Sunday, September 18, 2011

Extraliga Opening Day

It's time for the puck to drop on another Czech Extraliga season. The first game will, in fact, be an afternoon affair between BK Mladá Boleslav and PSG Zlín, beginning at 15:10 CET. The game can be seen live on ČT4 in the Czech Republic and online at The rest of Sunday's slate of games all begin at 17:00 or later, and  most of them can be viewed at

One of the more interesting opening-day matchups will occur in the northeastern corner of the country, where Oceláři Třinec will begin defence of their first-ever national championship on home ice against Kometa Brno. They were the league's most dominant team last year, finishing first overall during the regular season and then going 12-6 in the playoffs, winning seven of their last eight games.

One of the great things about the start of a new season is the fresh start that every team gets. Everyone is optimistic that they can improve on their fortunes from a year ago. But how realistic are those expectations? For comparison's sake, here are last year's final standings:

1HC Oceláři Třinec5226581317813696
2HC Bílí Tygři Liberec5226561515913994
3HC Vítkovice Steel5226621816213792
4PSG Zlín5222781515813488
5HC Eaton Pardubice52243101514612588
6HC Mountfield České Budějovice5223641915813185
7HC Slavia Prague5221931914013184
8HC BENZINA Litvínov5223242313316277
9HC Plzeň 19295227631615314577*
10HC Energie Karlovy Vary52157121815215471
11HC Kometa Brno5219512713014668
12HC Sparta Prague5214632911514257
13HC Vagnerplast Kladno5210353410517235*
14BK Mladá Boleslav5214452912315833*

Since last season's conclusion, some teams have overhauled their rosters so much that trying to predict where they will finish this year would be a daunting task. Logically, most of the teams that fit into that category were the ones that missed the playoffs last season, and last year's bottom three teams: Sparta Praha, Kladno and Mladá Boleslav, bear little resemblance to the ones that finished the 2011-12 season. 

Owner Jágr, flanked by Pavel Patera and Jiří Bicek in
Kladno's new jerseys. Photo:
The financially-strapped Kladno club was close to selling its Extraliga license in the off-season, but were saved by native-son Jaromír Jágr, who is now the club's owner. 

The new-look Kladno team has dumped the corporate name and adopted the catchy nickname "Rytíři" (Knights). As far as player personnel, the biggest name added to their roster is former NHLer Jan Hlaváč, who has spent most of the past three seasons in the Swedish Elitseren. 

The club's new website,, will soon open. Currently, the new site displays the club's new logo and slightly modified colour scheme of double blue and gold.

While Kladno did all fans a favour by discarding a long corporate nickname, HC Pardubice went the opposite direction and adopted what is quite possibly the most cumbersome team name in the history of organised sport. HC ČSOB Pojišťovna Pardubice should again contend for the title, which is good news for their strong and loyal fans, but bad news for writers and broadcasters who have to use the name. 

Like Kladno, PSG Zlín has made a cosmetic change. They are keeping their trademark yellow and blue colours, but adopting what they are calling a "retro-modern" design, which includes a laced neck and stitched numbers and names. The names will also be above the number, as modelled by Antonín Honejsek below.

Photos: Daniel Ostrčilík, Zlínský Deník.

Keeping with the new Zlín sweaters, the Extraliga this season is returning to the policy of having the home team wear dark colours and the road team wear light. However, Zlín wishes to continue wearing yellow at home, and were seeking an exception.

As for who will win the championship, it would seem that the top teams from last season will probably remain so, but where exactly they finish is anyone's guess. One should keep in mind that Plzeň 1929 belongs in that group, even though they officially finished 9th last season. They were deducted 19 points mid-season, which otherwise would have landed them in a first-place tie with Třinec. 

For those who want detailed information about off-season player moves, team rosters and schedules, provides plenty of it, and is even manageable for readers who don't understand Czech. 

For a complete list of off-season roster moves, listed alphabetically by player, visit here:

Complete opening-day rosters of all teams, along with some interesting statistics, can be found here:

Finally, the complete Extraliga schedule, by individual rounds of matches, can be found here:

Sunday's games, which is actually the second round, are:

Mladá BoleslavZlín15:10
Slavia PrahaKarlovy Vary17:00
Oceláři TřinecKometa Brno17:00
PardubiceBílí Tygři Liberec17:00
Rytíři KladnoSparta Praha17:30
LitvínovČeské Budějovice17:30
Plzeň 1929Vítkovice 17:30

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