Well, Canada won the thing in Salt Lake City and, probably, hockey fans in the Czech Republic will not be very happy with that. However, I think they deserved to win the final. The Austrian team played some really good games (Germany, Slovakia and even Switzerland) and it was the most offensive team I ever saw. They had 55 shots against Switzerland, which is something to build on.
Unfortunately, Austrians made too many mistakes in defence and Divis was not really hot (he was not bad, but we need a brilliant Divis for success). I think Austria made the right decisions however Slovakia was, well let's say stupid. You can't go to a tournament with two and a half lines and play three games in four days against fighting, disciplined, defensive teams like Germany and Austria. The Czechs were a little bit unlucky, but at this level, games are often close. In Nagano, these games ran for you, in SLC against you.
Now let`s start the story: Austrian hockey in the last years:
On January 25, 1998 VEU Feldkirch won the European Hockey League (EHL) with a 5:3 victory in the final against Dynamo Moskau. It was the greatest victory in Austrian hockey history, but it was also the last victory in the old era in club hockey. At this time, we had a league of 6 teams, but almost every club had big financial problems from trying to compete with Feldkirch (Gustafsson, Rundqvist, Lavoie, Wheeldon, Divis, ...). The following season, there were only 4 teams left (Feldkirch, Klagenfurt, Villach, Vienna), who played in theAlpenliga first and then a national championship. A championship with 4 teams is not enough though, and the Alpenliga, with teams from Italy and Slovenija, also had organisational problems. So they decided to play International League with teams from Slovenia and Hungary. The end result was the level declined, so fans didn't like the league, Feldkirch and Vienna had a lot of doubts and couldn't afford to continue playing.
With the end of the season, there were only two clubs left, KAC (Klagenfurt) and VSV (Villach). The second Austrian league consisting of eight clubs didn't want to step up under the existing conditions. They didn't want to buy expensive foreigners; they only wanted to make a league together with KAC and VSV when every club was allowed to participate in the new highest league with ten clubs. As they were in a better position, KAC and VSV had to agree. The agreement was only to allow 2 foreigners for KAC und VSV and 4 for the rest. But the difference between the teams in the league was too high; KAC and VSV played the final with KAC winning. Other problems were that there was no club from capital of Vienna participating; they had no live-coverage and little other coverage on national TV. They did have a contract with Premiere World, a pay-TV channel with brilliant live-coverage, but not really many viewers. Finally, we don't have 250 players in Austria who can compete at the highest level, so they needed to either reduce the clubs or you allow more foreigners; they did neither (my personal opinion is 8 clubs is enough).
In summer 2001, DEK Klagenfurt und Zeltweg couldn't afford to play first league hockey, so they went down to the second league. In Vienna, they've built up a new club with coach Kurt Harand. So this year, we're now playing with 9 teams under the same foreigner rules as last year. It is a quite even league with Linz (Black Wings) as favourites. Czech coach Stanislav Barda has with goalie Pavel Nestak and defender Petr Kuchyna two Czech players, but, more important, some players from former Feldkirch team (Nasheim, Pusnik, Szücs) and youngsters like Robert and Philipp Lukas, Raimudn Divis (brother of Reinhard) and former KAC-forward Christian Perthaler as well as big talent Oliver Setzinger. At the moment, we're playing the quarter-finals and I think Linze, KAC, VSV and Vienna Capitals will make the semi-finals. The new team in Vienna has gained a lot of support from the fans, half a year after their new start they are very popular and have more then 3.200 fans per game, which is the best record in league. Linz would have more, but they stadium only fits 3.000 fans, though they do sell out almost every game. Losers are the arch-rivals from Carinthia (KAC, VSV), who don't have so many supporters as 3 or 4 years ago. In Kapfenberg, for example, everybody went to see the games against KAC and VSV, but in Villach or Klagenfurt they don't want to see Kapfenb