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Eye On Europe: Death of the CHL

Jean-Guy Trudel of ZSC celebrates with the Champions League trophy after 2009 the tournament. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images)

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Jean-Guy Trudel of ZSC celebrates with the Champions League trophy after 2009 the tournament. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Well, they say it ain’t over until the fat lady sings Queen’s ‘We are the Champions’ and while she hasn’t finished the song yet, she is well into the second verse as far as the Champions Hockey League is concerned.

I've paid my dues
Time after time
I've done my sentence
But committed no crime
And bad mistakes
I've made a few
I've had my share of sand kicked in my face
But I've come through


Except, it looks like the CHL fell short in the end. Mistakes were made, investments got pulled, and what was supposed to be a sabbatical year has turned into a permanent vacation after Ovation Sports, the Swiss marketing company behind last season’s CHL, withdrew from the bidding process.

“It is with sadness we announce we will be discontinuing our campaign,” they announced in a press release. “Despite our best efforts, and many close calls, we have not been successful.”

The IIHF has had its share of sand kicked in its face over the past two decades. With the last – and all signs point to Ovation being the only – bidder withdrawing, the CHL will most likely join the European Cup, the European Hockey League and the European Champions Cup in the graveyard of IIHF-run pan-European club tournaments.

MR. ZERO
Stefan Liv was in his second season as the HV71 starting goaltender when he had his first Elitserien shutout. It was the 10th game of the season, HV71 beat Timra 5-0, and Liv turned away 35 shots in the game. He was 19.

On Nov. 24, Liv – who will turn 29 in December – made 27 saves in a 3-0 game against Frolunda, recording his 33rd career shutout, and climbed to the No. 1 spot on the all-time shutout list, passing Jarmo Myllys.

“It feels great,” Liv told the local newspaper after the game. “I’ve thought about the record since our (5-0) game against Farjestad last week. Getting this record has been something of a goal of mine when I got close. We’ll see how long the record will last, but it’s nice to have it now.”

Liv has a league-leading four shutouts this season.  

NEW COUNTRY, SAME LEAGUE
Former New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres head coach Ted Sator arrived in Europe in the early part of the 21st century and has, by now, seen most of the continent. He’s previously coached in Italy, Sweden, Finland, Slovenia and Hungary, and now he’s adding Croatia to his resume.

The former Slovenian national team head coach became the new head coach of the Croatian team KHL Medvešcak, based in Zagreb, but playing in the Austrian League, just like Alba Volan, the team Sator coached last season in Székesfehérvár, Hungary.

Medvešcak is currently eighth in the standings, hanging onto the last playoff spot.

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Last season, nine out of the 10 Austrian League teams had North American head coaches.

MAD MEN
In late October, Tampere Tappara’s defenseman Tuukka Mäntylä checked Helsinki IFK defenseman Mikko Kurvinen into the boards from behind, resulting in an injury that kept Kurvinen sidelined for six games. Mäntylä, who had also been suspended for five games earlier in the season, didn’t get a suspension for the Kurvinen hit – although he did receive a match penalty – so IFK responded in another way.

First, the club ran a full-page ad in a Tampere newspaper that read: “Welcome to Helsinki, Tuukka” with a reference to a game between the two teams in Helsinki on Nov. 26.

On the eve of the game, the SM-liiga office announced it had given IFK a warning for “crossing the line of good taste” with the ad, at the same time admitting the league had known about the ad and still approved it.

Just five minutes into the game, IFK defenseman Ilari Melart grabbed Mäntylä in the corner and while Mäntylä didn’t look very interested in fighting, the wrestling match ended in both players being sent off for the game.

IFK head coach Kari Jalonen, a former Team Finland player who had a few cups of coffee with the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers in the early 1980s, didn’t show much compassion for Mäntylä.

“You get what you ask for, that’s the way it’s been in hockey for decades,” he said. “The players know what this was about.”

The SM-liiga disciplinarian will review the incident.

HOCKEY MAKES NEW FRIENDS IN GERMANY
The four largest German professional sports leagues have joined forces to form the “Initiative of Professional Sports Germany” (IPD). The new coalition will represent the interests of the Basketball League, the German Ice Hockey League (DEL), the Football League and the Handball Bundesliga.

"The four major German professional leagues have a common platform as many issues affect not just one, but all leagues,” said Gernot Tripcke, CEO of the DEL.  “The initiative will provide us with a strong voice.”

Eye on Europe will be featured on THN.com every Friday throughout the season. Risto Pakarinen is a Finnish freelance writer, based in Stockholm, Sweden who also writes for NHL.com and IIHF.com. When not writing about European hockey on THN, he's probably writing about hockey at ristopakarinen.com/hockey as Puckarinen. 

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