Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Greek Independence Day

Greek Independence Day is celebrated annually in Greece on March 25th, commemorating the start of the War of Greek Independence in 1821.

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Greece had been a part of the Ottoman Empire since 1453, but the Greek revolt was triggered when Bishop Germanos of Patras raised the flag of revolution over the Monastery of Agia Lavra.

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Bishop Germanos of Patras raising the flag

With the motto "Freedom or Death", the Greeks at first experienced early successes on the battlefield, including the capture of Athens in 1822, but by 1827 the Turks had recaptured Athens and most of the Greek isles. Just when the revolution looked to be a failure, Great Britain, France and Russia came to the aid of the revolutionaires and their combined forces destroyed the Ottoman fleet in the Battle of Navarino.

Greece was finally recognized as an independent nation in May of 1832 with the signing of the Treaty of Constantinople.

Greek Independence Day is celebrated in towns and villages throughout the country with parades, during which school children march in traditional Greek costumes and carry Greek flags. In Athens, there is an armed forces parade.

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Hockey in Greece began in 1984, with players who were foreign born or raised, and the first Greek championship was held in 1989 among five teams.

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Their first junior national team was formed in 1990 and the senior level Greek National Hockey Team played their first international game on March 21, 1992, with a memorable 15-2 win over neighbors Turkey at the Group C2 championships in South Africa. They would go on to defeat Luxembourg 9-5 and Israel 7-4 on their way to a 3-2 record for third place and the bronze medal in their debut.

Despite the positive start to the program, all funding for hockey was cut in 1993, with the players now responsible for their own expenses, which caused the loss of many players and an end to any practices.

Still, the program managed to limp along thanks to the efforts of the players and they took part in the World Championships in Pool C Qualifying in 1993 and Pool C2 in 1995, where they were relegated to Pool D, where they competed in 1996, 1998 and 1999. That would be the end of their participation at the World Championships, with the low point arriving in May 2003, when the last ice rink in Greece closed.

For the next four years, the players traveled at their own expense to the Czech Republic in order to train themselves and team captain Dimitris Kalyvas tried to convince the IIHF that the national team is still active and development in continuing in Greece despite not having a rink. With the support of the Hellenic Ice Sports Federation, and many emails, the IIHF sent two delegates to Athens and Greece was able to retain it's status with the IIHF and return to the World Championship stage in 2008, first winning the Division III Qualification tournament against Bosnia and Herzegovina 10-1 and Armenia 8-5. During the Division III tournament, Greece defeated Mongolia 10-4 on their way to a fifth place finish.

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The Greeks made a return to IIHF competition in 2008

They travelled all the way to New Zealand for the 2009 competition, improving to fourth place with a win over Ireland, a forfeit over Mongolia and an overtime loss to host New Zealand.

Things looked bleak in 2010 when the Division III tournament was originally scheduled to be held in Athens, Greece, but the Hellenic Ice Sports Federation announced they would not be able to host the tournament after problems with their government funding. With the change in venue, Greece was place in Group A, which was held in Luxembourg. There, they defeated the United Arab Emirates 7-1 and the hosts 2-1 to win a silver medal, giving them hope of brighter days ahead.

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Greece happily celebrating its silver medal in 2010

Since then however, the Greeks finished fifth in 2011, 2012 and 2013 with minimal wins, one over Mongolia in 2012 and one over the United Arab Emirates in 2013, although they did defeat Georgia and Mongolia after being forced to participate in a Division III Qualification tournament that year.

At this point, the IIHF determined that Greece would not be allowed to participate in the World Championships until an Olympic sized ice rink is constructed in Greece, sadly brining to an end the participation of Greece in the IIHF for the foreseeable future.

Today's featured jersey is a 1992 Greece National Team Costas Lembessis jersey. This jersey is highly sought after by collectors of international jerseys, especially those who specialize in the obscure countries of the lower divisions. Quite simply one of the most incredible jerseys to ever see the ice, this amazing design from the Tackla company of Finland takes advantage of the dye-sublimation technique to incorporate the ruins of the Parthenon in Athens to create a spectacular jersey years ahead of its time.

Consider that this jersey is now over 20 years old and pre-dates any NHL alternate jersey. The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim weren't even a team yet, so there was no such thing as a diagonal stripe in the NHL at the time!

This style was worn by Greece on it's international debut at the 1992 Group C2 World Championships in South Africa where the Greeks captured the bronze medal their first time out. Many international jerseys from the less funded nations of the lower divisions are frequently recycled several times during their lifespan, the fact this jersey still has the nameplate still intact makes it even more desirable.

This style was used in 1991 by the junior team and then 1992 and 1993 by the senior level team until the Tackla jerseys were rebranded as Reebok for two years prior to Nike taking over the production of IIHF jerseys.

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Today's video section takes an entertaining a look at the apparently all-too-brief history of the Greece National Team, which was created prior to the 2012 World Championships.

1 comment:

  1. Good for them. It's a long way until they are competing with the likes of the minnows like Austria, Italy, Slovenia or Lithuania - but it's a start. There must be - literally - hundreds of half-decent guys from Toronto eligible to play for the Greek team. That should be their next obvious step. For reference see the Italian National team.


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