Welcome to the official web site of Czech ice hockey team ORLI ZNOJMO. This English version contains some basic information about the club, its background and history and provides links to other important parts of the website which are in Czech only.
Orli Znojmo (Znojmo Eagles) is a professional ice hockey team currently playing in EBEL (Erste Bank Eishockey Liga), the premium international ice hockey league with teams from Austria, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Hungary and Croatia. The club has enjoyed a great spell of success in recent years, spending ten seasons in Extraliga, the top Czech division, winning 3rd place and bronze medals in 2006.
Hockey in Znojmo has a long tradition. In 2003 the club celebrated 70 years of enjoying skates and sticks in Znojmo, but the development of the professional team did not start before the early 1990s when a local businessman Jaroslav Vlasak invested heavily in the club and ice hockey in Znojmo started its way upwards.
In 1999, after a thrilling promotion series against the local rival from Jihlava, the Eagles stepped into the high society of Czech hockey, into Extraliga. The first season was mostly used for adapting to the top hockey level and Znojmo narrowly missed out on the play-offs, but has been ever present in the quarterfinals in the following four seasons. Those series offered lots of memorable moments to all hockey fans, but doors to the semifinals remained shut, with Znojmo supporters having to go through the agony of elimination in the deciding 7th match of the series three(!) times.
The season 2004-05 during NHL lockout brought most of the best Czech players back to their country and Eagles boasted a squad with stars like Patrik Elias, Martin Havlat, Karel Rachunek or Tomas Vokoun. However, the results failed to meet expectations and after a poor start to the competition it was too late to save the season and Eagles finished outside the play offs.
This disappointment was completely forgotten the following season. A mixture of experience and youth gelled together perfectly under the guidance of coach Miloslav Horava. Eagles eliminated Vitkovice 4-2 in the quarterfinals and entered the top four for the first time in their history. Even at that stage, they stepped up against later champions Sparta Praha and put up a brave resistance. Elimination could not spoil the joy from third place, which remains the best ever club result up to date.
Slow decline came up in the following seasons as the club could not financially compete with their rivals. In 2006-07 season, however, Eagles once again proved to be a dangerous underdog, eliminating Kladno in a straight play-off qualification series and remarkably coming back from 0-3 down in the quarterfinals against strong favorites from Pardubice to earn a decisive match, only to be beaten with dignity and credit from other participants.
In last two Extraliga season, rumors about leaving the top division started to spread around. The squad often found themselves at the bottom end of the table, but still managed to squeeze into the play-off qualification in 2008-09, being later eliminated by Trinec. The next season was all about fighting against the drop. The mission was accomplished as Eagles finished second-from-bottom, but at that time, it was already certain that Extraliga days in Znojmo are over. Jaroslav Vlasak, the owner of the club, sold the rights for top division to Kometa Brno and fans were left to anxiously wait in uncertainty over the future of ice hockey in Znojmo.
Few weeks later, group of local businessmen put together a new company with an aim to play in 1. liga, the second highest division in Czech hockey. The first season was all about getting together a competitive team, as most of the former players left for other Extraliga clubs. With a significant number of loan players coming in from Brno, the team was able to play in the top half of the table quite comfortably, finishing 7th in the final standings after being eliminated by strong favorites and Extraliga aspirants from Chomutov in the quarterfinals.
The club has followed the path of emphasis on the young players and has brought together some of the brightest young talents in Czech hockey. In 2010/11 season, there were six members of Czech Junior National Ice Hockey Team playing for Znojmo, more than any other club in the country. With Martin Planek and Tomas Rachunek participating in 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship in USA, the club has fought successfully on two fronts, reaching the quarterfinals of 1. liga once again and preparing some hard times for a more experienced Jihlava team, eventually bowing out after losing the series 2-4.
Despite the elimination, enthusiasm of young players giving it their all transferred to the crowd, too. Arena in Znojmo saw its highest attendance for years at the end of the season with the biggest success still about to come. The junior team, fighting near the top of Czech U20 competition for most of the season, managed to go all the way in the playoffs, eliminating Zlin, Slavia Praha and Karlovy Vary in the finals, claiming the first ever Czech ice hockey championship for Znojmo. The success is remarkable, especially given the available resources and a fact that Znojmo senior team does not feature in top Czech league.
In May 2011, the club owners announced an intention to join EBEL (Erste Bank Eishockey Liga), an international competition of clubs from Austria, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Hungary and Croatia. After fulfilling all sporting and administrative requirements, Znojmo became the first Czech club to feature in a top international ice hockey competition.
EBEL is set to bring renewed interest in ice hockey to Znojmo, together with opportunities for both local businessmen and community. The league has a very good media coverage and one of top attendances in Europe, reaching more than 3300 spectators per game in 2010/11 season, becoming the seventh most-attended league in Europe, well ahead of Slovakian Extraliga or Czech 1. liga.
Fans of Znojmo are considered to be one the best in the Czech Republic. The crowds in the ice rink of Znojmo offer a loud and friendly support to the Eagles, and the famous Fan Club follows them very often to away games as well.
Znojmo is a town with famous medieval history near the Czech-Austrian border, halfway from Brno (65 km) to Vienna (80 km). It offers many touristic attractions and is the center of the most famous wine region in Czech Republic. Read more about Znojmo at www.znojmocity.cz.
For any questions or more detailed info, please use the following email - firstname.lastname@example.org.
Text: Lukáš Peroutka, Michal Berg
Foto: Romana Holišová, Rostislav Pfeffer
August 18th, 2011
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