In their last warmup before the regular season begins this weekend, the Boston Bruins will face the Liberec White Tigers on Tuesday afternoon. Who are the Liberec White Tigers - or the HC Bílí Tygři Liberec if you want to be official?
The team has been in Liberec, Czech Republic since 1934, and its current incarnation is the result of a 1956 merger of two hockey teams in the town. Liberec plays its home games in the 7,500 seat Tipsport Arena, built in 2005.
The White Tigers play in the Czech Extraliga, considered to be the third-best hockey league in Europe by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). Originally a part of the Czechoslovak First Ice Hockey League, but the 1993 split of Czechoslovakia led to the league being divided into the Czech Extraliga and Slovak Extraliga. The league currently has fourteen teams, and Liberec finished last season in ninth place.
Unlike some European leagues, the Czech Extraliga is home to mostly Czech hockey players, with a smattering of guys from the United States and Canada. The Czech Republic is a hockey power, with a large number of the nation's best players (including Bruin David Krecji) playing in the NHL.
Jesse Connolly from the Black and Gold Blog of the New England Hockey Journal points out that two of the White Tigers the Bruins will face on Tuesday have NHL experience, including foward Petr Nedved. Nedved played sixteen seasons in the NHL, playing 982 games. He had 717 points in his NHL career, and now captains the Liberec squad. Left winger Andrej Podkonicky also has NHL time under his belt, playing a handful of games with the Florida Panthers in 2001 and being called up (but not dressing) for two games with the Washington Capitals in 2003-04.
For a final preseason tuneup, a team like the Liberec White Tigers aren't too shabby of an opponent to face.