Organisers of the Champions Hockey League (CHL) have opened the new continental club ice hockey competition up to the Danish, French and UK markets by expanding the number of teams involved in the inaugural 2014-15 season from 40 to 44.
France’s Briancon Diables Rouge, Denmark’s SønderjyskE Vojens and the UK’s Nottingham Panthers have been added to the competition, along with Norway’s Vålerenga Oslo. Consequently, there will be 11 groups compared to the earlier 10, with the 11 group winners and five best runners-up qualifying for the 16-team latter stage of the competition.
The CHL will now feature 26 A-Licence or founding clubs, 12 B-Licence teams and six C-Licence, or wild card outfits.
CHL Chairman, Anders Ternbom, said: “Already during our founding process last summer we made it very clear that although this competition would have six founding leagues, our vision is to involve many countries and to include champions from what we identified as Challenge Leagues. When we realised that we received the maximum 12 B-Licence clubs, it consequently meant that we only had two Wild Card spots open for these leagues.
“As these Wild Cards were quickly distributed to (Slovakia’s) HC Kosice and (Norway’s) Stavanger Oilers, we received many calls for participation from the top leagues of France, Denmark and Great Britain. After internal discussions among the board and with our marketing partner Infront, we decided to add the four teams. In our first season we can proudly count on clubs from 12 countries.”
The CHL will open its inaugural season on August 21, 2014.
In a unique structure for European ice hockey, the CHL is a joint project between Europe’s professional clubs, their national leagues and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). The three principal stakeholders have formed a shareholder company based in Switzerland, where the clubs own 63% of the shares, the leagues 25%, and the IIHF 12%.
The CHL will crown its inaugural champion in February 2015. The six founding leagues include Austria’s Ebel, the Czech Republic’s Tipsport Extraliga, Finland’s Liiga, Germany’s DEL, Switzerland’s NLA and Sweden’s SHL.