Gates of Eden
From 15-21 April, Ljubljana will host the Division I, Ice Hockey Championships. With Slovenia being favourite to win and advance to Pool A, the matches are expected to draw a huge attendance.
The participation of two neighbouring countries – Austria and Hungary – is an added factor, promising a strong attendance by ice-hockey fans. The tournament will be played at the new Stožice hall that can accommodate nearly 10,000 fans. Judging from past experience (Ljubljana hosted the same championship in 2001 and 2007), an electric atmosphere can be expected, at least during Slovenian matches.
In 2001 Slovenia qualified for Pool A for the first time in its history. It remained in the elite group for two years, was then relegated and in 2004 got back in. The story was then repeated a few times. Slovenia last played in Pool A in 2011. After a promising start against ice-hockey giants, Slovakia, Russia and Germany, they competed in the relegation round where they lost against Austria and Belarus.
Things would be much easier if the two Slovenians in the US NHL league, Anže Kopitar (LA Kings) and Jan Muršak (Detroit Red Wings) could take part in the tournament. The fact that Kopitar’s father, Matjaž, is the Slovenian team coach and a LA Kings staff member is not of much help. With or without them, winning the tournament is the only option for the players and the public alike. Slovenia will play against Great Britain (15 April), Japan (16 April), Hungary (18 April), Ukraine (19 April) and Austria (21 April). Tickets are priced between EUR 6 and EUR 20 for matches of the Slovenian squad and between EUR 12 and EUR 20 for all other matches. Discounts are available for children and senior citizens. Tickets can be purchased via the internet (www.eventim.si).
Olimpija became the surprise of the regional EBEL league when they beat Hungarian team, Sapa, in the quarter final. What made the achievement even greater was the absence of most of their key players, including two goalkeepers, due to injuries. After several years, the heroism of the young players sparked a wave of sympathy and once again, hockey mania in Ljubljana. However their semi-final opponents, Linz, proved to be too much of an undertaking and Olimpija lost the series 4-1.
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