Fresh start for CHL

Revamped European club competition starts

24.08.2017
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The Champions Hockey League starts the 2017/2018 season on Thursday with a revamped logo and a more interesting format. Photo: Martin Merk

ZURICH – The Champions Hockey League starts into a new season with a new face. But it’s not just the revamped logo, the new slogan “champions go beyond” or the new website that makes the CHL different than last season’s edition.

“We had our thoughts about our vision to be the greatest club competition in Europe. We want to be the best platform for fans and players,” said CEO Martin Baumann.

The biggest change was the format and the way teams qualified for the event. The number of clubs was reduced from 48 to 32 club teams. And none of the founding clubs that are shareholders gets an automatic entry anymore like in the past three years of the relaunched league. Each of the 32 clubs had to qualify based on sporting merits through its own league by being a champion or one of the top teams.

Three to five clubs according to sporting criteria joined from the six founding leagues based in Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland for a total of 24 teams from these leagues.

The remaining eight teams are the IIHF Continental Cup winner – the Nottingham Panthers from Great Britain – and seven national champions from other leagues in Europe. In total 13 national champions are represented in the CHL. Only the Russian Kontinental Hockey League is missing from the big leagues as it decided to continue its absence. The last time Russia was represented in a European club competition was in the 2008/2009 season when its champion Metallurg Magnitogorsk ended up as runner-up after losing the final to Switzerland’s ZSC Lions Zurich.

The Champions Hockey League and the IIHF Continental Cup, which gives the opportunity to other clubs and countries to make it to the CHL, include no less than 25 countries across the continent from Iceland in the west to Kazakhstan in the east.

When the first pucks will be dropped tonight, the 32 teams will play the double-round-robin preliminary round in eight groups of four teams each. The top-two ranked teams of each group will advance to the final round starting with the home-and-away 1/8-finals. The other knockout rounds will also be played with home-and-away games until the one-game final at the venue of the team with the better record on 6th February. In total 125 games will be played this season.

The CHL has started a campaign under the slogan “Be Brave. Believe. Be Champions.” accompanied by a new anthem fans will hear first time today. The slightly modified logo will also be visible as badge the players should wear with pride on their chest.

An extended contract until 2023 with Infront Sports & Media, which is also the exclusive marketing partner of the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, gives the organizers and clubs planning reliability to implement the long-term goals.

“Signing a six-year extension is a very strong message for fans and media. It shows that all shareholders and partners are extremely committed and will continue to work hard on improvements. The new Infront contract, together with the new competitive format, gives us stability and a long-term perspective to develop club ice hockey in Europe,” Baumann said.

The prize money the 32 clubs will share this season will be €1.54 million including €300,000 for the CHL winner – a number that will continuously grow each year to €3.46 million in the 2022/2023 season including €720,000 for the winner. Several TV contracts have also been extended to 2023 and for countries that don’t have the Champions Hockey League on TV there will be a live stream on www.championshockeyleague.com.

The first puck-drops will happen in the Czech Republic with Mountfield Hradec Kralove welcoming TPS Turku from Finland at 17:00 while at the same time Bili Tygri Liberec will host the Vaxjo Lakers from Sweden. Nine games will be played on the opening day. In total each team will play six games in the group stage until early October before the playoff start.

The groups:
  • Group A: Tappara Tampere (FIN), Red Bull Salzburg (AUT), Grizzlys Wolfsburg (GER), HC '05 Banska Bystrica (SVK).
     
  • Group B: Kometa Brno (CZE), KalPa Kuopio (FIN), Malmo Redhawks (SWE), Stavanger Oilers (NOR).
     
  • Group C: Vienna Capitals (AUT), EV Zug (SUI), JYP Jyvaskyla (FIN), Neman Grodno (BLR).
     
  • Group D: HV71 Jonkoping (SWE), Adler Mannheim (GER), Ocelari Trinec (CZE), Esbjerg Energy (DEN).
     
  • Group E: Vaxjo Lakers (SWE), Bili Tygri Liberec (CZE), HC Davos (SUI), Cardiff Devils (GBR).
     
  • Group F: SC Bern (SUI), TPS Turku (FIN), Mountfield Hradec Kralove (CZE), Nottingham Panthers (GBR).
     
  • Group G: Red Bull Munich (GER), Brynas Gavle (SWE), IFK Helsinki (FIN), Cracovia Krakow (POL).
     
  • Group H: Frolunda Gothenburg (SWE), ZSC Lions Zurich (SUI), KAC Klagenfurt (AUT), Gap Rapaces (FRA).
 
Who’s favourite? The last three years club from the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) have won the event including Frolunda Gothenburg during the last two years. Frolunda will have its first game tonight on home ice against the ZSC Lions Zurich, the last non-Swedish winner. Switzerland was the country with the highest average of points last season and moved to third place in the CHL League Ranking behind Sweden and Finland. The Czech Extraliga with last year’s runner-up Sparta Prague is fourth.

For more information on the competition and to follow the games visit www.championshockeyleague.com.

MARTIN MERK

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