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Preview for new Italian league

(27-09-00 Jack Barron) After a controversial year, quarrels found an end, and all best Italian clubs are gathered again in a real Serie A. Valpellice had already pulled out, but nine clubs remain in this first league.

Author: © Milanohockey Author information
Date: 27-09-00
Language correction: Emma

The 2000/01 Italian hockey season starts on October 3rd. Nine teams - Italian champions the HC Bolzano Foxes, HC Merano, the SG Brunico Wolves, SSI Vipiteno, HC Fassa, HC Renon, AS Asiago, HC Alleghe and the HCJ Milano Vipers - will participate in a tournament designed to hail the resurgence of Italian hockey.

The return of HCJ Milano is good news for Italian hockey. Last year they played in the Italian-French tournament with disappointing results. Their comeback was secured only after the Italian Federation decided to allow 4 foreign and 1 EEC (goalie) players per team (only 1 foreign player per team was allowed in 99/00). The FISG claimed this the way forward for Italian hockey, possibly leading to a higher level of play, and maybe even attracting some media attention.

At the moment all the teams are in their respective training camps and have been playing friendly games. This has given some indication of the standard of play we can expect to see over the coming months.

Let's take a look...

Looking at the rosters, 3 teams could be considered favourites: SSI Vipiteno, AS Asiago (last year's finalists) and HC Merano.

SSI Vipiteno (Sterzing for German-speaking people) have mixed last year's roster with some more experienced players: Finn Jukka-Pekka Seppo, who made the second round draft for the Philadelphia Flyers in 1986, and who has SM-Liiga and DEL experience, seems like a forward who could make a difference. Marko Leinonen also has good credentials, as has Darcy Martini.

AS Asiago lost its top Italian defenceman, Leo Insam, to Milano, but may gain Georg Comploi from Bolzano. The best Italian forward, Lucio Topatigh, remains in Asiago, forming a powerful duo with a reconfirmed Alexander Galtchenjuk.

HC Merano are looking for a comeback: Ake Lillebjörn, the great Swedish goalie, played in Merano 2 years ago when they won the title. Merano can also count on ex-NHL Jason Lafreničre, who played in Italy some years ago, as well as Ryan Duthie, Dominic Amodeo and the Italian-Czech Karel Metelka.

After Vipiteno, Asiago and Merano come the HC Bolzano Foxes, winners of the 1999/2000 league, looking weaker this season. The South Tyrolean team has been having some difficulties assembling a competitive roster, including a recognised foreign player. Actually on the roster are Slovak Miroslav Skovira, Finns Teemu Viherva and Jari Korhonen, and North American Rob Donovan (who played for Vipiteno and Merano last season).

SG Brunico made a big hit with the signing of Josef Podlaha, a Czech National Team player and Gold medallist in Nagano.

HC Fassa lost Andrea Carpano, the goalie who hit the headlines in Russian newspapers during the last World Championships in St. Petersburg, when he signed for German Bundesliga team Bad Nauheim. Roland Ramoser however, travels in the opposite direction, back to his home-town team of HC Renon (a small town near Bolzano) from Nuremberg and the DEL. Ramoser was on the wish list of several teams during the summer, more especially Bolzano, Merano and Milano, but chose to be near his family.

The Slovaks look to have invaded HC Alleghe with 4 players from Slovakia. Peter Janik, Daniel Vrla (with Alleghe some years ago), Matej Marcinek and Marek Tatar are on Alleghe's roster along with lots of local young, and not so young, players.

And, last but not least, the HCJ Milano Vipers. Only 5 players remain from last season; Jari Torkki, Justin Peca, Leo Van Den Thillart, Maurizio Bortolussi and goalie Gigi Canei. The big story of the summer was that Italian National Team and Under-20's coach Adolf Insam signed on with the Vipers and brought with him several young players, thus planting the seeds for a fruitful future.

My prediction is that, overall, Merano, Vipiteno and Asiago will be vying for the top spots, with Milano and Bolzano possible outsiders. The other teams will find it tough going, but there's always room for a few surprises. Let's wait the first face-off on October 3rd!

Lorenzo Pulici

WC'2000: Italy - Mission Completed

(10-08-00 ada) Italy has kept itself in Pool A of the World Championship since 1992. The process has often been rough but it has worked out every time. This year, for the first time in 15 years, Gaetano Orlando did not play for the national team. Most of the other veterans were still there. The Italian team was one of the oldest and most experienced, which helped a lot in crucial games. However in upcoming years new blood will be needed. The current group of players cannot play forever! Milanohockey describes World Championship from an Italian point of view.

Author: © Milanohockey Author information
Date: 10-08-00
Other languages: Italian, German (by Tina)

Italian national team goes to ice hockey group A WC in St. Petersburgh with only one thing in mind: fight with all forces to stay into world hockey elite of group A. This year it was far complicated by some reasons: Gaetes Orlando left hockey rinks a year later, goalkeeper Mike Rosati wants to stay with his wife waiting for his second son, defenceman Larry Rucchin (NHL Mighty Ducks Steve's brother) has found a cancer, Bob Nardella could not leave Chicago for IHL playoffs, as Bruno Zarrillo and Dino Felicetti played in Germany, and some key players are on injured list National team coach Adolf Insam has a hard work in front of him: trying to stay in group A with a team with many young Italian-born players.
    And Italy is inserted into group B, with Austria, Finland and Miro Satan's Slovakia. The first game is vs. Finland. Game lost 0-6, but young goalie Andrea Carpano gains the front pages of local newspapers, thanks to his saves percentage of 89,66%. After the first game, Mike Rosati, Bruno Zarillo and Dino Felicetti join the blue team, making Adolf Insam's hopes more consistent. Second game vs. Slovakia: another game lost 2-6 but Italy plays at Slovakia level for the first two periods. Slovakia scores 3 powerplay goals out of six. Insam says at the end of the game: "We were much better than last time, some calls were severe against us, but it is a question of experience". In the meantime, a big surprise. Austria ties 3-3 with Finland. Italy must win the last preliminary round game vs. Austria to stay in group A, without playing the relegation round. And with the cleverest teamwork possible, Italy wins 3-0, relegating Austria to Relegation Round.
    Following games of the second round are lost 2-9 vs. Czech Republic and 6-0 vs. Canada. In the last game Italy makes Canada big deal, tying 1-1 with Norway, so Canada is free to advance to quarterfinals. Italy's WC ends here, the mission is completed successfully. And considering that this year Italy needed some young players with few international experience (Lorenzi, Strazzabosco, Zisser, Helfer, Gruber) to set up a competitive team, the result may be taken as very satisfactory.
    The only complain is about Italian media coverage, especially regarding TV: Italy's largest network RAI broadcasted Italy games only on RAISport Satellite channel (satellite TV is very poor widespread in Italy), other networks simply ignored. On newspapers, only some local ones and the most important sports newspaper "La Gazzetta dello Sport" gave some space to ice hockey WC. It seems that Italian people just want to know something only about soccer and Formula 1...

The long road to the 2006 Olympics in Torino

(13-07-00 ada+xR) Ljublana, pre-qualification round for Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Italy vs. Germany. One minute left in the third period. The score is 1-1. Germany is playing with one man advantage and empty net. Draw is enough for Italy to advance to the next qualification round...
Maurizzio Mansi is going against the empty net. German player is apparently hooking him. The wistle of referee Mihalik is silent. Eight seconds remaining. German defenseman Mirko Lüdemann takes a desperate shot from the blue line. The puck incredibly ends up in the net of suprised Italian goalie...
The Italian players are going crazy and Mario Chitarroni is ready to kill the referee. But eventually the Italians had to put up with it... Their dream dissapeared and their next goal is Torino 2006....

Author: © Milanohockey Author information
Date: 13-07-00
Language correction: FlyBear
Other languages: Italian

June 1999: Every Italian team, with the exception of HCJ Milano, decides to declassify themselves to series A2. The reasons are financial. The teams need to hold down costs. No Series A tournament will be held and no "scudetto" (the title given to the Italian ice hockey champion) will be crowned. Instead, a Series A2, with 15 teams will be held. Teams are only allowed to carry one transfer card player, e.g. a foreign or Italian-Canadian/American player. The intention is to leave space on the rosters for the Italian players.
During the 1980s and 1990s, recruiting former NHL talents (such as Jari Kurri, Brad Shaw, Scott Young, Cliff Ronning, John Chabot, Kent Nilsson, and Gino Cavallini) and mid-level Italian-Canadian players were the only resource for teams to raise the team's level of play. Italian-Canadians, such as goaltender Mike Rosati, helped the Italian national team earn 6th place in the 1994 World Championships held in Italy. Competition for overseas recruiting greatly increased costs for the teams. HC Milano stopped operating in 1992, while HC Milan (Mr. Berlusconi team) went out of business in 1996. Other clubs were also in dire straits. Having 15 teams in Italy proves to be too difficult to sustain a competitive league with a viable talent base.

While the rest of the league moves down one level, HCJ Milano wants to take part in the IIHF Continental Cup. They decide to seek entrance into a more competitive and publicized league, in order to capture greater media attention and raise attendance.

August 1999: The French Elite League accepts HCJ Milano as an entry in their league. The French championship league may be a good choice for the Italian team. The level of competition is considerably better than the Italian league.

September 1999: The first exhibition match of the season shows the imbalance of Italian hockey. Milano humiliates Asiago 10-0.

Only 24 hours before the beginning of French Elite League play, a shocking decision is made by the French sports ministry. It rescinds Milano's acceptance in the French League.

The first three games are played as exhibition games. Milano and the French Federation strike a new agreement. Milano can play the French teams in the French-Italian Tournament but cannot take part in the French Elite League.

In the meantime, the Italian Ice Hockey Federation also decides to change course. In order to raise interest in the league, series A2 is re-named Series A, meaning that there would be a scudetto at the end of the season. The change is merely cosmetic. The playing level in the league is very poor...

October 1999: Milano plays at home in the second round of the Continental Cup: victories against Steaua Bucarest (4-2) and Moskitos Essen (2-1) are followed by a defeat at the hands of Reims (0-3). Milano's championship dreams end here.

As the season continues, Milano finds that the French teams they play show total disregard for their series with the Italian clubs. They come to Italy and rest their veterans in favor of young players. Milano dominates the regular season. At the final four playoffs held in Milano (at stake is a wild card berth in the 2000 Continental Cup), the French finally decide to get serious. French teams Rouen, Caen and Reims come to Milano with renewed interest in playing to win.

After losing to Rouen and beating Caen, Milano needs to defeat Reims by a minimum of 5 goals in order to win the tournament. After just 22 seconds of play, Reims pulls their team from the ice, protesting the so-called "excessive roughness" of the Italian team. The French Federation assigns the cup to Rouen.

Back on the Italian front, Asiago dominates the regular season, losing only one time. However, Bolzano, the dominant team of the last decade, makes up for a poor regular season by beating Asagio in the deciding game of the best of 5 finals. Bolzano wins the scudetto.

The poor talent level and flagging fan interest during the last season of the 20th century has put Italian hockey in crisis and forces a decision. It is agreed that it is impossible to continue to play hockey under the circumstances of the just-completed season. There was precious little news media and television coverage. Thus, for the upcoming season, most of the clubs agree to bring HCJ Milano back into the league and to allow 4 transfer card players plus one EEC goalkeeper.

In 2000-2001, ten clubs will play the new series A and compete for the scudetto: Milano, Bolzano, Merano, Asiago, Alleghe, Brunico, Val Pellice, Fassa, Renon and Vipiteno

The goal is to establish a solid, competitive national championship tournament, without a full return the foolish "gold rush" of the 80s and 90s.

The 2006 Winter Olympics will be held in Torino. The goal of all of Italian hockey is try to develop good Italian-born players to comprise a competitive squad at the Torino Olympics.

Face-off for the 2000-2001 Series A tournament is scheduled for October 3, 2000.

Lorenzo Pulici

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