After some uncertainty, Krakow’s ice hockey squad Comarch Cracovia is to play in the place of the defunct Polish champions Wojas Podhale in the tournament of Europe’s second-tier ice hockey league champs.
Only months after winning their 19th Polish Championship in a shocking shutout series against favourites and reigning champs Comarch Cracovia, Wojas Podhale Nowy Targ closed up shop in July due to the loss of its sponsor at the outset of the 2009-2010 season, and an entire season’s play under serious financial constraints. It is to be supplanted in the mountain community of Nowy Targ by a new organization, the similarly named MMKS Podhale.
The change of clubs led to a somewhat chaotic situation with the International Ice Hockey Federation, organizers of the Continental Cup. The Polish Federation had initially indicated that the new Podhale club, as the heirs to the throne of the Polish league, would take their place in the tournament. This changed when Podhale protested their being required to play in a qualifying series in order to be permitted to compete in the top Polish league, apparently angering the league authorities, who subsequently announced that Cracovia would represent the Polish league in the Continental Cup.
A livid MMKS Podhale coach fired back at the league: “We have come to terms with the qualification issue, but stripping us of the right to play in the Continental Cup is scandalous. Because no bonuses were paid for winning the championship, the Polish league took away the boys’ only reward for a whole year’s work for the whole season and a heroic battle for the title. It was our 17 players who won the title.” Financially secure Cracovia, meanwhile, is extending its search for new players to North America, where owner Professor Filipiak says his scouts will be on the hunt for players of Polish descent in order to secure solid talent while meeting the Polish league’s nationality restrictions.