By Kirill Karin
The Champions Hockey League, launched for the 2008-2009 season, was cancelled due to the global financial crisis. However, the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Council has recently approved its restoration, with three seasons scheduled.
The 16 teams will be divided into four groups, with 14 clubs representing seven leading European hockey countries: Germany, Russia, Slovakia, Finland, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Switzerland (champions and winners of regular seasons). The winner of the Continental Cup will become the 15th team while the final place is being granted to the winner of the 2009 Champions Hockey League: ZSC Lions Zurich.
The preliminary stage will consist of a double round-robin in groups, with the two best teams from each quartet reaching the play-offs. The Champions League begins in September 2011 while the final matches are scheduled for January 2012.
“The debut season of the Champions League showed that European hockey is ready for a pan-continental league. It proved that all interested sides will benefit from this league, particularly hockey clubs and their numerous fans. Fifty European top-ranked clubs annually attract around 18m fans to their rinks. No other team sport, except for football, has similar results. Together, we’re ready to offer even more exciting hockey to this faithful group of fans,” notes IIHF President Rene Fazel.
In the Continental Cup’s super-finals, hosted by Minsk-Arena, Yunost Minsk will play against Austrian Red Bull Salzburg (the winner of the previous tournament), French Rouen and Danish Sonderjyske.