Hungary for more?...
Until recently there's been no reason for Hungarian athletes to learn English. But in 1999 things began to change when a Hungarian basketball player signed for the Chicago Bulls and a Hungarian hockey player was picked in the NHL draft. Who knows?, the time could be near when a Hungarian returns home and says "The NHL? No big deal."? Two guys who are close to realizing this dream are Tamas Groschl and Levente Szuper.
Author: © Spili
Language correction: Emma
Other languages: French (by Jack Barron)
In 1999 the first Hungarian-born player in history was picked for the NHL entry draft. Then, a year later, it happened again! Their names are Tamás Gröschl and Levente Szuper.
The Calgary-drafted Hungarian goalie Levente Szuper has joined the Flames on 28th August. He's had a good vacation and has got in some useful training to prepare for the camp. Szuper hopes to sign for Calgary and the club has said that there's a good chance the 20-year-old player will do. In the first season he'll probably be sent to their farm team, St. Johns, or to the OHL-team, the Ottawa 67's. Depending on his performance (nomen est omen) he might be given a chance in the NHL.
Szuper was born in 1980 in Budapest. He started to play hockey at the age of five because he wanted to be like his father and elder brother who also played. His first team was Hungary's most popular club, Ferencváros (FTC) and his first coach was Attila Bálint, a former Hungarian national forward. Szuper had always wanted to be a netminder. He was very talented and played for all of the Hungarian national teams, the U14s, the Kadetts, the Juniors, the U20s and the seniors! Three years ago he went to play in Germany, for the Krefeld Penguins junior team but remained one of the key players in the Hungarian national team in the 1998 Pool C World Championships. This was in Hungary and they were promoted to Pool B. In the same year he joined the Ottawa 67's. He and Seamus Kotyk were the 67s' two goalies and shared the limelight equally. However, by the beginning of last season Szuper was the 67s' number one goalie and went on to have a really good year (in September '99 he was at training camp for three weeks with the Stanley Cup winning Dallas Stars and slept in same room as Eddie Eagle Belfour!)
But Levente was only the second Hungarian in the NHL. So who was the first? His name is Tamás Gröschl. Gröschl started out with Dajpest, longtime rivals of Szuper's FTC (the rivalry between the two clubs is comparable with that between football's Real Madrid and FC Barcelona). His first coach was Tibor Balogh, as was mine (Balogh was a goalkeeper with Ferencváros and is the man who brought women's hockey to Hungary. He was the head coach of the women's team and I was the goaltending consultant). Until his licence was stopped by the Edmonton Oilers in the ninth round last year, Gröschl was the first ever Hungarian-born NHL-drafted player. He was then sent to Sweden and played for the Leksand Stars. He played 33 games for Leksand's junior team and scored 29 points (15 goals, 14 assists) finishing 6th within the team. In the plus/minus list total he was 20th in the league with +23. He still has a good chance with the Oilers but if he's successful and they decide to play him in their farm team he said he would rather play in Finland.
There has never been as much talk about Hungarian ice hockey as there has
been recently. One of the main reasons for the excitement is Hungary's
"Szuperstar" goaltender, Levente Szuper, who was taken by the Calgary
Flames in the fourth round of the 2000 entry draft. A Hungarian in the
NHL? Unheard of! Many newspapers in Europe have taken notice and mentioned
Szuper in stories about the draft. However, there is more to Hungarian ice
hockey than just one standout goalie.
Author: © Spili
Language correction: Autumn
Other languages: Czech
(by Pierce), German
(by Che), French (by Jack Barron)
My name is Istvan Spiller, I work for the Hungarian News Agency and I am a
former ice-hockey goalie. Mr. Kovacs, the general secretary of the Hungarian Federation, asked me to write about ice-hockey in my country.
There are three leagues for adults, the first of them being The OB I.(premier division) which includes seven teams: Dunaferr, Alba Volan, FTC, Miskolc, Gyor, MAC and Szeged. There is another club, called Ujpest, which has financial problems and therefore abandoned its first team. In the second league the number of teams fluctuates depending on the local sponsors and
citizens. If there is enough money, they play. There is no connection
(promotion or relegation) between the two divisions. The third league is
for the hobby/sportmen; this is the amateur league. There are many, many
teams spread over the country (at least 20).
I will speak primarily about the OB I. The 1998/99 season was for the
Alba Volan. They were a very good team and won the gold medal after 20
years. The Hungarian Cup winner was Dunaferr. But in the last season, the
Alba Volan went downhill. It's difficult to say what happened, but they
were not able to reach the finals. The Dunaferr overcame their losses, and
got to first place again. In the best-of-seven final they swept the FTC which has no indoor arena yet!
The biggest problem with Hungarian ice-hockey is the lack of arenas. Only
Dunaferr, Alba Volan and Szeged have indoor rinks due to lack of
developement. The Dunaferr has the best circumstances. They have their own
rink (not for the city), good trainers at the kadett and juniors, and a
Slovakian coach, Julius Kovacs (ex Ambri-Piotta) for the adult team.
Because of a need for competition, the Hungarian ice-hockey league tried to
open towards Austria and Slovenia. Last season the three countries managed a co-league called
Interleague. As expected, the Austrian teams dominated, but at the
quarter-final, Dunaferr needed only one goal to reach the semifinal!
Besides these accomplishments, the Hungarian national teams recorded one
hundred-percent at the world-championships Pool-C in China in 2000 and were promoted to the world
championships qualification round.
There are two Hungarian young titans, who were drafted in the NHL. In 1999
the Edmonton Oilers selected Tomas Groschl (winger) in the last round
(total 256.), and he currently plays for the Leksand in the Sweden Elite
League. And this year The Calgary Flames drafted the hero goalie,
Levente Szuper, in the fourth round (116.)!!!! He is 20 and the most
talented Hungarian ice-hockey player ever. He spent two seasons in Germany
and played on the Krefeld junior team. After this he moved to Ottawa where
he was the first goaltender of the Ottawa 67's in the OHL.
And I have to comment about women's teams. There are three teams in Hungary, but only one is serious. They have many invitations from different countries - for example Slovakia. The women's national team plays under the Pool B.
Summary: The Hungarian ice-hockey league would like to encourage
competition with Western countries (as in politics and NOT toward Balkanian area), and is trying to
organize a co-league with Austria, Slovenia, Croatia or Italy. Such a
system would hopefully encourage development by everyone. We need more
indoor arenas and ways to recruit more young players, etc.
Ice-hockey is very popular in Hungary, especially when the football-season is over.