Spain crowns its champs
by Martin Merk|21 SEP 2020
After twelve years Puigcerda is back on the throne in Spanish men’s ice hockey.
photo: RFEDH
Not many countries have national ice hockey champions in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the playoff schedules last spring. This month Spain has become an exception to the rule.

Spain may not be the first country to come in mind when thinking of national ice hockey leagues, but the southern European country has been an IIHF member since 1923 with a dedicated hockey family and leagues in different categories and levels with most of the clubs being located in the northern half of the country.

Spain is among the countries most affected by the coronavirus pandemic in Europe and same as most other countries wasn’t able to conclude the 2019/2020 ice hockey season according to schedule in spring.

However, the Royal Spanish Ice Sports Federation (RFEDH) was able to get back on the ice recently and decided to do so by finishing the old season.

The women of the Liga Iberdrola made the start and found a well-known champion. SAD Majadahonda won the fourth consecutive title and the seventh in eight years. Majadahonda entered the final series against Quimeras Valdemoro with a 1-0 lead since the first game was played in March. Half a year later Majadahonda won the second game of the best-of-three series 6-1 to reclaim the trophy.

The circumstances were all but normal not only due to the long break. The Madrid region where both teams are from doesn’t allow amateur sports unless with masks – something the IIHF Medical Committee doesn’t recommend due to lack of oxygen when playing ice hockey.

However, both teams practiced like that, decided to play that way and agreed to hold the game under the restrictions. Oxygenation breaks were added to the game to allow players regain strength and maintain a good pace despite wearing masks.

After that game and concluding the 2019/2020 women’s ice hockey season, the RFEDH decided to for the time being not hold any games in the Madrid region until it is possible to play without masks.
SAD Majadahonda has become Spain’s women’s ice hockey champion for the seventh time in eight years but certainly the first wearing these kind of face masks.
The situation in the final of the men’s Liga Nacional in northern Spain was better as the two finalists came from other regions. CG Puigcerda from Catalonia challenged defending champion Txuri Urdin from Donostia-San Sebastian in the Basque Country.

The series started from scratch with no games of the series played in spring and Puigcerda jumped to a lead by winning the first game 5-2 on home ice. The best-of-three series continued at Txuri Urdin and on Saturday Puigcerda crowned itself champion with a 6-4 victory with a hat trick from Ramon Morer.

The teams were allowed to play without masks in these regions but other safety and security regulations in place. The 333 fans in Puigcerda and 180 fans in Donostia-San Sebastian who were allowed in with social distancing, masks and only seated saw history on ice as Txuri Urdin was dethroned after three straight titles on Saturday and Puigcerda won its first league title since 2008 and the sixth in history.

With the champions known, the new season will start during the upcoming weekend. For Puigcerda there was not much time to celebrate as the first practice for the new season is scheduled already tomorrow.

New champions to be determined in the NHL and elsewhere

Spain is the first country to crown an ice hockey champion after the lockdown with the NHL following soon as the Stanley Cup playoffs entered the final stage.

Two other leagues came back from the lockdown with the Ukrainian Hockey League and the New Zealand Ice Hockey League.

The UHL resumed the season with the semi-final series on 1 September but had to stop it after two rounds of games with 21 players tested positive for COVID-19 from two teams and two different series. The series were: Kremenchuk vs. Bili Bars Bila Tserkva 2-0 and HC Donbass vs. Dnipro Kherson 1-1.

The NZIHL is usually played during the cold months Down Under from May to August. After it had looked like the season had to be cancelled (as in neighbouring Australia), the positive epidemiological developments in New Zealand allowed for a late start in August.

Games were planned to be played within the North Island and within the South Island. However, the Auckland region teams Botany Swarm and West Auckland Admirals are left without ice due to a regional lockdown that started in August so that only the three teams from the South Island are able to play their games.