As if a late season playoff push by the Blues was not providing enough of a boost to your blood pressure this April, the Hockey Prof is here to provide all the nail-biting tension that could only be supplied by the Division II International Hockey Championships. (You may want to consult your family doctor or local bartender for the appropriate sedative.)
Because of bad planning, Division II is actually the third rung (of four) on the international hockey ladder, and it is comprised of two groups: Group A teams will be facing off starting April 7th in Serbia; while Group B teams will play in Bulgaria starting April 6th.
Here is your Division II primer:
Group A (aka "The Group of Nasty Paper Cuts")
China (nickname "The Fighting Capitalists")
China returns to Division II hockey after its second place showing in group B last year. The team would have progressed further in international play were it not for a little set-back they incurred when their well thought out "Great Leap Forward" led to a rash of charging penalties. They hope to reverse those fortunes with this years "Hockey Cultural Revolution" which has already paid off in the execution of the coaching staff by the healthy scratches. Good luck fellas!
Estonia (nickname "The Fighting Tonya Hardings")
[This entry has been redacted for lack of anything interesting to say.]
Iceland (nickname "The Fighting Suicides")
You would think a country with "ice" in its name might be able to play hockey a little bit. You'd be wrong. Iceland won one game last year in this competition, and rumor has it they have been petitioning to get New Zealand re-instated into Division II just so they can kick someone's ass. Sigirdur Sigurdsson is the early leader of the "most alliterative name" contest.
Israel (nickname "The Fighting Deli Patrons")
Like Iceland, Israel won only one game last year. Unlike Iceland, Israel can at least claim "We live in the freakin' middle east!" Interesting Note: On radio broadcasts The Deli Patrons always go right to left on the dial.
North Korea (nickname "The Fighting We Really Love Our Glorious Leader, Please Don't Shoot Us")
Newly promoted from Division III North Korea is hoping to remain in Division II. They are also hoping for three square meals a day. Or at least two. OK, they would settle for one and a snack.
Serbia (nickname "The Fighting World War Instigators")
Division II vets Serbia must be thinking this is their year to get to Division I. However, they are a bit handicapped in a group filled with countries non-contiguous with Serbia. "How are we supposed to be filled with murderous rage about going up against Estonia?" As is well documented, Serbia accomplishes little without murderous rage.
Group B (aka "The Group of I Might Be coming Down With Something")
Belgium ("The Fighting Doormats")
Belgium finished second in their Division II group last year, so they must be considered to have a chance here. I don't really have anything to add, but I sure would like a Trappist Ale about right now. What's that? It's 8 in the morning while I'm writing this? Don't judge me.
Bulgaria ("The Fighting Least Desirable European Vacation Spots")
Bulgaria really brought the neighborhood down last year. They lost to next door teams Romania and Serbia by a combined 27-2 scoreline. They hope to do better this time around. They probably won't.
Mexico (nickname "The Fighting Sognirg's")
Not content with sucking in baseball and soccer, Mexico has engaged in an ambitious effort to suck at hockey, American football, bowling, darts, personal hygiene and Parcheesi. They are proving to be wildly successful at sucking.
South Africa (nickname "The Fighting You've Got To Be Kidding Me, Reallys")
What's that? Oh...wait a second...
Sorry. I'm a touch colorblind. Anyway, the South African hockey team is determined to skate hard, put lots of pucks on the net, and get you into Chicago only an half-hour or so behind schedule. So cut them some slack, assholes.
South Korea (nickname "The Fighting Tech Supports")
South Korea was relegated out of Division I after a winless campaign against teams which, while they could in no way be said to be "good," at least they remembered to wear two skates per player! South Korea has implemented a rigorous training regime to make sure that mistake doesn't happen again.
Spain (nickname "The Fighting Momma's Boys")
Spain actually didn't actively suck that badly last time out, relatively speaking. Oh, they are not going to Division I barring some unfortunate accident befalling all of the other teams. You know, like their team buses mysteriously blowing up in Havana harbor. Where is Hearst when you need him? Oh yeah, he's dead.
So there it is folks! Remember these rabid little minnows of the great hockey ocean as April passes.