Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Today is Republic Day, or "Festa della Republica" in Italy which commemorates the nationwide vote in 1946 when the Italian population decided which form of government the country would adopt going forward after the fall of Benito Mussolini's Fascist government at the end of World War II.
Given the choice between continuing the monarchy, which had ruled Italy for 85 years and supported Mussolini, which in turn led to Italy's participation in World War II along side the Nazis of Germany, or becoming a republic, a vote was held on this day in 1946 and the Italian people voted 12.7 million (54%) to 10.7 million (46%) in favor of becoming a republic. As a result, the male members of the royal family, the House of Savoy, were exiled from the country, a ban which remained in effect until 2002.
In celebration of the birth of the Italian Republic, each June 2 a military parade along the via dei Fori Imperiali, consisting of the various branches of the Italian armed forces, police and fire departments as well as the Italian Red Cross, is held in Rome and is presided over by the President, with the Prime Minister and other officials also in attendance.
Prior to the parade, a laurel wreath is laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Rome's Piazza Venezia while jets fly overhead, leaving plumes of smoke in the colors of the Italian flag.
The parade then proceeds past the presidential viewing box and down the boulevard, which is lined with flag-waving spectators, towards the Colosseum as additional jets fly overhead throughout.
The Italy National Hockey Team made it's international debut in 1924 and first appeared in the World Championships in 1930, with a best result of 4th in 1953. From the 1950's through the early 1990's, Italy generally competed in the "B" Pool if the IIHF ladder system, with occasional drops down to the "C" Pool in the 1970's only to immediately return to the "B" Pool.
In 1991, they earned a promotion back to the Top Division, where they were able to remain for 11 consecutive years, including an excellent 6th place in 1994. It took three years to regain Top Division status in 2005, where they stayed for three years, until beginning their current down, up, down cycle between the Top Division and Division I were they currently find themselves in caught in the struggle to remain in the Top Division but a favorite for promotion while playing in Division I.
Italy's Olympic hockey participation began in 1936 and they have managed to qualify on nine occasions, including a best three in a row in 1992, 1994 and 1998, a particularly strong era of Italian hockey. Historically, the Italian National Team is sprinkled with Canadians of Italian heritage, including former Hartford Whalers goaltender Jason Muzzatti. Of the 23 players on the squad for the 206 Olympics, six were Canadians and two were Americans.
One of the better known Italian hockey players was Gaetano "Gates" Orlando, who was born in Canada and eventually made it to the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres for parts of three seasons prior to continuing his career in the top level of Italian hockey, the Serie A, where he won four championships prior to moving to the Swiss National League A, where he won another pair of titles. Orlando also competed for Italy in 10 World Championships and two Olympic Games.
The Italian Serie A is the top national hockey league of Italy and was founded in 1924 and currently consists of nine teams, concentrated in the far north-east corner of the country with no teams surprisingly in the capital of Rome or other major cities such as Turin, Palermo, Genoa, Milan or Naples.
Today's featured jersey is a 2000 Italy National Team Manuel de Toni jersey which was worn in both the 2000 and 2001 World Championships where Italy competed in the Top Division and finished in 12th place both times.
De Toni, a center, has had a long career in Italian hockey, beginning back in 1994 with HC Alleghe where he still competes today.
Additionally, he has skated for Italy on 16 different occasions, including the European Junior U18 Championships, the World Junior U20 Championships, the World Championships and the Olympics hosted by Italy in 2006.
This jersey is in the familiar blue color as worn by the more familiar "Azzurri" of the Italian National Soccer Team, as blue was the color of the royal House of Savoy, a well established tradition which remains in use today despite the end of the monarchy over 60 years ago.
Today's video segment begins with a look at the military parade that highlights Republic Day in Italy.
Next, some action from Serie A, with HC Alleghe taking on HC Val Pellice followed by a series of player interviews, beginning with De Toni and concluding with goaltender Juliano Pagliero, a Canadian who apparently didn't learn much Italian while growing up in Alberta.
Here's pair of good ones. From the Sabres final game at the Memorial Auditorium, Muzzatti loses his mind and takes on Gary Galley as called by Third String Goalie favorite Rick Jeanneret. Then Muzzatti, then with the Saint John Flames, has a go with the Cornwall Aces Garth Snow while both were in the AHL in the 1994-95 season.
We conclude today with some exciting highlights of the Italy National Team in action.