Continental Cup Runners-Up Belfast Giants have been invited to take part in next season's Champions Hockey League.
The CHL's board approved the decision at its meeting last week in Gothenburg, after cup winners Arlan Kokshetau were not eligible to take part. “Belfast only missed the qualification at the Continental Cup by one shot in a penalty shoot-out in the decisive game against the aforementioned winners, and showed that they are as competitive as Arlan”, CHL CEO Martin Baumann explained. “Furthermore, teams from the UK have proved in previous seasons that they are ready to compete with the bigger hockey nations and also that their fans are very enthusiastic about the Champions Hockey League. That’s why we are happy to invite Belfast to our competition, even though they narrowly missed out on the win at their very well-organised home tournament.”
The decision to award the Giants a place via the Continental Cup means that the UK's Elite Ice Hockey League is granted an additional second place in the 2019/20 CHL, which will be awarded to the winners of the Regular Season. Should Belfast win the league title, the CHL place will then be given to the league runners-up.
“The Giants participation in Europe’s top club competition is a historic moment for the organisation and will provide a great boost to the local economy as well as even more positive media coverage for Belfast from across the world,” said Eric Porter, Chairman of the Odyssey Trust which owns the Giants. “These games will be one of the highlight’s in Belfast's sporting calendar. We expect that the city of Belfast will open it’s arms to our European guests next season.”
Belfast will be the first team from Northern Ireland, and from the entire island of Ireland, to take part in Europe's premier ice hockey competition. Founded in 2000, the Giants have national titles in 2002, 2006, 2012 and 2014 to their name. The team plays its home games at the SSE Arena in the city, which can hold up to 7,400 for ice hockey games.