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.