Due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the uncertainty regarding professional sports competitions across Europe, the CHL Board has decided to act proactively and to postpone the start of the CHL season by one month to the beginning of October. The decision affects the playing format, which means the CHL will be a knockout only competition this season.
The start of the 2020/21 Champions Hockey League season has been postponed until 6 October (previous start date 3 September) as per the CHL Board’s decision taken at an extraordinary video conference on Friday. “The Champions Hockey League is a pan-European competition with 13 countries involved, which means that we are dependent on the decisions and regulations set by 13 different governments”, CHL President Peter Zahner said. “Our participating teams must be able to travel, and our goal is that games will only be played with spectators in the arenas. For this reason, and because of the high degree of uncertainty across the continent, we have decided to be proactive and not to take the risk of requiring urgent changes closer to the original start date”, Zahner added.
The start of the season is now planned for the originally scheduled date for Game Day 5. This means that the season has been shortened by four Game Days which, as a consequence, requires a change in the playing format for the 2020/21 season. “We have reviewed many different alternative scenarios in the last couple of weeks and came to the conclusion that a knockout only competition is the most straightforward and fair solution we can offer”, Zahner said. Consequently, teams will be drawn into pairings and the competition will immediately commence with a Round of 32, two-game, home-and-away, aggregate score series up to the Semi-Finals. The season culminates on 9 February 2021 with the ultimate one-game Final.
“We understand that this format change is unexpected but special times require special measures. It is our goal to make planning for the participating clubs as easy as possible, as everyone is currently facing unprecedented challenges. The CHL Board is convinced that a proactive decision helps the clubs, and the CHL Office, to better plan and prepare for a successful season”, the CHL President said.
All 32 Teams Decided
Neman Grodno have been confirmed as the 32nd participating team in the 2020/21 CHL season. The CHL Board has awarded the last remaining Wild Card to the regular-season runners-up from Belarus after the Slovakian national league had officially requested to replace their qualified team for the upcoming season because of infrastructure issues, with the team having to play the entire 2020/21 season in a small rink due to arena construction.
“Belarus is by far the best ranked Challenger League in the CHL league ranking and, therefore, it was a logical step to invite their runners-up, as a decision based on pure sporting merits is the best solution for our competition”, Zahner said. “Neman Grodno have proved that they are a strong team and able to challenge Europe’s best in their previous three appearances in the competition, as they have recorded victories against strong brands such as EV Zug, Adler Mannheim and former CHL champions JYP Jyväskylä”, the CHL President added.