BERNE – Meeting with the press, IIHF General Secretary Horst Lichtner confirmed the International Ice Hockey Federations’s plans to continue its club hockey initiative, the Champions Hockey League, most likely in the same format as this season.
“We are currently preparing the CHL season 2009-10. All our planning, all measures, are including a CHL next season,” Lichtner said, then went on:
“We’re working on a new contract for the CHL, literally, day and night. We’re also communicating with the leagues and they know what is going on.”
The global economic downturn has already had an effect on sports business in general, and hockey is no exception. According to Lichtner, the IIHF has to address the changed conditions, and adapt to them.
“We announced that next season we’d take the next step with the Champions Hockey League [expanding it to cover 22 nations] but that is currently under discussion. It is more likely that we’ll play it like this season. If we can continue like last season, we have achieved a lot for hockey in Europe,” he said.
He also emphasized that the probability that the CHL wouldn't be played at all next season is very low.
“We had a great first season, got more than positive response from the players and clubs, the fans were excited. I don’t think we should have a copy of the NHL but instead something that strengthens the leagues in each country. That’s why playing a league within the domestic leagues, on Wednesdays, is good,” he added.
But building something great takes time, says Lichtner.
“In 1991 when the UEFA Champions League started, their budget was 70 million euro, now it’s a billion. It took them 20 years, and now we have to take the next step,” he said.
However, this year’s Victoria Cup has been secured, said Lichtner.
“We have agreed on the terms and conditions with the NHL, and have the drafted contracts waiting for the NHL’s representatives to come to Switzerland next week. Once we sign it, we’ll announce the NHL team and location of the game. ZSC Lions will be one of the teams, and it will be played in Switzerland,” he concluded.