The UEFA Champions League of Hockey

One of the ideas tabled during the hot stove discussions yesterday was during an address of the state of the game of hockey globally. An interesting concept that was tabled (which I think is more and more brilliant the longer I think about it) was tabled by Bob McCown and it was the suggestion of an international hockey tournament similar to the UEFA Champions League in European football. It’s the concept of pitting the best teams from hockey leagues around the world in an international tournament with the victor laying claim to one of the more prestigious titles in hockey. The concept is something that would be hugely beneficial for the sport of hockey for a number of reasons, many of which are stepping stones in the solutions to the issues raised at the summit.

The introduction of a tournament that saw the best of the leagues in the NHL, and European hockey federations across the country would be a huge step for the game as far smoothing the relationship between the North American and International games. The NHL has often tried to sell the game internationally but in countries like Germany where European football is the dominant sport, hockey doesn’t necessary garner the same household attention. However if you had an international tournament with teams more local to the fans in the area and region you foster a greater interest and benefit the game as a whole. It’s a win-win situation as it raises European interest in the NHL teams that would participate and would certainly draw new fans to the sport which serves to help the sport grow outside of NA which is so important.

The relationship between the NHL and the IIHF has been one with certain frictions because of certain opinions on the value of tournaments like the World Championships. The NHL isn’t keen on it’s players participation in these tournaments however if you were to include the NHL and it’s teams (owners) in a greater capacity (more than just taking players for national teams) it’s likely that things could be smoothed out between the international governing body of hockey and the NHL while helping to grow the game. With the future of tournaments like the World Championships unsure, perhaps a replacement idea like this would thrive and benefit all parties concerned.

I’m a huge fan of the international game and just thinking about such a tournament excites me. Having a tournament that featured the two best teams in the NHL, SEL, KHL to name a few of the leagues that would participate, would be hockey and national pride at their best outside of the Olympics. It’s an interesting concept and certainly one that has a huge potential to foster grass roots growth. From the business aspect of the game there is potential for a hugely successful event. It’s food for thought, it’s a neat concept, and I for one would love to see this idea develop into something one day.

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3 Responses

  1. Sean Kaye says:

    I'd thought about something like this in the past as well as I'm a big soccer fan. I am presently living in Australia and five years ago Australia moved from Oceania to Asia in terms of the region it sits in for football (soccer). With that move came the ability for Australian domestic clubs to compete in the Asian Champions League (Asia's equivalent to the UEFA Champions League). To describe it simply, there's been marginal interest despite good performances by the Australian clubs.

    Also, the thing to understand is that the organisational structure of soccer is much different in how the regulating bodies are setup. You have FIFA as the world's governing body and under it sits UEFA, CONCACAF, etc – the regional bodies that govern the game. Then underneath those you have the domestic FAs which govern the domestic leagues. While the English Premier League is slightly different to that, it still submits to the authority of the English FA on all major issues outside of some commercial arrangements. So FIFA and UEFA can dictate to the FAs and the clubs what's going to happen. It is also why they have stable transfer rules and the like. The NHL will never submit to IIHF under any circumstance.

    Finally, there is the matter of competition. The quality of the NHL is so much better than anything in Europe over the course of a season it would be almost be farcical to watch. AHL clubs would be able to take on most domestic European clubs and beat them. If you were to pit an NHL team, in mid-season form against ANY domestic club in the world, bar the occasional upset, there would be a significant difference. Having watched a considerable amount of professional hockey from around the world at club level, the NHL is not like anything else.

    Conversely, in European football, the top 10 clubs from across Europe could beat each other on any given night. A Barcelona vs Chelsea match will be competitive no matter what. Inter vs Arsenal is going to provide a tight game. You can even make an argument for the top 16 teams in Europe being one off competitive.

    Lastly I guess, how on earth would you schedule this? European clubs play 30 odd games a year of top-flight domestic football, then maybe about 10 – 20 games of cup competition. Travel isn't such a major issue in Europe, everything is one or two hours away by plane. Imagine the LA Kings having to play Jokerit or Moscow Dynamo?

    Also, the money doesn't exist to make the NHL want to cut its schedule to include this. People like Rupert Murdoch through SkyTV in Europe spend BILLIONS in TV dollars for the rights to the Champions League. Not qualifying for even an English Premier League club is a huge financial loss. There's no way the NHL could pull that kind of money when they can't even get a US TV deal worth anything of reasonable value.

    Great Concept – just never going to happen for dozens of reasons.

  2. Tomi Traktori says:

    Champions League is going to happen sooner or later, but without NHL-teams.

  3. Richard Loat says:

    I see travel being an issue but I think it's possible to create a modified Champions League for the teams that was situated in a single city perhaps instead of at home stadiums. I guess one possibility is a UEFA/World Championship of Hockey Hybrid.

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