ZURICH – The seven top European national leagues have announced their schedules.
After the Russian KHL and the German DEL announced their schedules in the last days, the picture of 2009-2010 hockey activity in the best European leagues is complete.
An overview over the “Top-7 leagues”:Czech Republic
The 14 teams will play a 52-game regular season schedule starting on September 9th with Kladno vs. Karlovy Vary, Ceske Budejovice vs. Litvinov, Kometa Brno vs. Plzen, Vitkovice Ostrava vs. Sparta Prague, Slavia Prague vs. Trinec, Pardubice vs. Zlin, Mlada Boleslav vs. Liberec.
The biggest news is that there is a new team despite all teams maintained their top-league status following the season and the promotion/relegation series, which Mlada Boleslav won against second-tier challenger Usti nad Labem.
However, Kometa Brno acquired the licence from Znojmo, which will now play in the second-tier league due to financial problems. Both clubs will work together as affiliated teams and Kometa took over several players from the Znojmo roster.Click here for the full schedule.Finland
The 14-team SM-liiga opens on September 10th with its 58-game regular season and the following opening-day pairings including two city derbies: Espoo vs. Lahti, Hämeenlinna vs. Turku, Jokerit Helsinki vs. HIFK Helsinki, Jyväskylä vs. Kuopio, Lappeenranta vs. Oulu, Tappara Tampere vs. Ilves Tampere, and one day later: Pori vs. Rauma.
Same as last season, the playoffs will start with best-of-three quarterfinal qualifications for the teams ranked 7th-10th before the quarterfinals begin. Also the promotion/relegation series between the last-place SM-liiga team and the champion of the second-tier Mestis Liiga will continue after the introduction last year. Ässät Pori defended its place in the SM-liiga with a 4-3 victory against Vaasa.Click here for the full schedule.Germany
Two things stand out in the new DEL schedule. First, it has been reduced from 16 to 15 teams as Duisburg is on the brink of bankruptcy and the champion of the 2. Bundesliga, Bietigheim-Bissingen Steelers, could not be promoted due to not fulfilled arena requirements. The other 15 teams all obtained their licence last week although some teams were struggling financially.
The DEL will now play a 56-game regular season. The pre-playoffs will be played best-of-three, the quarterfinals, semi-finals and final best-of-five. No German Cup will be played in 2009-2010.
The German league is the fastest starter with its opening game on September 3rd between Mannheim and Nuremberg, and six games on September 4th: Kassel-Berlin, Ingolstadt-Düsseldorf, Frankfurt-Augsburg, Wolfsburg-Krefeld, Hamburg-Straubing, Iserlohn-Köln. The Hannover Scorpions are the last team to start, on September 6th against Frankfurt.
Another thing that stands out is the name of the Nuremberg-based team. After having been named after a medicine brand (Sinupret Ice Tigers), the team will now carry the name of its new investor and jeweller, Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers.Click here for the full schedule.Russia
Most things are new in Russian hockey since the founding of the KHL last year, apart from the fact that the number of teams and the schedule as usual are announced late.
The league will be run with the same number of teams as last season, 21 from Russia and one each from Belarus, Latvia and Kazakhstan. No other teams wanted or could afford to join despite serious talks with Karlovy Vary (CZE). After financial problems and unpaid salaries, Khimik Voskresensk was not allowed to participate even though the club remains as a member and will have a team in the new KHL-run junior league, MHL. Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg is the newest KHL team.
The league will have a 56-game regular season with each team playing four games against its divisional rival and two against the other teams. 16 teams will make the playoffs which will be played in NHL-like fashion within each conference before the East vs. West meeting in the Gagarin Cup Final.
The KHL will open with a rematch of last season’s final when Ak Bars Kazan will face Lokomotiv Yaroslavl on September 10th. The other games: September 11th: Dynamo Moscow vs. CSKA Moscow, Metallurg Novokuznetsk vs. Sibir Novosibirsk, Metallurg Magnitogorsk vs. Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg, Vityaz Chekhov vs. Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod, September 12th: Ak Bars Kazan vs. Spartak Moscow, Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk vs. Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, Lada Togliatti vs. MVD Balashikha, Dinamo Riga vs. Salavat Yulayev Ufa, SKA St. Petersburg vs. Dynamo Minsk, Barys Astana vs. Avangard Omsk.Click here for the full schedule.Slovakia
The Slovakian Extraliga will have a 52-game schedule starting on September 11th with the following games: Liptovsky Mikulas vs. U20 national team, Slovan Bratislava vs. Spisska Nova Ves, Zvolen vs. Banska Bystrica, Skalica vs. Trencin, Martin vs. Nitra, Kosice vs. Zilina. Poprad will open its season on September 13th against Liptovsky Mikulas.
The team from Spisska Nova Ves was promoted after winning the promotion/relegation series vs. Kezmarok last spring. The best eight teams will qualify for the quarterfinals, the 11th and 12th team will be relegated, the 10th-place team will play a promotion/relegation series against the best team from the second-tier league. In 2010-2011, the Slovakian league will thus be reduced from 12 to 10 teams.
As a guest team, the Slovakian U20 national team will play part of the regular season in the league. They will have Puchov as their home venue, the same as last season.Click here for the full schedule.Sweden
There were many discussions in Sweden this past spring, especially after five teams had announced going their own way after the 2009-2010 season but they eventually changed their minds.
Order is back and the league will be run according to the usual format with eight of the 12 teams reaching the playoffs, two teams going on vacation and the two last-ranked teams playing a qualifying round with four second-tier teams after the 55-game regular season.
The first puck will be dropped on a Monday, September 21st, with the games Färjestad Karlstad vs. Skellefteå and Linköping vs. HV71 Jönköping, the first full round is to follow three days later.Click here for the full schedule.Switzerland
The National League A opens with a full game day on Friday, September 11th, when European club champion ZSC Lions Zurich plays host to champion HC Davos. Both teams will also play vs. the Chicago Blackhawks as part of the Victoria Cup event. The pairings: Ambrì-Piotta vs. Lugano, Biel vs. Geneva-Servette, Fribourg vs. Bern, Kloten vs. Rapperswil-Jona, Langnau vs. Zug, Zurich vs. Davos.
The league will be played with the same 12 teams and a 50-game regular season schedule prior to the playoffs, play-outs and a promotion/relegation series. The SCL Tigers Langnau won their play-out series in spring but their place in the league is still not sealed. They obtained the licence under financial conditions (capital increase) which have not been fulfilled yet. The league is investigating.Click here for the full schedule.National teams
Prior to the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver (men’s tournament: February 18-28) and the 2009 IIHF World Championship in Germany (May 7-23), the top men’s national teams will play several exhibition games and tournaments during the international breaks.
The Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and Sweden will organize the Euro Hockey Tour with the following tournaments:
September 3-6, 2009, in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic
November 5-8, 2009, Karjala turnaus in Finland
December 17-20, 2009: Channel One Cup in Russia
April 29 to May 2, 2010: LG Hockey Games in Sweden
Germany, Slovakia, Switzerland and the USA will play the Deutschland Cup in Munich, Germany, November 6-8, 2009.
Belarus, Slovakia and Switzerland will play exhibition games against each other in Spisska Nova Ves, Slovakia, December 17-19, 2009.
Belarus, Germany, Slovakia and Switzerland will play a tournament in the new Minsk Arena in Belarus, April 22-25, 2010.
Teams ranked below the mentioned teams might organize other tournaments under the name Euro Ice Hockey Challenge as in the recent years.
Additional exhibition games are to be expected during the breaks and prior to the 2010 Olympics and 2010 Worlds.