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Friday, 17 March 2017

Free Skiing At Sljeme Begins &...Zagreb Bears Hockey Back In EBEL (& More)







A night skiing scene at Sljeme Ski Resort Medvednica mountain near Zagreb. Image: www.vecernji.hr/Jurica Galoić/Pixsell.





I don't really do sports stories anymore for some time, but then I thought what the heck. It's about more than just about a sports score, sports trade or a sports statistic, plus I have a skiing and hockey past also. The first part isn't really news because it happens every year around this time and will only mainly affect skiers/snowboarders in the city of Zagreb area, but the related news story is pretty cool and good to know about the future of skiing around the city of Zagreb, and of the annual FIS Alpine World Cup slalom races that take place there.

In a way this reminds me of something I once read in a skiing magazine, or maybe it was Esquire or National Geographic magazine, it might have even been Playboy magazine because they have lots of interesting articles about lots of topics, it was a some kind of magazine I read somewhere anyway. It was something to the effect that in this day and age a nation can very simply be judged to be progressively civilized or not by 8 basic things, those being the quality of their...cafes and pastries, beers/wines/liquors-liquers, fashion industry (including high heel and lingerie/bikini styles), shampoos and hair conditioners, art galleries, ballerinas, their restaurant wait times and the state of it's ski slopes. Those magazine people always know what they're talking about so this is actually more important than I originally thought. (Come to think of it, I've even come across plenty of pics over the years of professional women skiers when they're not skiing, and they really were wearing high heels, hanging around cafes and restaurants and even in bikinis in the summer having drinks, heck I've even seen plenty of pics of women skiing even while wearing a bikini at the same time, so I guess it's really true. (example, which should be a possible future consideration I think, perhaps even an annual event for after the Zagreb alpine slalom races are over, they can even make it a charity event and have the donations go to the "Red Nosed Clown Doctors" or better yet the "Kale Freedom Foundation", "Affordable Plastic Surgery & Selfie Sticks For Celebs", the "Animal Voting Rights Defense League", "Crack For Critters", "Hamburgers Anonymous", "Bibles For Japan", "Friends of Sandwiches Society" or these days the very popular "Adopt-A-Celeb Fund" or whatever. (there's lots of charities out there to choose from that will gladly take the donations, I highly recommend Crack for Critters or Friends of Sandwiches because there really are lots of people without sandwiches and critters paying too high prices for crack that don't get enough exposure in the media). I think so anyway, because they already do similar things in the summer so it's just add the skis and maybe a hat and that's it)

Here's an interesting Croatian skiing trivia fact of the day since already on the topic: (courtesy of www.skijanje.hr)...the first official ski club in Croatia was actually formed in Rijeka and founded in 1885, which is actually 10 years before even one was formed in more snowier Zagreb in 1895. (perhaps sounding like a mind-boggling lie but it's true). And the first official skiing competition race was held at a ski slope on Učka just outside the town of Opatija in 1897, (yep that's not a typo, that Opatija), also the first locally manufactured skis were made in 1911 as well as the first official Croatian ski camp was held at Mrkopalj in 1913.


As for the second recent Zagreb Bears hockey news story it's also good to know. (because soon people will stop whining about the snow and cold and will then start whining about the heat and humidity, and that means that it's going to be almost time to get ready for the start of the hockey season again)...


Firstly, the skiing season is almost over so Ski Resort Sljeme decided to make skiing free and available to everyone starting yesterday, March 16, and lasting right up until the end of the skiing season.

You can go skiing every day, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m., while night skiing is also available on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7 p.m. - 10 p.m.


But the following related news is what was more interesting, that a big makeover for Sljeme is on the horizon which will greatly improve the facilities, ski slopes and future of the annual FIS Alpine World Cup Slalom races that take place there every January. The Zagreb stop on the FIS Alpine World Cup circuit is a very prestigious event and anything that improves it is great news to me. (see 50th-fis-world-cup-skiing-anniversary-zagreb from January for more if this is new to you)

According to recent City of Zagreb press releases there will be a newer upper station for cable cars (4 person ski lifts), 10 person gondolas direct from ground level to the mountain top, a sports hall addition at the onsite ski chalet Tomislav Dom Hotel, a heliport to pick up injured skiers, a lookout and restaurant in the TV tower, a trail for summer sledding, an adventure park….and that’s not all. A new artificial lake, an expansion of the ski slopes, and reconstruction of the ski lifts will completely transform the look of Sljeme as we currently know it, Večernji List reported on February 1st.

The “Peak zone" and "Ski complex”, which make up a total area of 115 hectares, are the first areas for urban planning as they are the highest importance so far. Their main goal, explained the Ministry of Construction and Physical Planning (MoCPP), is to increase the content of Sljeme, and thus the number of visitors to the top of the mountain. What may change, according to the current urban planning, is that existing buildings will be redeveloped so that, for example, the current upper station for the ski lifts will serve as an information and educational point.

Also work on a newer Sljeme cableway has already begun according to reports from zagreb.info in February 2017. The current Mayor of Zagreb Milan Bandić marked the official beginning of works on the demolition of the old cableway at Sljeme mountain near Zagreb in February.





The ski lifts today near the top of Medvenica mountain at the main Crveni spust. (Red downhill) at Sljeme. Planned reintroduction of cable cars and 10 person gondolas will mean no driving necessary and being able to travel to the mountain top directly from ground level.




The investment, which includes the removal of the old cableway and cleaning of corridors for the extended cableway route, is worth about 4.5 million kuna. The completion of this phase of the project is planned for 15 June 2017. The new cableway should then be finished by summer next year.

The main phase of the project will include the construction of facilities at the lower and upper stations of the cableway route. The final cost amount will be known in summer, when a separate competition will be announced for that part of the project by city authorities.





Aerial view of the Zagreb FIS World Cup slalom races finish line, attracting up to 25,000 spectators it is one of the largest and the most visited races on the World Cup calendar and broadcast to over 250 million households around the world. 




It was estimated that repairs would be unprofitable so the old cableway hasn't been used since 2007. The old cableway had 90 four-person cabins and could transport 450 people per hour in one direction from the near the bottom of the mountain. The speed was 3 m/s, and a one-way trip lasted 23 minutes, with the maximum height above ground while travelling at 65 metres.

The project's newer cable cars will be able to transport 1500 people per hour, consisting of 84 gondolas which can accommodate 10 people each, and travel from the low ground level station station to the mountain top station in only 16.5 minutes. This means local residents and foreign guests will be able to even take a Zagreb Tram directly from downtown with their skis and reach the ski slopes without having to do any driving. According to www.24sata.hr tenders for the gondolas has already started at a cost of about 20 million euros.





From a recent 3D presentation, the new cable cars will be able to transport 1500 people per hour, consisting of 84 gondolas which can accommodate 10 people each, and travel from the low ground level station to the mountain top Sljeme station in only 16.5 minutes. More information and the 3D presentation at www.vecernji.hr.




The new cable way however is just one element of a much more extensive project for development of the Sljeme mountain.

"This will give the possibility of office or administrative space,” said the Ministry, who added that there are also plans to reconstruct the TV tower so that it will house a new catering facility at the top of the lookout point. The lookout Vidikovac will also be madeover with an update to the existing restaurant, and the underground floor will accommodate ski clubs, storage equipment for the ski slopes and ambulance and duty service HGSS (Hrvatska gorska služba spašavanja/Croatian Mountain Rescue Service).




The nearby onsite ski chalet Tomislavov Dom Hotel is also planned to get upgrades including a new sports hall addition.




A look at some of the early preparations and behind the scenes well before the FIS Alpine World Cup slalom races take place at Sljeme in January.









In addition to winter, special attention will be paid for the summer amenities - and it looks as though the Tomislavov Hotel will accommodate an adrenaline park, and the current “Red Slope” (Crveni spust) will be used for summer sledding in the warmer months, added the Ministry.

Also the upper station of the Red downhill slope will be repaired, while the upper station of the Green slope will plan on getting new facilities. On the location Brijest there are plans to build a resort and "reconstruction to improve the functionality and technical conditions" as well as updating the "Snow Queen" apartment house, the Prekratić house, MUP transmitter, Zeljeznicar and resort Grofica will all also be repaired and other nearby buildings. The current ski lifts on the mountain top at the Sljeme Ski Resort will still be used. This news will also definitely ensure that the annual "FIS Alpine World Cup Snow Queen and King Trophy" slalom races remain as one of the most popular on the FIS World Cup Skiing circuit calendar, and becomes even a better world class event.





From a previous post HERE, a few years ago even CNN International cameras and crew arrived to film a feature for their Alpine Edge report series, a report series dedicated to the world’s most famous Audi FIS Ski World Cup venues. Zagreb-Sljeme joined the series of famous ski resort meccas and Audi FIS Ski World Cup host-venues such as Val d’Isere (FRA), Wengen, Lenzerheide (SUI) and Schladming, Kitzbühel (AUT), bringing the slalom races to their worldwide TV audience.



A recent scene from the 50th FIS World Cup Alpine Skiing Anniversary and "Legends" event that also took place at Sljeme this past January. Not only a great promotion of skiing in Croatia, but also of the sport of skiing to the world in general, so another valid reason to proceed with the Sljeme upgrades and additions. (broadcasted live by Austrian ORF, Swiss SRF, Swedish SVT, British BBC, Japanese J Sports, American NBC, and the pan-European TV network Eurosport). Full story at 50th-fis-world-cup-skiing.anniversary-zagreb.




In 2013, the Snow Queen Trophy races were admitted to the Club5 Ski Classics, which gathers traditional organizers of the FIS Ski World Cup races. Zagreb has thus joined the company of the leading organizers of the FIS Ski World Cup races, including Val Gardena, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Kitzbühel, Wengen and Val d’Isere. Annually TV stations in over 25 countries of Europe, North America and Asia broadcast the races by Eurosport Europe, Eurosport Asia and ESPN Latin and South America, while news reports and features are transmitted in an additional 50 other countries together reaching more than 250 million households around the world.





The upgrades and additions will also make it easier for more people to attend the races as well as the various day and evening events on the mountain between the races.




For those unfamiliar with this topic, the FIS Snow Queen (Croatian: Snježna kraljica) trophy is a World Cup alpine ski race in Croatia. The men's and women's slalom races take place on the Crveni Spust (Red Slope) Medvednica mountaintop at the Sljeme-Medvenica Ski Resort just north of Zagreb, every year in early January. The women's Snow Queen alpine race debuted in 2005 and the men's event was added three years later in 2008, with the winner being crowned the Snow King. Besides the city events in Moscow and Munich, it is the only World Cup event held in the vicinity of a large metropolitan area.

Its current prize fund of €120,000 is one of the largest prize funds on the World Cup circuit and the races have been known to attract up to 25,000 spectators, making it one of the largest and the most visited races on the World Cup calendar. The trophy is a crystal crown with past winners' names imprinted on it. At the award ceremony, the winner is presented with a cloak and sits on a throne like a queen, and a king. The race was originally called "Golden Bear" (Croatian: Zlatni Medvjed), but from the 2006 event the name was changed in honour of Janica Kostelić, whose victories in the sport helped popularize skiing in Croatia and also paved the way for the World Cup race to be included as a premier competition for alpine skiing.


Another interesting Croatian fact of the day for the boys and girls, the mentioned Medvednica mountain and park that Sljeme is located on, and the below Medveščak Zagreb hockey club, (named after the Upper Town Medveščak neighbourhood district) all ultimately derive their name from the standard Croatian word Medvjed which means "Bear." As well as the nearby 800 year old medieval Medvedgrad fortress castle which means "City of Bears/Bear Town." That's because centuries ago and especially during the middle ages, the surrounding area was known for it's large bear popuation. (which most likely explains the hockey team logo also)





A scene during the annual Zagreb FIS Alpine World Cup slalom races at Sljeme.




Previous related posts: photos-of-day-50th-fis-world-cup-skiing-anniversary

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Zagreb Bears Hockey Club (KHL Medveščak Zagreb) Confirmed To Play In Central European EBEL Again For 2017/18 Season




A Medveščak Zagreb (Zagreb Bears) home game at Zagreb Arena.





And this recent story I also found not that surprising, I thought even last year they might play the 2016/17 season back in the EBEL. The KHL has expanded over the last year now with a lot more travelling extending to even a team in China and all the way to Khabarovsk at the Pacific. Their EBEL games will be much closer to home against the other more familiar Central European regional teams that they've already played against, plus with the political situations going on there especially since first joining it will be much less complicated, so they're better off playing in their Central European roots. (Maybe they can ask Serbia to send the KHL a team instead along with these specimens as backup defencemen). The EBEL season is currently 44 regular season games and the KHL is 60 regular season games, so there will definitely be way less travelling expenses and other related costs involved.

KHL Medveščak Zagreb (Croatian: Klub hokeja na ledu Medveščak Zagreb) or known simply as the Zagreb Bears hockey club, are made up of Croatian as well as other European and North American players, (since it's a club team, although a number of the Croatian players are also on the Croatian National Hockey team also), and during their time in EBEL previously they made some great historic moments, filled their arenas many times and developed a sizeable dedicated fan base and following, they were in the world news a few times, got invited to the Spengler Cup for the first time which was a prestigious 1st (often cited as the oldest invitational ice hockey tournament in the world), they played hockey in a 2000 year old arena (yep you read that right) and they even broke another Guinness World Record along the way for indoor arena cheering decibels at 132.1. (well, that's a fan cheering record but still, see links at bottom)

(I should note that Croatia isn't a recent jumper on the hockey bandwagon either, in case people think ice hockey is out of place or just very recently new in Croatia. (Here is your Croatian hockey history lesson of the day). It was on November 9, 1935 that the Association for Skating and Ice Hockey was founded in Zagreb, although ice hockey in Croatia had already been inherent for some 30 years, considering that Dr Franjo Bučar, the father of Croatian sport, had founded a skating section in 1894 (Bučar already founded the Croatian Sports Federation in 1909 during the times that the Croatian lands were within what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and was President of the Croatian Sports Federation from 1914 to 1919. He also introduced a multitude of mainstream sports in Croatia, such as football, alpine skiing, ice skating and ice hockey, as well as gymnastics and fencing, even making history as the first Croatian athlete to perform at a ski competition by winning second place at a skiing competition in the Czech Republic in 1894. Today the Franjo Bučar State Award for Sport, the Republic of Croatia's highest award in the development of sport, is named in his honour, see also www.hrhokej.net). Zagreb Bears hockey club aren't all just Croatian players like on the Croatian national hockey team, a number of players on the roster over the years besides Croatians has also included other European players from the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Finland, Austria, Sweden, Slovakia, Russia, Germany, Switzerland as well as from North America, and that a number of Croatian hockey players likewise play for other teams and leagues on the continent.



The premier Croatian ice hockey club Zagreb Bears (Medveščak Zagreb) will compete again next season in the EBEL championship, the club announced recently.

EBEL Presidency confirmed in the beginning of March that Medveščak has fulfilled all conditions to join EBEL League again next season as a full member, and was confirmed by Medveščak on Wednesday, Jutarnji List reported on March 16, 2017.





Fans before a home game at Zagreb's Dom Sportova.



Besides Arena Zagreb the Bears also play home games at Dom Sportova, commonly called by supporters the "Bear's Den".




“I thank all EBEL clubs and the Presidency who enabled us to compete in this championship and I look forward to see next season on Zagreb ice matches of Bears with the best clubs in the region – Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, Czechia and now Italy. We will certainly strive for Medveščak to remain a formidable opponent and am certain our fans will continue to enjoy professional hockey and emotions it brings,” stated Medveščak President Damir Gojanović.

During four seasons in the KHL, Medveščak managed to once reach the playoffs. the Russian-led KHL is known as the second strongest hockey league in the world. Medveščak already previously competed in the Central European  EBEL from 2009 to 2013.





A scene from the annual outdoor Šalata Winter Classic at the Šalata Sports & Recreation Center in Zagreb.





Sources: iihf.com

www.medvescak.com



ZAGREB – Croatia’s leading hockey club, Medveščak Zagreb, is set to compete in Austria’s cross-border EBEL next season after four campaigns in the KHL.

The team, which also played in the Central European EBEL prior to stepping up to the KHL in 2013, was officially accepted as a member on 15 March.

Erste Bank Eishockey Liga president Peter Mennel welcomed the team back to the competition. “Medveščak was part of the league for four years and left lasting memories,” he said. “I’m happy that our current teams have voted in favour of the return. Fans can get ready for some more great games at Dom Sportova.”

Club president Damir Gojanovic talked up the prospect of a bright future for Medveščak in the EBEL. In an interview on the club’s website he said: “We will have an opportunity to compete against the best teams in Central Europe again from Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Hungary and the Czech Republic. I believe we will be able to gather a competitive team and that our fans will enjoy good games and good results. I am grateful to the EBEL clubs and league Presidency for accepting our application.

“The Central European EBEL was the starting point of the revitalization of Medveščak and without the league, the new-look Medveščak that we have today would not exist.”

Medveščak’s four seasons in the KHL saw the team – and its enthusiastic fans at Zagreb’s Dom Sportova – win friends across the competition. Gojanovic regarded the experience as a success and was thrilled to have brought some of the world’s best players to Zagreb.





Every winter Dom Sportova becomes a literal Croatian hockey mecca.




“Dom Sportova witnessed the best possible hockey we could see or imagine and there is nothing better than it outside of North America,” he said. “Medveščak welcomed some of the biggest and best in the world – clubs like SKA, CSKA, Dynamo Moscow, Spartak, all true institutions of hockey, and players like Radulov, Kovalchuk, Mozyakin or Cheechoo, to name but a few. We brought some great players to Zagreb. If someone had told me we could do something like this in Zagreb, I’d have laughed in his face. But we did it, and our fans got to see top-class hockey.”

Alexander Medvedev, then the KHL president who welcomed Medveščak into the league, also felt that the club offered plenty during its time. “Medveščak created a competitive team in a North American style and offered a good test for our teams,” he told championat.com. “Let’s not forget how Medveščak started out, hammering CSKA Moscow 7-1 in its first game.

Prior to joining the KHL, Medveščak spent four seasons in the Central European EBEL. On two occasions, it reached the playoff semi-finals and in 2012 it finished second in the regular-season table. The club’s youth team still plays in the junior section of that competition.





A scene from the popular "Ice Fever" 4 team/4 day mid-season tournament that takes place at Arena Zagreb, a Croatian hockey mecca during the hockey season.





Source: www.erstebankliga.at



KHL Medveščak Zagreb will once again participate in Erste Bank Eishockey Liga in the 2017-18 campaign. The Croats, who were participants of the EBEL from 2009 till 2013, confirmed the granted eligibility.

With the application of KHL Medveščak Zagreb of the renewal to the EBEL for membership and granted by the EBEL in early March, the decision was based on an extensive examination of the requested documents and a due diligence process, the club now confirmed the return. From the 2009-10 season, Zagreb played four years in Erste Bank Eishockey Liga, achieving two quarter finals and two semifinals in their past Central European EBEL participation. Then the Bears switched to the Russian based Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), from where the Croats now return to Erste Bank Eishockey Liga. "KHL Medveščak Zagreb has been part of Erste Bank Eishockey Liga for four years and has left lasting memories.




A Zagreb Bears hockey game fan scene can at times seem sort of like soccer meets hockey. 




Highlights from the annual mid-season 4 day/4 team tournament "Ice Fever" during the 2011 EBEL season.




Highlights of a typical Zagreb Medveščak home game at Dom Sportova.




This is a rare behind the scenes look at the annual outdoor Šalata Winter Classic.




A brief sample of fans at a Zagreb Bears game, it's usually like that during most of the game.



Even Joulupukki – (the original authentic real Santa Claus from Finland, not the usually seen fake imposter Santa Clauses lurking around here and there) – recently came to Zagreb to watch a Zagreb Bears hockey game at the Bear's Den (Dom Sportova) in 2014 for the holidays.





I'm pleased that the current teams have decided in favour of a return. Hockey fans can prepare for great games at Dom sportova again," promises Erste Bank Eishockey Liga president Dr. Peter Mennel who speaks about the number of participants in the 2017-18 campaign, too: "The participation of KHL Medveščak Zagreb stands firm. Now the league clubs decide about the mode and number of teams until the last game of this season at latest."

The organizational team of Medveščak immediately starts preparations for the next Erste Bank Eishockey Liga season. “I would like to thank all the Central European EBEL clubs and the Presidency of the league for giving us an opportunity to compete in the EBEL Championship. We will do everything to make sure that Medveščak stays competitive in the championships“, said KHL Medveščak Zagreb president Damir Gojanovic.




Related posts: wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_hockey_in_Croatia

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