Face-off for a new era

Reborn Champions Hockey League starts Thursday

21.08.2014
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The Champions Hockey League puck was at many places during its summer campaign. On 21st August it will finally hit the ice when the first 15 games of the 44-team competition will be played. Photo: Champions Hockey League

ZURICH – After two years of planning the new Champions Hockey League kicks off with 15 games on Thursday. 44 clubs from 12 European countries participate in the new competition.

It’s a rebirth in a different format and structure of the Champions Hockey League that was initially introduced for the 2008/2009 season but was stopped after one year due to the global financial crisis. When the International Ice Hockey Federation invited various stakeholders in European hockey to the 2012 Hockey Forum in Barcelona, the foundation was laid for the new Champions Hockey League that brought the different organizations and interests together in a new, unique project.

The Champions Hockey League is operated by a new shareholder company in Zurich owned by the IIHF, six founding domestic leagues (from Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland) and 26 founding clubs from those leagues. Additional teams from these countries as well as from France, Denmark, Great Britain, Italy, Norway and Slovakia will participate in the inaugural season that includes 44 club teams that include great, traditional brands of European hockey.

The Champions Hockey League will offer these teams games on the international stage in parallel to their campaign in the domestic leagues.

The various stakeholders are represented in the CHL Executive Board and also in the way the teams were selected. The founding clubs participate with an A-licence as long as they fulfil certain criteria such as playing in the country’s top league and retaining financial stability.

Up to two additional top-performing teams from the founding leagues were invited through B-licences as well as other clubs through wild cards, such as champions from other countries and the IIHF Continental Cup winner, Norway’s Stavanger Oilers. In furute seasons, the Continental Cup will open the doors for champions from smaller countries to participate in the CHL. Combined, the CHL and the Continental Cup boast champions from 25 European countries.

The IIHF and the CHL are also using synergies in other areas such as officiating, the statistical system Hydra and office infrastructure at the IIHF headquarter in Zurich.

The big country missing in the inaugural season is Russia with its cross-border Kontinental Hockey League. The CHL and the KHL did not agree on terms of a participation for the 2014/2015 season but European hockey fans can still hope for an expansion to the east as both parties will discuss a participation for 2015/2016.

After two years of building the league, the new structure and the CHL puck campaign in social media over the last couple of weeks, the disc with the red-and-white logo will finally be dropped at the face-off dots on 21st August. The premiere will happen at the CEZ Arena in Ostrava, which is also one of the two venues for the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in the Czech Republic. The home side Vitkovice will play Germany’s ERC Ingolstadt at 17:00 and many games will follow during the evening that can be watched through several national broadcasters and on www.championshockeyleague.net. The broadcasting and marketing rights are handled by Infront Sports & Media, which won the bid for the Champions Hockey League and is also the long-term commercial partner for the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.

The new Champions Hockey League will offer a variety of teams with champions, dynasties, clubs who surprised last season or are eager to improve as well as a couple of enthusiastic underdogs such as French champion Briancon Diables Rouges or the Nottingham Panthers from Great Britain. The last Champions Hockey League winner is also on board. Switzerland’s ZSC Lions Zurich defeated Russian champion Metallurg Magnitogorsk in 2009. Five years later the Swiss champion will open its campaign with a home game against Valerenga Oslo.

Each team will play six games in the double-round-robin preliminary round with 11 groups consisting of four teams each. It will be followed by the home-and-away 1/8-finals. All 161 games will be produced and broadcast live. For CHL coverage visit www.championshockeyleague.net.

The first CHL goal puck will be presented to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

MARTIN MERK

Champions Hockey League 2014/2015 – Groups & Participants

Group A
Karpat Oulu (FIN)
Kolner Haie (GER)
Bili Tygri Liberec (CZE)
HC Kosice (SVK)

Group B
ZSC Lions Zurich (SUI)
Farjestad Karlstad (SWE)
Vienna Capitals (AUT)
Valerenga Oslo (NOR)

Group C
Frolunda Gothenburg (SWE)
Villacher SV (AUT)
Geneve-Servette (SUI)
Briancon Diables Rouges (FRA)

Group D
PSG Zlin (CZE)
Fribourg-Gotteron (SUI)
Eisbaren Berlin (GER)
Djurgarden Stockholm (SWE)

Group E
Tappara Tampere (FIN)
Ocelari Trinec (CZE)
SC Bern (SUI)
Stavanger Oilers (NOR)

Group F
HC Bolzano (ITA)
Linkopings HC (SWE)
HC Pardubice (CZE)
TPS Turku (FIN)

Group G
Sparta Prague (CZE)
Vaxjo Lakers (SWE)
Adler Mannheim (GER)
KalPa Kuopio (FIN)

Group H
ERC Ingolstadt (GER)
SaiPa Lappeenranta (FIN)
Vitkovice Ostrava (CZE)
EV Zug (SUI)

Group I
Red Bull Salzburg (AUT)
Kloten Flyers (SUI)
JYP Jyvaskyla (FIN)
HV71 Jonkoping (SWE)

Group J
Skelleftea AIK (SWE)
Krefeld Pinguine (GER)
IFK Helsinki (FIN)
SonderjyskE Vojens (DEN)

Group K
Hamburg Freezers (GER)
Lukko Rauma (FIN)
Lulea HF (SWE)
Nottingham Panthers (GBR)

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