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Eye On Europe: Flops and Fopps

Jussi Makkonen was unimpressive with Dinamo Minsk before being shipped to the Frolunda Indians. (Igor Kritskiy, Jansons Media)

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Jussi Makkonen was unimpressive with Dinamo Minsk before being shipped to the Frolunda Indians. (Igor Kritskiy, Jansons Media)

About a year ago, Jussi Makkonen was riding high, moving faster than the speed of sound, scoring goals every which way in the Finnish SM-liiga. In the end, he netted 27 goals and beat current New Jersey Devil Ilkka Pikkarainen by three tallies for the league goal-scoring lead. Then Makkonen signed with the Kontinental League’s Dinamo Minsk.

But he might have left his good stick at home, because the Turku, Finland native scored only twice in 21 games with the Belarussian team before being shipped to the Frolunda Indians of the Swedish Elitserien.

He’s still moving fast, only this time it’s between teams.

In nine games with Frolunda, Makkonen has one assist and the club was said to be looking to unload the 24-year-old center.

Several teams in the SM-liiga are rumored to be interested.

SWEETZERLAND CALLING CHALLE
Here’s a sentence you don’t always hear in the hockey world: “Switzerland is one of my big goals, besides coaching the national team.”

And yet, that’s what Timra IK coach Charles Berglund told Swedish tabloid Expressen this week. Berglund is in his third season in Timra – “a pretty long time,” he said – and the team, currently 10th in the standings, has been in trouble all season long.

Last season, Timra grabbed the final playoff spot, took a 3-1 lead in their quarterfinal series against HV71, but lost in seven games.

Now Berglund, a former Djurgarden captain who also spent two seasons in the Swiss National League A in the mid-1990s, is in the last year of his contract and says he’d be ready to leave Sweden.

“It’s not a question of money, it’s just that both my wife and I really enjoyed living in Switzerland,” Berglund said.

THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
Well, well, well, if it isn’t the Champions League again.

Like a villain out of the Austin Powers movies, after an assassination attempt by his boss, Dr. Evil, the CHL is “still alive, only very badly burned.”

But the IIHF and the top European leagues are trying to find enough bandages to heal the patient, with the goal of having a club tournament back up by next season.

The parties had a meeting in Helsinki, Finland this week to discuss the latest version of the league, which lost its investors after one season, and, earlier this fall, lost the marketing company behind the league’s launch, Ovation Sports.

An Ovation statement in November read: “For months, we have put all our efforts into bringing in new investors and a fresh commercial concept towards the goal of an enduring CHL. Despite our best efforts, and many close calls, we have not been successful.”

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Now the IIHF’s representatives say that things are looking sunnier again.

“We have the financing in place and once we have all the reports from these meetings, the matter will go to the national leagues who will then decide if they want to participate,” Kalervo Kummola, IIHF vice president and the chairman of the Finnish hockey federation, told Finnish MTV3. “I am very optimistic about the future of the CHL.

“I think it’s very likely that the CHL will be played next season.”

According to Kummola, the second – or first under a new format – season would be played with eight teams from seven countries, possibly including the winner of the Continental Cup, a second-tier European club tournament.

He also said the decisions will have to be made before the Olympics.

The CHL is not dead. Just badly burned. Like everybody around it.

CUP RUNNETH OVER
Speaking of the Continental Cup, a club competition for hockey nations outside the six big European leagues, it has just reached its final stage.

What began with 19 is down to the Final Four as the Grenoble Bruleurs de Loups from France host the Belarussian Yunost Minsk, Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg and the Sheffield Steelers from the U.K.

Yunost Minsk won the Cup in 2007 and is a favorite this time around as well. Red Bull Salzburg, in turn, is the first Austrian team to reach the final tournament, one of the best showings in club competition for an Austrian team ever.

Curious? Watch the games live at hockeyfrance.com

FORSBERG UPDATE
The rib injury is still bugging him; possibly able to play next week.

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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