokerit Helsinki of the Finnish Liiga; and a new franchise, Delfin Sochi, created to take advantage of the facilities built for the 2014 Winter Olympics. On the other side of the ledger HC Donbass has suspended operations after its rink was looted and burned by annexationists; Spartak Moscow has dropped down to the VHL for financial reasons; and Praha Lev has folded. Atlant shift from the Tarasov to the Bobrov to even up the divisions.
Sweden: AIK are relegated from the SHL; Djurgården promoted. In the Kval till HockeyAllsvenskan Troja/Ljungby went down to Division 1 and HC Vita Hästen came up, a horse trade. (Troja/Ljungby's emblem is a red horse; Vita Hästen's is a white horse, and their name means white horse.)
Finland: Jokerit have left the Liiga for the KHL, and are replaced by Vaasan Sport, who played in the top league once before, in 1975-76.