ZURICH/BUDAPEST – The IIHF Continental Cup structure has been slightly amended, with the winner gaining qualification for the Champions Hockey League. These are the biggest news from the Continental Cup’s Annual Meeting that determined the groups for the competition.
Can you imagine Spanish champion CG Puigcerda playing Finnish champion Karpat Oulu? The Spaniards may not be the favourites to get that far but at least theoretically this could become reality as the Continental Cup will allow champions from nations outside of the Champions Hockey League’s six founding national leagues to qualify for Europe’s premiere club competition. The winner of the 2015 IIHF Continental Cup will earn a wild card for the Champions Hockey League in the 2015/2016 season.
Already for the upcoming season, the 2014 IIHF Continental Cup champion, Norway’s Stavanger Oilers, received a wild card to participate in the Champions Hockey League.
To make it possible, the Continental Cup structure has seen some changes. Teams from the CHL’s six founding domestic leagues (Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland) won’t be able to participate in the Continental Cup and teams from these countries won’t be able to qualify for the Champions Hockey League through the Continental Cup.
Also second-tier teams from Europe’s top nations will not be invited to participate in the Continental Cup anymore to make the Continental Cup a clear “challenger competition” with top teams from other European countries. An exception for the upcoming, transitional season will be granted to Fischtown Pinguins Bremerhaven from the German second-tier league DEL2. The team will be allowed to participate this year but will not be eligible to qualify for the CHL through the Continental Cup.
Another change is that no team will be pre-qualified for the Continental Cup Super Final, which will be played 9-11 January 2015. In the past the host and the defending champion were pre-qualified. Since the final tournament will ultimately determine the winner and the team to qualify for the Champions Hockey League season of the following year, all four finalists have to earn their participation through the preliminary rounds.
At the Continental Cup’s Annual Meeting in Budapest on Saturday, the present teams from the 17 participating countries approved the structure and the hosts of the five tournaments in the first three stages.
Bulgarian champion CSKA Sofia will host the first round to be played 26-28 September. The winner will advance to Group B that will take place in Bremerhaven, Germany, 17-19 October. The other second-round tournament will be hosted on the same days by Brasov, Romania.
The semi-final tournaments will be staged in Ritten, Italy, and Angers, France, 21-23 November. The best two teams from each of these groups will play in the Super Final that will be hosted by one of the four finalists.
for the groups and participants.