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Eye On Europe: Olympic showcase

The Czech Republic's Jaromir Jagr celebrates with teammates Jiri Hudler and Ondrej Nemec after scoring during the Channel One Cup against Finland. (Photo by Vit Simanek/isifa/Getty Images)

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The Czech Republic's Jaromir Jagr celebrates with teammates Jiri Hudler and Ondrej Nemec after scoring during the Channel One Cup against Finland. (Photo by Vit Simanek/isifa/Getty Images)

First Channel Cup, the third leg of the Euro Hockey Tour, kicked off Thursday. The tournament is considered the last chance for European-based players to play themselves onto Olympic rosters.

One of them is Jaromir Jagr, back with the Czech national team in Moscow and back with a vengeance. Jagr scored one and picked up an assist as the Czechs beat Finland 2-1 in overtime. Jagr and linemates Petr Cajanek and Jiri Hudler created several scoring chances, but couldn’t always capitalize on them.

“I alone had at least five scoring chances,” Jagr told the Czech media.

Other interesting names in the tournament are Finland’s Ville Peltonen, looking to make his fourth Olympic appearance, and Ossi Vaananen, and Sweden’s Linus Omark, Magnus Johansson and Mattias Weinhandl, who scored the game-winner in the shootout as Sweden downed Russia 4-3.

According to Russian federation chairman Vladislav Tretiak, about half of the Russian Olympians will come from the Kontinental League. Coach Vyacheslav Bykov told Russian media recently that anything but gold would be a disappointment.

HURME RETURNS
Former NHL goaltender Jani Hurme must be looking forward to the new decade, even if he did play the first few years of the ‘00s in the NHL. He missed the 2003-04 and ’04-05 seasons due to an illness and bouts with hospital bacteria, then returned to hockey and spent ’05-06 in the ECHL and American League before returning to TPS Turku in the Finnish SM-liiga for a year.

He then signed with Malmö in the Swedish Allsvenskan, a second-tier league in 2007, but missed 2008-09 due to injuries and has only played five games this season, with a goals-against average of 4.30 and a .854 save percentage.

Malmö bought out his contract this week and Hurme signed with Tampere Ilves, currently 13th in the 14-team SM-liiga.

KHL OR BUST. NO, REALLY.
Stockholm AIK was said to be looking to join the KHL as soon as next season. That may just be soon enough, as the franchise is on the brink of bankruptcy, chairman Peter Mellqvist told Swedish newspaper, Svenska Dagbladet.

Last season, the team lost $1.2 million. This season is not going any better. The club had budgeted for an average attendance of 3,200, but the actual results have been 1,000 less than that figure. That alone puts AIK $2 million in the hole, making it difficult for the club to keep paying the players.

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Attempts to raise more money have failed and AIK is now looking at another sea of red ink. This time, there may just not be anything to keep it afloat. And it won’t be just the franchise’s Allsvenskan entry.

“I don’t think people realize the gravity of the situation,” Mellqvist said. “We’ll make a decision about our future on Dec. 31. If we can’t raise the money, the entire club will go bankrupt.

“If everything goes well, we can then join the KHL.”

HIGH FIVE
The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) announced Friday its selections to the IIHF Hall of Fame: four players and one builder. The players in the class of 2010 are Dieter Hegen (Germany), Arturs Irbe (Soviet Union/Latvia), Vladimir Krutov (Soviet Union/Russia) and Riikka Nieminen-Välilä, the fourth woman – and the first European woman – to be inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame.

“With (the addition of) Vladimir Krutov, now all players from the famous Soviet “Green Unit” will be in the IIHF Hall,” said IIHF president René Fasel, who then proceeded with an interesting anecdote:

“I was visiting Vancouver this week and Arturs Irbe happened to be in town with the Washington Capitals where he is the goaltending coach, giving me a unique opportunity to tell someone directly about him being selected,” Fasel said. “I am very happy for Arturs. He was the first true Team Latvia superstar.”

Former chairman of the Swedish federation, Rickard Fagerlund, will be inducted in the builders’ category.

Also, Lou Vairo of USA Hockey will be awarded the Paul Loicq Award for outstanding contributions to the IIHF and international ice hockey. The Paul Loicq Award is named after the Belgian who was the IIHF president for 20 years between 1927 and 1947.

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. 

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