CHL Adventure Good for UK

pokal-jpgThe first week of the Champions Hockey League has passed for this season. It may be too early to know who will win and who will qualify but we do know what to expect. After 4 loses for the British teams will know the gap between our teams and those in the top leagues is very big but that does not mean it is not worth British teams entering. It is more important than ever for British teams to be playing at the highest level and against the best teams in Europe.

The CHL is a showcase commanding a worldwide TV audience with deals in Europe, South America and USA. This gives teams here an instant advantage in being able to sell to investors this global audience.

On top of that there is the name recognition. Our teams playing teams around Europe gives the EIHL and the UK time in the spot light in which players get to know our teams and league. In turn and in time will this will increase the quality of player that can be attracted to the league. For example how many fans had heard of Neman Grodno before this week or even the Belarus Extraliga? Now though they are in good position to qualify for the knock phase.

There is the fan experience too. Images, tweets and stories from the weekend will be long in the memory. There will be more memories to come too as the home fixtures for the UK teams have attracted fans from more teams than just those taking part.

And what about player experience? Some of the best British players have had a chance to test themselves against some Europe’s best. This is a good learning curve for the players and will surely help them come the World Championships in the spring. It is also a chance for the players to play in the more strictly disciplined environment that is more akin to the World Championships than the EIHL. As Braehead’s performance in Germany on Saturday and GB’s performances at the World Championships have shown the UK is a more lenient league in terms of discipline and it has been an area the National team has struggled in when it comes to those international tournaments.

It is disappointing to see score lines such as the 9-1 defeat for the Sheffield Steelers and the 10-2 loss for the Braehead Clan on Thursday and score lines like that maybe do cast a bad light for showing the difference between a league like the EIHL and the SHL. However it should not be viewed so negative. Vaxjo and Frolunda can be classed as in the top 5 sides in Europe and the defeat has if nothing else shown the gap and the work needed to do in bettering the sport in the UK. Further to that those games and the ones in Germany and Finland will have introduced more to games in Europe and the international hockey road trip.

The beauty of this year’s format is that that road is not over yet. 1 win is all it could take to make the knockout round and so those loses may not even matter.

Neil Tucker

Neil has written on ice hockey for many websites concentrating on British ice hockey mostly. Neil also covers ice hockey in other countries and organises his Blueliner Hockey Tour. A graduate of the Manchester Metropolitan University Neil turned his hand to hockey writing in 2009. As well as contributing on Blueliner Hockey Neil has contributed to Get Real Hockey and Slapshot Magasine.

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