CHL draws its group stage
by Derek O'Brien|25 MAY 2022
During the off day between the group stage and the quarter-finals of the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, the Champions Hockey League held its group stage draw for the 2022/23 hockey season. The 32 teams were drawn into the following eight groups of four:
  • Group A: Lulea Hockey (SWE), Jurkurit Mikkeli (FIN), Sparta Prague (CZE), Aalborg Pirates (DEN)
  • Group B: EV Zug (SUI), Grizzlys Wolfsburg (GER), TPS Turku (FIN), Olimpija Ljubljana (SLO)
  • Group C: Tappara Tampere (FIN), Red Bull Munich (GER), Rapperswil-Jona Lakers (SUI), Slovan Bratislava (SVK)
  • Group D: Rogle Angelholm (SWE), ZSC Lions Zurich (SUI), Fehervar AV19 (HUN), GKS Katowice (POL)
  • Group E: Red Bull Salzburg (AUT), Fribourg-Gotteron (SUI), Ilves Tampere (FIN), Stanvanger Oilers (NOR)
  • Group F: Farjestad Karlstad (SWE), Villacher SV (AUT), Straubing Tigers (GER), Cracovia Krakow (POL)
  • Group G: Eisbaren Berlin (GER), Mountfield Hradec Kralove (CZE), Frolunda Gothenburg (SWE), Grenoble Bruleurs de Loups (FRA)
  • Group H: Ocelari Trinec (CZE), Skelleftea AIK (SWE), HC Davos (SUI), Belfast Giants (GBR)
This will be the eighth season since the relaunch of the Champions Hockey League in the 2014/15 season. Of the first seven years, six were won by Swedish clubs – four by Frolunda Gothenburg and one each by Lulea Hockey and Rogle Angelholm. The CHL was won by Finnish club JYP Jyvaskyla in 2017/18.

Defending champion Rogle has been drawn into Group D with ZSC Lions Zurich, the team they defeated in last year’s round of 16 and also the winner of the original CHL in the 2008/09 season.

“We’re obviously going to be seen as a team to beat, so we want to get off to a good start in the group stage,” said Rogle general manager Chris Abbott. He said about Zurich: “Obviously, they’re a top team in Switzerland with a Swedish coach (Rikard Gronborg), they play a style that’s similar to Swedish hockey and they have top players. It’s going to be a big challenge.”

Two teams that met in last year’s semi-finals – Tappara Tampere and Red Bull Munich – have also been drawn together into Group C. Munich reached the CHL final in 2018/19.

“Red Bull Munich is a very professional ice hockey club with very experienced players and coaching staff,” said Tappara goaltending coach Aki Naykki. “It’s going to be two very tough games against them like it was in the semi-final here. It took everything we had to beat them and reach the final, so we’re looking forward to it.”

“Some of the groups we see are amazing,” said CHL CEO Martin Baumann. “I’m looking forward to the group (C) with Frolunda and Hradec Kralove. That’s a tough one. They were in the final (in 2019/20). Another nice group is Davos with Trinec, Belfast and Skelleftea. I remember Belfast and Skelleftea met before and they were tough games.”

“We want to build a strong, competitive squad that can skate with these teams in this group,” said Belfast Giants coach Adam Keefe. “We know from our last experience in the Champions League that skating’s going to be very important, so that’s going to be a focus for the summer.”

One other previous European club champion is taking part in the upcoming CHL season and that’s TPS Turku, which won the IIHF European Cup in 1992/93 and the European Hockey League in 1996/97.

In all, 12 leagues and 14 countries will be represented in the upcoming season. For the first time, there will be clubs from Hungary (Fevehrvar AV19) and Slovenia (Olimpija Ljubljana), which both play in the Austrian-based ICEHL.

“This is good not only for our team and for our fans, but for Hungarian hockey overall,” said Fehervar general manager Viktor Szelig. “We have a chance to play against the big boys so this is just a wonderful opportunity.”

“This is a big step. It’s the first time a Slovenian team is in this league,” said Olimpija general manager Anze Ulcar. “On one hand it’s an honour and on the other hand, it’s a big challenge to present ourselves in the best possible way sports-wise, organizational-wise, and to learn and grow from it.”

Each team will play once at home and once away against the other three teams in its group, for a total of six games. The group stage begins on 1 September and concludes on 12 October.

That will be followed by the round of 16 in November, the quarter-finals in December and the semi-finals in January. All of those rounds will be played in the format of two games, one each at home, with the winner on aggregate score advancing.

The 2022/23 CHL final will be played as a single game on 18 February at the home of one of the finalists.