Oct. 24, 2009 will be a date for Rauma Lukko to remember. It happens to be the last – and only – time Lukko has lost in regulation time this season. A Finnish team has never gone so far into the SM-liiga season with only one loss. The team’s points-per-game average is 2.58, almost a full point more than HIFK, who is averaging the second-most points-per-game in the league. (The Finnish league uses a three-point system.)
Lukko has an impressive 13-point lead in the standings, with 49 points to KalPa Kuopio’s 36, and KalPa has played one more game.
Two of Lukko’s players are in the top-five of SM-liiga scoring. Kurtis McLean, second in the league, has 21 points in 19 games, and Justin Morrison, fifth, has 20 points in 16 games.
And, of course, a great team needs a great goalie. Petri Vehanen leads all goaltending categories with a .943 save percentage and a 1.61 goals-against average.
Besides that 1-0 loss against HPK on Oct. 24, Lukko has one overtime loss, one overtime win and one shootout loss this season.
ANOTHER LEGEND WATCH
Peter Forsberg has been the perfect decoy for another two-time Stanley Cup champion in the midst of a comeback. Dominik Hasek couldn’t stay away from hockey anymore and he’s been playing with Pardubice in the Czech Extraliga. And playing well.
Pardubice is fourth in the standings and in 15 games Hasek has posted a .914 save percentage and recorded 11 wins, tied for second in the league. According to Czech sources, Hasek, the ultimate competitor, is entertaining the idea of making the Czech Olympic team. But that dream is a little farther away now that Hasek has suffered a hamstring pull and will be out about a month.
The problem is that Vladimir Ruzicka, the Czech national team coach, a former NHLer and captain of the Olympic gold medal-winning team in Nagano in 1998 – where he was Hasek’s teammate – has ruled out the possibility of Hasek playing in Vancouver.
But surely a few shutouts can change his mind.
HOT AND SWEDE
With all respect to the Lukko skaters, the hottest player in the Finnish SM-liiga is Swedish winger Fredrik Bremberg, who signed with Jokerit a few weeks ago. Bremberg’s collected nine points in five games and has climbed to fourth in team scoring.
Bremberg, who is looking to return to the Kontinental League, has the right to terminate his contract after every game
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY
The KHL has agreed to invest $1.75 million (U.S.) to a study of the feasibility of a new European hockey league, being done by a newly formed Swedish company and headed by former NHLer Hakan Loob, according to Swedish Aftonbladet and confirmed to Göteborgs-Posten by Frölunda’s chairman Per-Anders Örtendahl.
“We haven’t worked with the KHL before, but we have now agreed on the financing of this project to look at all possible development opportunities,” he said.
“We don’t want to mind ourselves to anything before we have finished the feasibility study.”
The study will be done in two stages and if all signs point to yes, a new pan-European league may start operations as early as in 2011. The $1.75 million the KHL will inject into the project will cover approximately half of the costs, with the other half coming from Frölunda, Djurgården, HV71, Färjestad and Linköping, the five big Elitserien clubs.
The first phase, swallowing about 30 percent of the costs, should be finished by New Year’s and if the outlook is positive for a new league, Phase 2 will be kicked off.
Friday the 13th was the deadline for any interested investors to leave their bids to run the Champions Hockey League. The International Ice Hockey Federation put everything – investment, project management, sales – out for tenders a few weeks ago. The league had to shut down after just one season, when the original investors withdrew from the project.
About a month ago, the IIHF announced an agreement with the top European leagues’ association, Hockey Europe, to ensure they would be onboard, which will help to keep the clubs in line.
Unfortunately, the KHL is not a member of Hockey Europe.
Last May, an NHL representative told the audience at the World Championship that the league was looking into investing in the Champions League.
Should the NHL emerge as an investor – to protect its turf in Europe, against the KHL – things might get interesting around here.
FOR THE RECORD
HV71’s Johan Davidsson still has the lead in the Swedish Elitserien scoring race with 28 points in 18 games. Davidsson is on pace to score 85 points, which would break Hakan Loob’s 27-year-old record.
In 1982-83, Loob scored an amazing 42 goals and 76 points – in 36 games.
Eye on Europe will be featured on THN.com every Friday throughout the season. Risto Pakarinen is a Finnish freelance writer, based in Stockholm, Sweden who also writes for NHL.com and IIHF.com. When not writing about European hockey on THN, he’s probably writing about hockey at ristopakarinen.com/hockey as Puckarinen.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.