A Champions introduction

So, it’s a new season and we have a couple of new teams joining us (the Cardiff Devils) in the run for the Elite League title. Before the Elite League season begins the EIHL has been lucky enough to have a couple of teams competing in the Champions Hockey League; the Nottingham Panthers and the Cardiff Devils. Most of you have probably heard of the CHL but for those who haven’t here’s the basics:

The Champions Hockey league is one of the biggest competitions in Europe and it’s a huge deal to take part in it. Champions from a variety of different leagues from around Europe can compete and lucky enough for us two British teams have had the opportunity this year, the Cardiff Devils and the Nottingham Panthers.

The CHL is a Swiss company established in 2013. They hold all the rights to the CHL and organise the competition themselves.  They’re owned by shareholders and are governed by a board which is elected annually by the CHL general meeting.

The shareholders include 26 founding clubs (63%), 6 founding leagues (25%) and the International Ice Hockey Federation (12%).

Confusingly enough there are three different types of founding clubs, A-license, B-license and C-license. They all aim to compete in the champions league but under different circumstances.

A-license must have an established record of sportive excellence along with a contribution to the development of ice hockey within their country. Finally, they must have a solid financial status and organisation.

The club must comply with all these aspects to be considered as worthy representatives of their country and league.

As of the 2017/2018 season, clubs must earn their spot in the CHL via qualifying through their success in their domestic leagues.

B-license clubs are a bit different, unlike A-license clubs, B-license clubs are national champions or regular season winners from a founding league. The position they finished in within their domestic league is listed, and the decision if they will compete in the CHL is decided by the CHL board. B-license is awarded to clubs for one season only.

And finally, there’s the C-license. Also, known as the Wild Card clubs, these clubs are either previous winners of the Champions league, league champions of their domestic leagues outside the founding leagues, or other deserving clubs. These clubs are appointed by the CHL board. It’s the CHL’s objective to introduce the wild card system enabling contribution to the development of European club ice hockey by having internationally diverse clubs compete in the competition.

In the 2017/2018 CHL season there are 32 teams competing. Each team has been placed into a group, with each group containing 4 other teams which they will play in the first knockout round of the CHL.

Nottingham and Cardiff have been separated into two different groups, Cardiff were drawn into Group E where they face a Swiss team (HC Davos), a Czech team (Bili Tygri Liberec) and a Swedish team (Vaxjo Lakers).

Nottingham were drawn into Group F where they face a Swiss team (SC Bern), a Finnish team (TPS Turku) and a Czech team (Mountfield HK).

Every team competing in the CHL has been successful over the past few years. It’s good to know what we’re going up against so here’s what our EIHL teams are facing:

 

GROUP E

HC Davos:HC_Davos_logo

Founded: 1921

Country: Switzerland

Home Venue: Vaillant Arena

National titles: 31 titles with the most recent in 2015

CHL titles: 0

Head coach: Arno Del Curto

Top Scorer: Magnus Nygren (27)

Top Playmaker: Broc Little (14)

Goalkeeper: Joren Van Pottelberghe (30)

Domestic League: National League

The Vaillant arena stands 1560 meters above sea level and is surrounded by the Swiss Alps, and after travelling there, wow its stunning. HC Davos and the Vaillant arena annually host the Spengler Cup which is one of Europe’s longest-running international club ice hockey tournament, dating back to 1923.

 

 

Bílí Tygri Liberec:logo-ba--la---tyglti

Founded: 1956

 

Country: Czech Republic

Home Venue: Home Credit Arena

National titles: 1 in 2016

CHL titles: 0

Head coach: Filip Pesan

Top scorer: Martin Bakos (83)

Top Playmaker: Michal Bulír (88)

Goalkeeper: Roman Will (35)

Domestic League: Extraliga

After their establishment in 1956 Liberec made their way to the second highest league in the Czech Republic. Liberec changed its name in 2000 to its current name Bílí Tygrí Liberec meaning “White Tigers” in English. The club were promoted to the Czech Extraliga in 2002 where they have remained since. Liberec didn’t have a taste of playoff success until 2015/2016 when they reached the finals for the first time and won the national title. The clubs fan base extends not only in the Northern Czech Republic but also neighbouring Germany and Poland.

 

 

Växjö Lakers:Växjö_Lakers_logo

Founded: 1997

Country: Sweden

Home Venue: Video Arena

National Titles: 1 in 2015

CHL titles: 0

Head coach: Sam Hallam

Top scorer: Erik Josefsson (60)

Top Playmakers: Tuomas Kiiskinen (19), Janne Pesonen (22)

Goalkeeper: Victor Andren (45)

Domestic League:  SHL (Swedish Hockey League)

Växjö Lakers were founded after their former club went bankrupt. Starting in Division 4, four Divisions below the Swedish Hockey league, the club worked their way to the Hockey Allsvenskan within six years. They were promoted in 2011, even though they failed to win anything prior to that.

 

 

Cardiff Devils:logo cardiff

Founded: 1986

Country: Great Britain, Wales

Home Venue: Ice Arena Wales

National titles: 5 most recent last season

CHL titles: 0

Head coach: Andrew Lord

Top scorer: Joey Martin (88)

Top Playmaker: Andrew Hotham (24)

Goalkeeper: Ben Bowns (33)

Domestic League: EIHL (Elite Ice Hockey League)

The Devils had a successful season last season clinching the League and Challenge Cup titles. They nearly took a clean sweep of silverware but failed after a 5-period game in the playoff finals against Sheffield. Ice Arena Wales seats 3,088 spectators and contains two ice pads so that public skating can continue during hockey matches.

 

 

GROUP F

Mountfield HK:MountfieldHK-logo

Founded: 2013

Country: Czech Republic

Home Venue: Arena Hradec Králové

National titles: 0

CHL titles: 0

Head coach: Václav Sykora

Top scorer: Lukás Vopelka (36)

Top Playmaker: Roman Kukumberg (16)

Goalkeeper: Jaroslav Pavelka (31)

Domestic League: Extraliga

Mountfield HK joined the Extraliga in 2012/2013 after Mountfield, who owned the license to compete in the league merged Ceské Budejovice with Královstí Ivi. After the move, the team averaged around 5,000 people at their home games. After three straight season ending in the quarter-final losses, Mountfield managed to progress to the semi-finals in 2017. Mountfield were invited to participate in the Spengler Cup last season and managed to make the Quarter-finals.

 

 

TPS Turku:HC_TPS_logo

Founded: 1922

Country: Finland

Home Venue: Gatorade Centre

National titles: 11 most recent in 2010

CHL titles: 0

Head coach: Kalle Kaskinen

Top scorer: Ilari Filppula (81)

Top Playmakers: Hendrik Tallinder (7), Jasper Lindsten (67)

Goalkeeper: Oskari Setänen (34)

Domestic League: Liiga

TPS Turku have won the Finnish Hockey Championship 11 times since 1956. Well known for their excellent junior programme, names such as Saku Koivu and Mikko Koivu reflect their success in this field.

 

 

SC Bern:SC_Bern_logo

Founded: 1931

Country: Switzerland

Home Venue: Post Finance Arena

National titles: 15 most recent as last season

CHL titles: 0

Head coach: Kari Jalonen

Top scorer: Maxim Noreau (56)

Top Playmaker: Simon Meyer (96)

Goalkeeper: Leonardo Genoni (30)

Domestic League: National League

SC Bern play in the National League A, which is the top league in Switzerland and they remain one of the most successful clubs in Switzerland. They have won 14 Swiss Championships so far. Their arena is in the capital and holds up to 17,000 spectators per game making it the largest hockey venue in Europe. Last CHL season SC Bern set a new CHL attendance record of 13,699.

 

 

Nottingham Panthers:Nottingham_Panthers_Logo

Founded: 1946

Country: Great Britain, England

Home Venue: National Ice Centre

National titles: 5, most recent in 2016

CHL titles: 0

Head coach: Corey Neilson

Top scorer: Joshua Shalla (44)

Top Playmaker: Zackary Phillips (51)

Goalkeeper: Michael Garnett (34)

Domestic League: EIHL (Elite Ice Hockey League)

Since their establishment Nottingham have won 8 playoff finals and respectively 3 titles. They have the biggest fan base in the UK with two thousand season ticket holders and an average of 5,500 spectators from the home crowd per game. Nottingham made history as the first British side ever to win the IIHF Continental Cup last season. This achievement qualified them to compete in the CHL. The club have previously taken part in the CHL, in 2013, finishing with one win over Hamburg.

 

So, there they are, as you can see they’ve all had successful seasons, but nothing is guaranteed. Nottingham have proven themselves so far by winning 3 of their 4 games, landing them top of their Group with 8 points while SC Bern follow closely behind with 6. If Nottingham continue to play with determination and skill they will progress to the CHL playoffs. With two games left to play other teams have the chance to catch them but let’s hope they carry on like they are.

The Devils haven’t been as successful with only one win so far in their CHL adventure. But despite the losses the Devils have learnt from their mistakes, improving their skills and strategy. Their win against Davos showed their development since the beginning of the CHL, this win has given the team a clear look on what is needed to compete in a highly skilled league. Player coach Andrew Lord has proven that his team has what it takes to compete in the big league and hopes to continue playing at this standard in the final two games against Vaxjo Lakers.

To keep up to date with the CHL you should download their app or visit their website, they have everything you need to know including teams, stats and standings, plus news updates from all the CHL teams.

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