Pan-European ice hockey club competition the Champions Hockey League (CHL) has cancelled its 2020-21 season after concluding it cannot take place as planned amid COVID-19.
The CHL features 32 teams from across 12 countries, but the League has said the “general situation in Europe” has forced its decision. The CHL said travel restrictions between participating countries had already put several match-ups at risk, adding that although a number of authorities would potentially issue special permits for travelling sport teams, a “vast amount of uncertainty and risks” remained.
“All things considered, the CHL Board had to come to the very difficult conclusion that playing a 2020-21 season is not manageable for the Champions Hockey League or the participating clubs from both an operational and economic perspective,” said CHL president Peter Zahner.
“The health and safety of all participating teams is of the highest priority, and with the current development of the epidemiological situation we unfortunately would not be able to guarantee that everyone always returns home in good health and without needing to undergo quarantine restrictions, no matter how sophisticated our protection concepts are.”
The CHL launched in 2014-15 and 2020-21 was due to be its seventh season. Commenting on why the cancellation decision has been made now, CHL CEO Martin Baumann told the League’s official website: “It was obvious that the CHL with its international approach will struggle if the COVID-19 situation did not improve fast enough during summer.
“That’s why back in in April we already took the proactive decision to postpone the start of the season by a month, skip the Group Stage and run a knock-out competition only. At the beginning of September, we realised that we needed some more time to solve issues with travel restrictions and decided to postpone the season’s start date by another month; a decision which also helped the participating clubs as they were able to hold off with booking their away trips.
“Now, a couple of weeks later, it became quite evident that the epidemiological situation has developed in a way that playing a 2020-21 CHL season bears too many risks, unfortunately.”
North American league the NHL completed its 2019-20 season last month utilising centralised hubs in the Canadian cities of Toronto and Edmonton. Baumann said: “A ‘bubble’ as the NHL had installed for their playoffs is a great concept to offer teams a safe environment. However, for our competition it is unfortunately not an option as our teams play in their domestic leagues in parallel to the CHL, and our game days are fixed in the international calendar.
“National leagues, national teams and the CHL have clear agreements on game days and there is no way to move the 32 teams to a bubble for a certain time to just play the CHL. Besides that, the cost for such a bubble concept is enormous.”
Baumann said the season cancellation means the CHL’s commercial contracts for the 2020-21 campaign will become void, but he is confident the League can recover from this blow. Baumann added: “As we have signed a long-term contract with our marketing and media partner (Infront) until 2027-28 and have a healthy financial structure, in hockey terms we expect to come through this with just some minor bruising.
“But of course, we must now first analyse the situation internally in more detail and find out how to overcome this difficult time. Fingers crossed, that ice hockey, the economy and the whole world gets back to normal life in spring 2021.”