Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Slovak teams in Czech Extraliga?

In 1993, following the administrative breakup of Czechoslovakia, the Czechoslovak Hockey Extraliga followed suit, ending over 60 years of Czech- and Slovak-based hockey clubs playing together in the same league. For the past 19 years, clubs in the two neighbouring states have not played together in the same league, but that may change for the 2012-13 season.

Igor Liba captained Košice to two Czechoslovak titles in the
1980s. Photo:
News agency ČTK is reporting that two Slovak clubs, HC Slovan Bratislava and HC Košice, are seeking to leave the Slovak Extraliga and play in the Czech Extraliga next season. Director of the Czech Association of Professional Ice Hockey Clubs (APK LH) Stanislav Šulc confirmed that negotiations are taking place. "We were visited from Slovakia," he said. "At the meeting we verbally tabled our proposal and then they sent us theirs in writing."

According to Slovan general manager Maroš Krajči, there is a greater financial upside to playing in the Czech league over Slovakia, which would result from higher attendance and more sponsors. "The market would be twice as large, which is attractive to us. The financial situation is bad for Slovak sports and we need to attract sponsors for something more. Playing in the Czech Republic with clubs from a world-championship country is attractive."

Slovan Bratislava and Košice are Slovakia's two most financially successful teams, which play in its largest and most modern arenas in the two largest cities. They co-hosted last year's IIHF World Championships together. If any teams would seem suitable to jump to a supposedly higher league, it would be them. It is no secret that Slovan has been seeking another league to play in. It was speculated that they wanted to join the Kontinental League next season, but that doesn't appear likely at this point. The Czech Extraliga would seem to be a logical alternative.

The Šťastný brothers with Slovan.
Slovan Bratislava won the Czechoslovak national championship in 1978-79, led by the Šťastný brothers, Marián, Peter and Anton. They have also won 10 Slovak titles, three during  the short-lived World War II-era First Republic and seven more since 1993. Košice won Czechoslovak titles in 1985-86 and 1987-88, the latter team included Peter Bondra, and have won five Slovak titles since 1993.

"Czech clubs are extremely interesting for us," Krajči continued. "We played together in a federal league for years, which was very successful for both sides."

The APK has called for a league-wide meeting of current Extraliga clubs to discuss the situation. One of the topics that's sure to be discussed is whether the Czech Extraliga would expand to 16 teams to allow for the entrance of the two Slovak clubs, or if some of the existing members would have to be relegated.

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