It's the start of a new Kontinental Hockey League season. At 5 PM CET (Central European Time, or 1 hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time), Gagarin Cup Champions Ak Bars Kazan will take on the newly formed UHC Dynamo in Kazan. The reason UHC Dynamo was chosen was because one of the two clubs that merged into the new team, HC MVD, were the runners-up for the championship last year. You can check out the rosters of both teams on Elite Prospects, starting with Ak Bars Kazan. The defending champs return Finland's IIHF World Championships goaltender Petri Vehanen, top defenders Ilya Nikulin and Alexei Emelin, and a forward group led by captain Alexei Morozov, Denis Zaripov, Niko Kapanen, Marcel Hossa, Nikita Alexseev and youngster Kirill Petrov. UHC Dynamo, meanwhile, will counter with Canadian goaltender Michael Garnett, defencemen Filip Novak and Martin Strbak, captain Alexei Kudashov and newcomer Juraj Kolnik. MVD was not a high scoring team last year, and Dynamo Moscow's top players generally left the organization after the merger, so it could be an interesting year up front for the new 'superteam'. The game, as far as I can tell, will be made available on the KHL's Russian website, and here's the link. You should be able to watch most KHL games on their website this coming season.
If you're going to watch the game, consider this your open thread. It should start at 12 PM EST if my calculations are correct.
NHL teams don't open training camps until about Sept. 16/17, but we'll be following league action across Europe before that magical day comes. Here's a listing of the start dates for the 7 European Ellite Leagues:
|Deutsche Eishockey Liga||GER||Sept. 3/10|
|Kontinental Hockey League||RUS/LAT/KAZ/BEL||Sept. 8/10|
|National League A||SUI||Sept. 10/10|
|Slovnaft Extraliga||SVK||Sept. 7/10|
|Tipsport Extraliga||CZE||Sept. 17/10|
As you can see, I've already missed the start of the DEL season, so lesson learned on that front. While Eisbaren Berlin was off in Austria winning the pan-European pre-season prize known as the European Trophy, the league kicked off their season with 10 games over the weekend. Defending champion Hannover Scorpions posted a pair of wins over Grizzly Adams Wolfsburg and the DEG Metro Stars. I'm not sure how the games were scheduled, as Berlin's absence is quite noticeable, and the other DEL team in the European Trophy tournament, Alder Mannheim, played two home games despite the fact they could have been playing for the European Trophy this past weekend. Despite the late confirmation for the games, Mannheim fans showed up in decent numbers (9280 for the opener, 7680 for the second game).
The Slovnaft Extraliga kicked off yesterday, with all ten main teams in action. HK Orange 20 (the Slovakian U20 team) will open their season on Friday against MHC Mountfield. Switzerland's NLA will open over the weekend, with the Elitserien, SM-Liiga, and Tipsport (Czech) Extraliga opening next week.
This scheduling means that when the NHL comes to town, the European teams will have shaken off a lot of the pre-season rust and be nearing top form, while the NHL teams will still be making roster decisions. Seven different Euorpean countries will have one of their club teams host a NHL team in an exhibition game in early October. Here's a list of those matchups:
|Oct. 2/10||Adler Mannheim||San Jose Sharks||Mannheim,
|Oct. 2/10||Belfast Giants||Boston Bruins||Belfast,
|Oct. 4/10||SKA St. Petersburg||Carolina Hurricanes||Saint Petersburg,
|Oct. 4/10||Ilves Tampere||Minnesota Wild||Ilves,
|Oct. 5/10||HC Bílí Tygři Liberec||Boston Bruins||Liberec,
|Oct. 5/10||Mälmo Redhawks||Columbus Blue Jackets||Mälmo,
|Oct. 6/10||Dinamo Riga||Phoenix Coyotes||Riga,