EHFD: IIHF Continental Cup and the 'Minor' Leagues


While I've featured the top seven leagues individually, there are many other national, and even a couple more international European hockey circuits that are considered the top level of play in their respective jurisdictions.  Among these leagues are some fairly well decorated clubs, and some with budgets that are bigger than teams in the European 'major' leagues.  For these teams, though, the crown jewel of club competition lies outside their own league's championships:  the IIHF Continental Cup, a tournament run in several stages all across the continent to determine the top team in Europe outside the establishment. 

The Continental Cup wasn't always battled amongst the lower leagues.  Slovakian, Finnish, Swiss, German and Russian clubs won the tournament until 2007, when Yunost Minsk of Belarus defeated Avangard Omsk in the final.  With the start of the Champions Hockey League in 2008-09, the Continental Cup became a secondary pursuit, and it's remained that way even with the CHL being on hiatus ever since then.  MHC Martin of Slovakia won the tournament in 2009, but Slovakian clubs didn't participate last year and aren't this year, making it a bit more competitive of a tournament, although the stages are tiered based on the previous year's results.  The results influence the IIHF's rankings of European leagues, which causes some of the inaccuracies that I talked about in the original European Hockey for Dummies article. 

In all, there are 30 leagues of varying significance outside of the main seven, and that's not counting the lower levels of play within those countries.  Some are national leagues that have been around for the better part of a century, others are in countries and regions where hockey is just in its infancy.  Names known in North American minor league circuits pop up and take on big roles in some of these leagues, playing alongside players that represent their nation internationally.  For those players, the exposure of the Continental Cup can be a stepping stone to a contract in one of the higher leagues in Europe, or even the American Hockey League. 

The format of the tournament makes obvious who are the clear favourites to win it all.  The real point of the tournament is to simply go as far as you can, as each level of competition becomes more difficult.  For teams playing in Group A this weekend in Joca, Spain, there have to be tempered expectations about making it to the Super Final...  that in itself would be an amazing achievement.  The teams that make the Super Final in January are limited between last year's winners (Red Bull Salzburg of Austria), the hosts (Yunost Minsk of Belarus), and teams automatically qualified for the Group C stage, AKA the semifinals.  Winning this first stage would be a noteworthy accomplishment for the clubs involved, followed by not being blitzed at the Group B stage and maybe winning a game. 

After the jump, a look at the format of the IIHF Continental Cup and a listing of the rest of the European leagues:

2010 IIHF Continental Cup


Group A Jaca, ESP
Sept 24-26, 2010




SC Energija Elektrenai
 Lt_medium

Latvian Hockey League





Ankara University SK
 Tr_medium
Turkey Ice Hockey Super League




CH Jaca
 Es_medium
Superliga Espanola de Hockey Hielo




Bat Yam HC
 Il_medium
Israel Recreational Hockey Association?


Group B
Tiburg, NED
Oct 22-24, 2010

Group C
Maribor, SLO
Oct. 22-24, 2010
Tiburg Trappers
 Nl_medium
Eredivisie

HDK Maribor
Si_medium
Slohokej Liga
Kohtla-Järve Viru Sputnik Ee_medium Meistriliiga

Dab Dunaujvaros
Hu_medium
OB I. bajnoskág
Cracovia Krakow
Pl_medium
Polska Liga Hokejowa

SC Miercurea Ciuc
Ro_medium
Romanian Hockey League
Winner, Group A



Sary-Arka Karaganda
Kz_medium
Kazakhstani Championship
Group D Rouen, FRA
Nov. 26-28, 2010

Group E
Asiago, ITA
Nov. 26-28, 2010
Rouen Dragons
Fr_medium
Ligue Magnus

HC Asiago
It_medium
Serie A
Coventry Blaze
Gb_medium
Elite Ice Hockey League

SønderjyskE Vojens
Dk_medium
AL-Bank Ligaen
Liepajas Metalurgs
Lv_medium
Latvian Hockey League

Sokol Kyiv
Ua_medium
Ukrainian Hockey League
Winner, Group B



Winner, Group D




Super Final
Minsk, BEL
Jan. 14-16, 2011




Yunost Minsk
By_medium
Belarusian Extraleague




Red Bull Salzburg
At_medium
Erste Bank Eishockey Liga




Winner Group D






Winner Group E




 

If you're asking for my best uneducated guess, I'll pick the following winners.  I like Energija to win Group A fairly easily, they've been a team in the Latvian league in the past and are semi-professional.  I'm actually not sure where they're playing this season, I can't seem to find that out, as they are no longer in the Latvian league (EDIT:  they do appear to be back in the Latvian league after some confusion).  I think they'll be competitive in Group B, and could potentially take that group, but I'll take the Polish team, Cracovia Krakow, who were  in the semifinal group stage last year.  Group C should come down between the Kazakhstani team and the hosts, and I'll take HDK Maribor to advance.  French teams have done well at this tournament, largely due to hosting the stages, including the final, and I'll take the Dragons de Rouen to win Group D and make the Super Final.  In Group E, we have a new entry in the Danish side, which didn't participate last year.  Really, anyone can win that group and it might be the most competitive of the whole tournament.  I'll take Sokol Kyiv to return to the Super Final, where they placed 3rd last year.  In the end, I think the hosts Yunost Minsk will take their second Continental Cup...  they're the best team in the toughest league of the group, although Red Bull Salzburg has some interesting imports that might carry the day like last year. 

The tournament is a diversion from each team's league play, so it provides a nice break for us casual observers to stop in and see how the rest of Europe is holding up.  This weekend offers us the lowest levels of play, but some of hockey's most interesting outposts.  We see true amateur teams competing against semi-professional ranks, and we end with teams whose players are decently paid.  That variety, as much as the multicultural aspects, make this tournament unique in the hockey world.

And now, a summary of the leagues these teams come from, plus a few other leagues:

League
Countries
Teams
Est.
2010 Champion
IIHF Euro Rank (2008)
AL-Bank Ligaen
  Dk_medium
8
1954
SønderjyskE
10
Armenian Hockey League
Am_medium
N/A
2000
Uratu Yerevan
-
Belarusian Extraleague
By_medium Lv_medium Ua_medium
12
1992
Yunost Minsk
8
Belgian Hockey League
Be_medium
13
1912
HYC Herentals
-
BiH Hockey League
Ba_medium
3
2002
HK Stari Grad
-
Bulgarian Hockey League
Bg_medium
8
1952
HC Slavia Sofia
27
Croatian Ice Hockey League
Hr_medium
4
1992
KHL Medvescek
24
Elite Ice Hockey League
Gb_medium
10
2003
Belfast Giants
21
Eredivisie
Nl_medium
8
1945
Romijnders Devils Nijmegen
19
Erste Bank Eishockey Liga
At_medium Si_medium Hu_medium Hr_medium
10
1923
Red Bull Salzburg
11
GET-ligaen
No_medium 10
1935
Stavanger Oilers
13
Greece Ice Hockey Championship
Gr_medium
7
1989
Iptamenol Pagodromol Athens
-
Icelandic Hockey League
Is_medium
4
1991
Skautafélag Reykjavíkur
-
Irish Ice Hockey League
Ie_medium Gb_medium
6
2007
Dundalk Bulls
-
Israel Recreational Hockey Association
Il_medium Ca_medium Us_medium Europeanunion_medium
N/A
1989
?
30
Kazakhstani Championship
Kz_medium
7
1992
Sary-Arka Karaganda
12
Latvian Hockey League
Lv_medium
6
1931
HK Liepäjas Metalurgs
9
Ligue Magnus
Fr_medium
14
1907
Dragons de Rouen
14
Lithuania Hockey League
Lt_medium
10
1991
Sporto Centras Elektrenai
23
Meistriliiga
Ee_medium
6
1991
Kohtla-Järve Viru Sputnik
26
MOL Liga
Hu_medium Ro_medium
9
2008
Budapest Stars
-
OB I. bajnoskág
Hu_medium 6
1937
Alba Volán Székesfehévár
17
Polska Liga Hokejowa
Pl_medium
11
1955
Podhale Nowy Targ
18
Romanian Hockey League
Ro_medium 6
1924
SC Miercurea Cluc
22
Serbian Hockey League
Rs_medium
4
1991
HK Partizan
25
Serie A
It_medium
9
1924
HC Asiago
16
Slohokej Liga
Si_medium Hr_medium At_medium Rs_medium  10
2009
HDK Stavbar Maribor
15
Superliga Espanola de Hockey Heilo
Es_medium
5
1973
CH Jaca
28
Turkey Ice Hockey Super League
Tr_medium
6
1993
Ankara University SK
29
Ukrainian Hockey League
Ua_medium
15
1992
Sokol Kyiv
20

 

If I've missed something, let me know.  I'll add info here at the bottom.

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