Monday, October 26, 2015

Austrian National Day

On this date in 1955 Austria's Parliament issued The Declaration of Neutrality, declaring the country permanently neutral as a part of the Constitution of Austria. The declaration was as a result of Austria being occupied by the Allied Forces (the Soviet Union, the United States, the United Kingdom and France) following World War II from 1945 to 1955. The occupation was ended with the Austria State Treaty of May 15, 1955, which re-established Austria as an independent and democratic sovereign state.

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The Soviets would not have agreed to the treaty if Austria had not committed to declare it's neutrality following the withdrawal of the Allies. As a result of the treaty, the Allies left on October 25, 1955 and the Declaration of Neutrality was enacted the next day, October 26, 1955, the first day of their return to independence, and a date now celebrated as a national holiday known as Austrian National Day.

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The Austrian Parliament

On Austrian National Day, memorial ceremonies take place, the main one being the Federal President and Federal Minister of Defense attending a ceremony at the Heldenplatz, a large public space in front of Hofburg Palace in Vienna known as Heroes' Square, during which the President lays a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He later  gives a state of the union speech on TV later that day.

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Ceremonies taking place on Austrian National Day

Additionally, flags fly everywhere, concerts and held, new recruits are sworn into the Austrian military, federal museums offer free admission to further the public understanding of Austrian history, and, somewhat uniquely, "fitness marches" are held, which are organized hikes throughout the country to promote fitness and raise awareness of a healthy life style, which attract 100,000 participants annually.

The Austria National Hockey Team is currently ranked 16th in the IIHF World Rankings.

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The Austrians have participated in the Olympics in ice hockey 13 times since 1928, with their best result being an 7th place in 1936 and a 8th place in 1948 and again in 1976. 2014 was the first time Austria had qualified for the Olympic tournament since 2002 and they finished classified 10th, their best showing since 9th in 1988. In order to participate at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia, the then ranked 15th Austrians had to survive a Qualification Tournament hosted by the 10th ranked Germans.

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Austria battles Germany for the right to participate in the 2014 Olympics

Austria entered the 2014 Olympics with three NHLers on it's roster, Michael Grabner and Thomas Vanek of the New York Islanders and Michael Raffl of the Philadelphia Flyers.

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Vanek celebrates a goal

Austria has participated in the World Championships dating as far back as 1930, with regular participation since 1959. Austria has won bronze medals at the World Championships in both 1931 and 1947.

Since 1951, Austria was either in Pool B or Pool C nearly exclusively from 1951 to 1992, before a run of 12 out of 13 years in the Top Division before beginning the roller coaster of promotions (2006, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014) and relegations (2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015), including a bitter relegation in 2009 only because 15th place Germany were saved from their rightful demotion by being scheduled as hosts for the 2010 tournament, which granted the Germans an exemption from relegation for 2009, which sent the 14th place Austrians down to Division I for 2010 instead.

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Frequent Austrian National Team captain Gerhard Unterluggauer

Vanek, now a member of he Minnesota Wild, leads all Austrian-born players by far in career NHL scoring with 614 career points, trailed by Grabner at 157. Raffl is third with 51 and all three are still active in the NHL.

Vanek at the 2004 World Championships

The other Austrians to have played in the NHL are Andreas Nodl (36 points with Philadelphia and Carolina), defenseman Thomas Pock (17 with the Rangers and Islanders), Christophe Brandner, the first Austrian to play and score a goal in the NHL in 2003, (9 points with Minnesota) and goaltender Reinhard Divis, who won six games for St. Louis in four seasons.

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Reinhard Divis

Today's featured jersey is a 1997 Austrian National Team Christoph Brandner jersey as worn in the 1997 World Championships "B" pool. The "waving flag" style of international jerseys were introduced in 1996 and are best known for being used in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. They were also used in the various World Championships in 1997 before a new style was debuted for the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Japan.

Brandner scored a goal and two assists in seven game for Austria at the 1997 World Championships. In 2003 Brandner became the first Austrian to play in the NHL and then became the first Austrian to score an NHL goal on October 12, 2009.

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Austria 1997 jersey photo Austria 1997 B.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 2004 Austria National Team Thomas Vanek jersey as worn in the World Junior Championships in Finland. Austria first wore this jersey style in 1998 and continued to wear it through 2004.

Two distinctive features of this jersey are the fine details of the trim running down the arms and the unique font for the numbers on the back, which are much more at home on a soccer jersey.

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Austria 2004 jersey photo Austria 2004 WJC B.jpg

Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 2005 Austria National Team Gerhard Unterluggauer jersey as worn during the 2005 World Championships, which were held in Austria. This was an unfortunately short lived style, as all national teams received attractive new jerseys for 2005 only to see them replaced with the new Nike Swift styles for the 2006 Olympics.

The now 39 year old Unterluggauer, a defenseman, began his pro career back in the 1992-93 season, playing his entire career in Austria save for a three year stint in the German DEL in the early 2000's. He has won the Austrian championship twice, in 1993 and 1999.

He has been playing for the Austria National Team since 1993 and his resume includes three Olympic Games (1998, 2002 and 2014) and 19 World Championships.

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Austria 2005 jersey photo Austria2005B.jpg

Today's video section are highlights of the final day of Olympic qualifying, highlighted by Austria's vital game against Germany, which sent the Austrians to Sochi.

Next, showing Austria is not to be taken lightly, they dominate Latvia 6-3 at the 2014 World Championships.

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