CHL vs NHL challenger show-down is a mutual objective.
The International Ice Hockey Federation held a meeting at the Zurich airport today with representatives from the European national federations, leagues. IIHF President René Fasel and IIHF General Secretary Horst Lichtner informed about the planned launch of the Champions Hockey League that will annually involve the best club teams playing for European club hockey supremacy. The start is planned for the 2008-2009-season which will coincide with the 100 Year Anniversary season of the IIHF.
“This is a vision that we have had for quite some time and started to work actively on for several months and today we informed our member national federations and their leagues about the plans,” said René Fasel. “There are still details to be ironed out, but we are sure that we have a financial and sportive foundation that will imply a new era for European club hockey and club hockey world wide.
Summary of the Champions Hockey League format as presented in Zurich on Friday: (find attached pdf-file for clearer overlook of CHL format)
++ The competition will start with a first qualification round (Q1) between the European national club champions ranked 7-24 according to a special European club ranking as established by the IIHF. The 18 teams will be seeded into six groups of three teams and play and single round-robin during a weekend tournament. The six group winners will advance to the second qualification round (Q2).
++ In the second qualification stage (Q2), the six runner-ups (the team that finished highest in the regular season that did not become national champion) from the Top-6 ranked European leagues will be drawn against one of the winners from Q1 and play a home & away elimination series (two games). The winners on aggregate will advance to the CHL group stage. As of the Q2 stage, all games will be on Wednesdays, which will be the designated gameday of the CHL.
++ The 12-team Champions Hockey League group stage will feature the national champions from the Top-6 European leagues seeded into four groups of three, together with the six winners from the Q2 stage. The teams will play a double round-robin (home & away) for a total of four games per team. The four group winners will advance to the semi-final.
++ The semi-final (determined by draw) will be played home & away (two games). The semi-final winners on aggregate will advance to the final, which also will be played in two games, home & away.
“The competition will not only contribute to the sportive development of club hockey in Europe, but it will also be financially very rewarding for the clubs, especially the ones that reach the CHL group stage,” said René Fasel who informed that a guaranteed sum of 16.9 million Swiss francs (CHF) will be distributed among the clubs with one million CHF bonus going to the winner. “This is by far the largest sum ever involved in a European club competition, added Fasel.”
The complete money distribution formula, as well as the competition dates, will be announced later.
René Fasel furthermore informed the meeting that the IIHF has pre-discussed with the National Hockey League and that the two parties have agreed on a mutual aim to stage a showdown between the best team(s) from the Champions Hockey League and an NHL challenger to annually play for a world trophy in late September.
“This is something that we have been trying to make feasible for years and finally we believe that together with our partner NHL we have a concept for an annual September showdown,” stated Fasel who also said that further details can be announced as early as during the upcoming IIHF World Championship in Moscow (April 27 – May 13). “Also this competition would carry a substantial financial reward,” said the IIHF President.
The IIHF has chosen Platform International SA of Geneva, Switzerland as the agency to develop the commercial aspects of the Champions Hockey League. Rene Fasel commented on the partnership with Platform saying, “We are very fortunate to have an agency with the integrity and experience of Platform to lead the marketing and commercial development. Platform is led by Margrethe van der Stroom who created the uniquely successful sponsorship program for the America’s Cup competition currently being held in Valencia, Spain. Margrethe’s partner is Craig Thompson, one of the founding fathers of the UEFA Champions League, who has all the experience necessary to deliver the Champions Hockey League.”
The representatives of the national federations and leagues reacted overwhelmingly positive to the proposal. The leagues were given the mandate to, as soon as possible, inform their respective clubs about the presented plans.