There is an important game that will be played tonight and it won’t be played in North America — despite one of the teams having a controversial American nickname — but will be held in Gothenburg, Sweden. The Champions Hockey League final will have defending champion Frolunda Indians host Sparta Prague. This will be Frolunda’s third appearance in the final.
Back in 2014, the IIHF rebooted their dream of having a competition to crown a European champion. Sponsors signed up, founding clubs signed on and the new Champions Hockey League took off — albeit slow. Crowds were sparse early on and local fans didn’t really know what to expect with their club facing off with clubs they had never heard of or wanted to. But despite the slow start, the league has begun to flourish with better crowds and better games. For the first time in the young championship history, the final will not be played between Scandinavian teams — and this is important.
The first final had Luleå hosting Frolunda, with the home team coming from behind in dramatic style to win it. 2016 featured another Scandinavian final with Finnish club Karpat Oulu hosting Frolunda. Frolunda won their first title 2-1.
This season’s final will feature a club outside of Scandinavia and it’s in a large market with a large following — it’s a win-win for the CHL. Especially now that the Kontinental Hockey League is bleeding money and is rumoured to be shrinking. Zagreb has already announced it will join the Austrian-based Erste Bank Eishockey Liga next season and Slovakian club Slovan Bratislava has been struggling to pay its players and lease for the arena. The KHL interest in entering other European markets could be on the downward trend, meaning the CHL will be the best place for international competition.
So, now is the time to get engaged into CHL product. Your team might not be in, or you may not have heard of any of the teams competing, but if you enjoy hockey and international competition it is worth a glance — especially at 19:05 CET tonight.