Pardubice took the Czech Extraliga, winning the last two games handily to take the series against Kometa Brno 4 to 2. Pardubice (35-24-12) has three championships and 3 runners up in the league's 19-year history. Founded in 1923, they also have three Czechoslovak titles. Pardubice is a town of 90,000 give or take in North central Czech Republic, first mentioned as a monastery town way back in 1295. It went from a sleepy village to a not-so-sleepy town after an important railroad line went through in 1845.
Rouen took there second straight Ligue Magnus title in France, and 4th in the last six years. The Dragons (28-10-3) rolled through games 5 and 6 against Grenoble (who won the other two in that span) took win the finals 4 to 2. Rouen's team, founded in 1982, now has 11 titles to their credit. (PS in case you hadn't noticed, I'm only doing "travelogues" for the cities that haven't won in the three seasons I've been doing these.)
In Italy, second-place Bolzano did to 1st place Val Pusteria what they did to 8th seed Fassa and 4th seed Cortina- swept them in 4 games to win the Serie A championship. Bolzano's Foxes (35-13-7) win their 18th title since their founding in 1925- the latest being in 2008 and 2009. Bolzano is a city of 104,000- one of the largest in the league- in the extreme north of Italy. Founded in 1190, they were a Bavarian city for centuries, becoming Austrian in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars. It went to Italy after WWI, and the largely German population was diluted in the twenties and thirties when Mussolini embarked on a campaign to triple the city's Italian population. Sadly, it also was home to a nearby concentration camp during WWII.
In Norway, Stavanger's Oilers took their second title in three years (they lost in the finals to Sarpsborg last year), topping Lorenskog 4 to 2. Stavanger (47-8-4) has dominated the league since dethroning Valerenga two years past.
In the Elitserien, HC Brynas (37-24-11) topped Skelleftea 4 to 2 to win their 13th championship, but first since 1999. Brynas is based in the northern city of Gavle, population 71,000. It was founded in 1446 by Christopher of Bavaria. Bavaria, you say? Yes, the King of Denmark (and Sweden and Norway, in those days) had a Bavarian count for a papa and a Pomeranian (North coast of Poland, not the dog) princess for a mama. One thing I have to share with you about Gavle is "the Goat."
The history of the Gävle goat began in 1966. Stig Gavlén came up with the idea of placing a giant version of the traditional Swedish Christmas goat of straw in Slottstorget (Castle Square) in central Gävle. On 1 December the 13-metre tall, 7-metre long, 3 tonne goat was erected on the square. At midnight on New Year's Eve, the goat went up in flames. The goat has since had a history of being burnt almost every year, 2005 being the 22nd time it was burnt. Burning the goat is an illegal act and not welcomed by most citizens of Gävle, but undoubtedly this is what has made the goat famous. In 2006 the goat was covered in a flame-resistant coating to prevent arson, enabling the goat to remain standing throughout that winter.
|The 2009 Goat.|
Finally on the winners, in Switzerland we had the battle between 5th seed (and perrenial champ) SC Bern and 7th seed ZSC Lions from Zurich. And not surprisingly, Bern had opened up a 3-1 lead after four games. But then ZSC won 2-1 SO in Bern, 6-3 at home, and again 2-1 in Bern to take the title. Zurich, who had ended the regular season 19-19-12, finished 31-22-12 overall. Founded in 1930, ZSC ("Zurich Skating Club") now has 7 NLA championships, the last in 2008.
Zurich, the financial center of Europe and Switzerland's largest city at 372,000, was populated since at least 15 BC. For centuries it was the political hub of the nation, and was bombed in WWII by accident despite being a neutral.
Two more series were to be decided today. In Denmark, Odensee had been up 3-1 on defending champs Blue Fox Herning, but BFH took the next two 2-0 and 3-0 to send the series to game seven.
Also to be decided today is the Slovakian championship, with Kosice hosting Slovan Bratislava in game seven.
In Finland, JYP Jyvaskyla trails the Penguins of Lahti 2 to 1 after Lahti won game three 4-1.
And in the KHL, it is Avangard Omsk with a 3 to 2 lead on Dynamo Moscow. After splitting the first 4 games and scoring seven goals between the two teams, they had a relative explosion in game five, which Avangard took 3-2.
BTW Taurus of Neftekamsk, who took out Donbass in the semis of the VHL, has beaten Ruby Tyumen 3-2 OT, 4-2, and 5-2 to take a 3 to 0 lead in the VHL finals. Neftekamsk, you may remember, was the first team that New Lokomotiv beat in its season opener.
UPDATE: We have our two latest winners. One is a repeat- Blue Fox Herning blanked Odensee 4-0 for the Danish championship (Odensee being shut out the last 61:22 of the series). This puts Herning with 16 championships- 7 this century. BFH finishes 35-19-3.
The other is Slovan Bratislava who stunned Kosice 2-1 OT for their 8th championship, 7 in the Slovak Extraliga. The Belasi ("Sky Blue") finish out at 43-19-8.
Bratislava is another of those places that has been inhabited forever. Known usually as Pressburg, it was part of Great Moravia, Hungary since the 10th century, part of the Hapsburg Monarchy of Ausrtia since the 1500's. A crossroads of history, it fell to Napoleon's army in 1809. By the time of WWI it was 42% German, 41% Magyar (Hungarian), and 15% Slovak. Lying right on the corner of Austria, Hungary, and the new nation of Czech-Slovakia, it was hotly debated until 1-1-1919, when the Czech Legion occupied the city and settled the issue. It was officially named Bratislava on March 27th of that year. It was the capital of Hungary from the fall of the Hungarian Kingdom at Mohacs in the 1500's until 1756, and was the Capital of Slovakia in both periods of independance. A city of 462,000, it is sister-citied with Cleveland, Ohio.
In March, Slovan applied for membership in the KHL, as did its Extraliga league-mate HK Poprad. Poprad shares the city with Lev Poprad in the KHL, but Lev is expected to move to Prague in 2012-13, where it will share the city with Slavia and Sparta in the Czech Extraliga.