Living over here in Italy, I don’t have many opportunities to watch the National Hockey League (NHL). Less so now that the players have been locked out by the League over a labor dispute.

At the rate they’re going to negotiate a new bargaining agreement, this union-management “faceoff” may prevent that first puck of the 20012/13 season from being dropped until you-know-what freezes over.

So, how do I satisfy my hockey fix?

Well, one week every year, I put on a HAPPY face – sans a hockey goalie mask – and reunite with about 35-40 of my closest friends – Italians, Yanks and Canucks – as we literally take over the Hotel Adler in Villabassa, up in the Val Pusteria, nestled in the shadows of the Dolomites, for a fun-filled settimana bianca (white week).

  

And one night during that week – while the downhill skis are asleep and the boots are airing out – we pile into cars, turn the heaters up to MERCURY and convoy over to nearby Brunico to take in a hockey su ghiaccio (ice hockey) game and root for the hometown pro league team, the Val Pusteria Wolves.

You know the well-worn joke, “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out?” Well, over here in the Italian pro league, players very rarely fight.

The only joke played out down on the ice are the players’ uniforms. They sport so many adverts on their unis, you’d swear you were in the stands at Talladega Superspeedway where the race cars look like rolling billboards promoting everything from power tools to power bars.

It’s what I call NASCAR on ICE.

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©The Palladian Traveler | ©Tom Palladio Images

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Written by The Palladian Traveler

Tom traded his hometown St. Louis Cardinals' baseball cap in the United States for a Borsalino and he now hangs his "capello" in the Puglia region of southeastern Italy. A veteran print and broadcast journalist, with well-worn passports that have got him into and out of 50 countries and counting, Tom fell in love with the "Bel Paese" years ago. As he notes, "I'm inspired by the beauty I find in all things that are very, very old, and reliving history, or at least meandering along cobblestone streets that were laid down over a thousand years ago and just looking up and marveling at what occupies the space still today, really gets my 'Vespa' running." Tom has a good eye behind the lens and is a graphic storyteller, but he'll let you decide as he keeps his camera batteries fully charged and the posts flowing from his creative hideaway in the hills overlooking Ostuni. You can also follow his dispatches along the cobblestone via TravelingBoy.com.

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