Raptor Writings: Big fish in a small pond – the smallest hockey leagues on Earth

There are 8 teams in the English National League Division 2 North. Does 8 teams feel a bit small to you? This was brought to my attention when I looked at the schedule for the Raptors (now officially my team for the ENL 2 North) and realised both of my first two articles were for games against the same team.

 

It got me thinking, what is the smallest ice hockey league in the world?

 

The answer used to be East Germany. The former DDR Oberliga used to have 12 teams before one day in 1970 the government decided to pull funding from 10 of the teams leaving just two; Dynamo Weisswasser and Dynamo Berlin, part of the same sports society and Berlin was the favourite team of the head of the secret police. Wonder how they managed to survive?

The two teams spent the next 20 years playing each other time and again. The league started as the two teams playing each other 10 times a season before they decided to jazz things up in 1986. The teams swapped to playing 3 “best of 5 series” of games across the winter. Whoever won two of the three series were East German champions.

 

A reunified Germany saw Weisswasser eventually change their name to Die Lausitzer Füchse and now find themselves scrapping at the bottom of the second division. Berlin were taken over by sports megafirm AEG and became Eisbären Berlin, one of the most famous clubs in Europe.

 

That was the past though, what about now? Well the best I could find was two leagues with 4 teams on opposite sides of the globe.

 

Mexico’s Liga Mexicana Élite consists of 4 teams all based in Mexico City. Founded in 2010 the league took all the players, ranked them AAA, AA or A and then the teams drafted them. The Mayan Astronomers, Teotihuacan Priests, Aztec Eagle Warriors and Zapotec Totems play a 12 game regular season, have a 15 day gap to trade players then have their playoffs to decide the champions. The Priests are current Campeons de Mexico despite finishing the season in 3rd with a losing record and a goal difference of minus 9.

 

The other league is the somewhat oddly named Thai World Hockey League, the name having more to do with the vast array of nationalities the league has. A fall league runs from September to November before the TWHL kicks off with the 4 main teams, BNH Hospital Blades, D’ Pelican Inn Flyers, Pattaya Oilers and (I swear this isn’t a joke) Penalty Spot Slammers. Teams are, the league claims, a 50/50 mix of Thai and foreign players but the obvious influence of foreign nationals comes through in the team names I feel.

 

So next time you’re wondering how many times you’ve seen the Raptors play such and such a team this season, just imagine how small the league could be and remember the Penalty Spot Slammers.

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