Ice Hockey European Cup: Even Don smiles

Whe wanted to know what performance EHC Red Bull Munich had achieved on Wednesday evening in Zug (Switzerland), he just had to pay attention to Don Jackson. As soon as the final siren sounded, a broad smile could be seen on the face of the Munich coach. And it is not without good reason that he has the nickname “the silent Don”.

Jackson usually acknowledges victories with little emotion. Because there are dozens of them every year, with eight championships the Canadian is by far the most successful coach in the German Ice Hockey League (DEL). But this Wednesday, his EHC was not required in the domestic league, it was the last group game of the Champions Hockey League (CHL). Munich had to win in order to qualify for the knockout phase, and that at the Swiss champions EV Zug, against whom they had lost the previous week due to a mistake in the last minute at home.

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This time it was less exciting, from the second third on, Munich dominated at will, won 6: 1 and are now in the round of 16. And that “deserves”, as national striker Frederik Tiffels wanted to know, “because we showed great ice hockey”.

Early end for Mannheim and Bremerhaven

How things will continue in November in the CHL will be drawn by lot on Friday afternoon in Zurich. In addition to the Munich team, the second DEL heavyweight is also represented in the pot: the Adler Mannheim. They lost their last group game against HC Lausanne 1: 3, but were already qualified. In contrast to the other German representatives. Master Eisbären Berlin had lost all of their first four games, but they said goodbye with two wins (6: 3 and 4: 2) over HC Lugano, but they weren’t enough to advance. And for the surprise team from Bremerhaven, the trip to the European Cup is already over, in the decisive game on Tuesday there was a 1: 3 against the Czech top club Sparta Prague.

Munich's Austin Ortega in the match against EV Zug


Munich’s Austin Ortega in the match against EV Zug
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Bild: Picture-Alliance

Two out of four DEL teams continue – that is not an outstanding, but a decent record for German ice hockey. The CHL is always an indicator of where the leagues stand in international comparison. And there the Swedish SHL once again underpinned its supremacy. Since the introduction of the CHL in 2014, five of the six title winners have come from Sweden, this season could continue like this, all five SHL representatives survived the group stage and sometimes showed exhilarating ice hockey. But hardly anyone notices that.

Little profitable competition

On average, the group games of the 32 teams from 14 countries did not even attract 2000 fans into the halls. This is of course also due to the pandemic, but in previous years there was significantly less audience than in the national leagues. Since the CHL became a subsidy business for some clubs, there is now an entry fee of 60,000 euros, which should at least cover the travel expenses.

But you can only earn money if you go far, like the Munich team in the final in 2019. And the prestige is also manageable, because the interest of most fans rarely goes beyond the national league. The problem: there is no consistent European Cup tradition in ice hockey. And the Russian-dominated Continental Hockey League (KHL) does not play in the CHL because it wants to be a league for the whole of Europe, but its expansion plans in the West regularly fail because of the associations’ veto. The world stars play in the North American NHL anyway. The CHL is more of a tournament for the “best of the rest”. However, one that shows attractive sport.

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