Here, at this place on internet we will be covering a wide area of hockey related topics. Our primary focus will be however middle European league "Erste Bank Eishockey Liga" - EBEL and Croatian club participating in it KHL Medveščak Zagreb. The idea is to regularly touch basis and report on topics concerning the league, clubs and players all over the world that played, are playing and could possibly help into developing this league into an even bigger asset of European ice hockey.
12 clubs from five countries, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia, compete in this league with a single idea in mind: winning an EBEL Championship. Players from all over world playing and competing for a spot on ice in clubs from as West as Dornbirn and as East as Szekesfehervar, from Znojmo in North to Zagreb in South. Eight Austrian clubs, one Czech, one Hungarian, one Slovenian and one Croatian.
The league has grown this year to 12 clubs, from last year's 11, with newest additions being Dorbirner EC and HC Innsbruck while HK Acroni Jesenice dropped out. But that is not the story of this season. The main story is a lockout in NHL. Players are not able to compete in NHL due to a problem with NHLPA - player's association and club owners, the collective bargaining agreement has run out on 15th of September and until a new one is signed, no one can play in NHL.
How does this problem relate to EBEL league and overall - non american hockey? Well, many of the players, who wish to play, are going overseas, to Europe and Russia. EBEL is not immune to the charms of these players and so far seven have joined clubs in the league. Biggest name to play this season surely is Thomas Vanek, a prodigal son, returning to Graz, his hometown.
Vanek, a star in Buffalo Sabers was the first NHL star player to sign in EBEL. With his star status came the fans, and hockey histeria in Austria and especially in Graz. With his first home game played on 5th of October as much as over 400 jerseys have been sold in "Bunker" ice rink in Graz. With attendance just over 4 000 that means that every 10th fan bought a "Vanek #20" jersey.
However, first player to join EBEL was a young Slovenian forward playing for Detroit Red Wings Jan Muršak. Muršak joined HDD Olimpija Ljubljana and has so far proven as a noticeable addition to the team with 5 games and 12 points, two of which are goals (one shorthanded).
Just a day later on 2nd of October, another big news! Another Austrian forward playing in NHL signed with an EBEL club. This time it was Innsbruck's turn to get into the spotlight and introduce their newest addition to the team - Andreas Nödl.
The 3rd NHL player to join the EBEL was Michael Grabner. NHL All Star Rookie team member decided to return home to his youth team and play EC VSV from Villach. A big forward, 34 and 20 goal scorer in NHL for NY Islanders is so far a tremendous addition for the Eagles from Villach - in his two games he scored twice, and posting an assist. Most noticeable was his first goal. He scored a shorthanded goal which has become his trademark in Islanders alongside his skating skills.
Orli Znojmo, a Czech team, signed Chicago Blackhawks' winger Bryan Bickell, UPC Vienna Capitals added a defensman to their roster Correy Potter while the latest addition to the league signed for Klagenfurt. Tyler Myers will strengthen the defense of EC KAC.
KHL Medveščak Zagreb opted for a player on a position they need, a center player. Pittsburgh Penguins' 2007 6th round pick Dustin Jeffrey joined the team on Wednesday and just two days later was a MVP of the game against decimated Orli Znojmo assisting on both Medvescak goals that night and providing a skill set much needed to Zagreb's team.
Dennis Bozic, Kenny MacAulay, Kyle Greentree, Adam Naglich and Dustin Jeffrey
In a first month of NHL Lockout seven players have opted to play in EBEL. Will there be more? Probably, especially if the lockout lasts and it looks like it just might.
Next game day is already tomorrow, and the only NHLer who might miss it is Bickell, but looks like that will be a game day decision. Medveščak is traveling to far West and Dornbirn, and the bus was without some of injured or ill players. Slovenian trio Gal Koren, Andrej Hebar and star goaltender Robert Kristan will all miss the Sunday's game, just like forward Alex Leavitt who still has not produced as much as was expected of him. Nothing but two points is expected from a two-day road trip, and the first line Kyle Greentree - Dustin Jeffrey - Adam Naglich is expected to start producing especially on powerplay which is league 2nd worst.
Servus TV and Red Bull Media House will be broadcasting the game Klagenfurt, a derby between EC KAC and EC VSV at 17:45 www.ServusTV.com/ebel or www.laola1.tv. A game between SAPA Fehervar AV19 and Moser Medical Graz99ers is live on Hungarian sports TV, Sportklub.
Rest of the games will be updated LIVE via EBEL live ticket at http://www.erstebankliga.at.
Until the next post,
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