Belfast Giants have been awarded a place in next season’s Champions Hockey League.
The CHL’s Board approved the decision last week, as Continental Cup Winners Arlan Kokshetau were ineligible to take up the place due to the travel logistics for teams to Kazakhstan. The Giants, as runners-up in the competition, have now been invited to the Champions Hockey League.
The Elite Ice Hockey League is therefore granted an additional place for next season, for the league winners. However should Belfast win the league, the CHL will then award the place to league the runners-up.
“Belfast only missed the qualification at the Continental Cup by one shot in a penalty shoot-out in the decisive game against the aforementioned winners, and showed that they are as competitive as Arlan”, CHL CEO Martin Baumann explained. “Furthermore, teams from the UK have proved in previous seasons that they are ready to compete with the bigger hockey nations and also that their fans are very enthusiastic about the Champions Hockey League. That’s why we are happy to invite Belfast to our competition, even though they narrowly missed out on the win at their very well-organised home tournament.”
“The Giants participation in Europe’s top club competition is a historic moment for the organisation and will provide a great boost to the local economy as well as even more positive media coverage for Belfast from across the world,” said Eric Porter, Chairman of the Odyssey Trust which owns the Giants. “These games will be one of the highlight’s in Belfast’s sporting calendar. We expect that the city of Belfast will open it’s arms to our European guests next season.”
Robert Fitzpatrick, CEO of the Odyssey Trust, added: “This is a proud moment for our organisation following the team’s superb achievements in the Continental Cup. It is an honour to accept the Champions Hockey League invite and we look forward to hosting yet more guests in our great city of Belfast. The CHL adds yet another international hockey event to our portfolio, that includes the Friendship Four, Friendship Series, World Championship as well as the Continental Cup Semi-Final and Final. This rapid growth of the sport has led to an increased need for additional facilities in order to compete at the highest level.”
EIHL in the CHL
Cardiff Devils, Glasgow Clan, Nottingham Panthers, and Sheffield Steelers have all represented the Elite League in the CHL since its inception in 2014. Last season, the Panthers made history by coming the first team from these shores to qualify from the Group Stage, eventually falling to ZSC Lions in the Round of 16. EIHL teams have celebrated famous wins: Clan over Ingolstadt (Germany), Steelers against Red Bull Salzburg (Austria), Devils over Davos (Switzerland) and Växjö (Sweden), while the Panthers defeated Mountfield HK home and away (Czech Republic), SC Bern (Switzerland) and TPS Turku (Finland) on their way to last season;’s playoffs.