The IIHF have announced its plans for the relaunch of the Champions Hockey League. Its plans have been presented for voting on on 17th February. Great you may say but when you look at the details there are still the age-old problems that the IIHF have not dealt with.
The plans involve 16 teams culminating in a 4 way tournament play off to decide the winner. This all seems great. It will cut costs, create excitement and have an end which will build up excitement into a showpiece. However the problem is still the same as the CHL’s previous incarnation which is that of where the teams come from.
The plans involve 9 leagues and only those federations and leagues have been invited to decide on the plans. The leagues are drawn from the top 9 countries according to the IIHF rankings which causes one problem. The strength of those leagues does not match the strength of the nation they come from. Whilst the majority are the best leagues in Europe the inclusion of Belarus is shocking.
The Belarus Extraleague is not a top league in Europe and has been superceded by the KHL as the top league in the country with Dinamo Minsk having jumped ship to the Russian league. This therefore means that second tier team could be represented in a premier Europe wide tournament.
Whilst Junost Minsk have done an excellent job in the Continental Cup. This has been in the absence of the top clubs. The IIHF have forgotten that teams from Denmark, France, Italy and the UK have also performed admirably at this level in recent years and yet these will not be able qualify for the tournament.
And this is the main problem with the entire idea. If teams from outside of the top ranked countries can not qualify how can the sport grow. The sport needs teams from all nations playing together. This will create more publicity for the sport in areas that would not normally be featured and will grow the national teams as the import restrictions will mean national team players playing against top teams from across europe.
The best way to get round this to have seeded teams from Sweden, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Russia, Czech Republic and Slovakia and then have teams from other nations qualify through a start of the season tournament. It is that simple and yet the IIHF have overlooked this again.