After two seasons of a consistent format, the Euro Hockey Challenge has undergone yet another change for the 2017 iteration, leading up to the IIHF World Championships the following month in Cologne and Paris.
Unlike the previous seasons, the Euro Hockey Tour component, comprising of Finland, Sweden, Russia and Czechia will change, as they will no longer play any competition games during the first leg. Instead, the 2017 Carlson Hockey Games tournament will make up the final leg of the tournament for these teams, with the final game of February’s Sweden Hockey Games accounting for the eighth game for each team in the standings.
All 12 teams from last year’s EHC will join and play two-game sets per leg (with the exception of the teams noted above), the only European non-participants in this year’s World Championships being Slovenia and Italy. Finland enters the tournament as the incumbent champions, seeking their third Challenge championship since the tournament’s formation in 2011. Only Finland (2011, 2016), Czechia (2012, 2015) and Sweden (2013, 2014) have ever won the Challenge.
The IHLC will make a return to the Euro Hockey Challenge after missing last year’s tournament, as Canada held the title in the lead-up to the World Championships. As one of Switzerland, Belarus or Slovakia will hold the title by the first leg of the tournament, the first IHLC game during the Challenge is guaranteed to be held for the first time since Apr. 25, 2015.
Schedules for the 2017 Euro Hockey Challenge are as follows, with IHLC series bolded:
First Leg, April 5-9
Czechia @ Russia (Feb. 12 @ Göteborg, Sweden Hockey Games)
Finland @ Sweden (Feb. 12 @ Göteborg, Sweden Hockey Games)
Germany @ Norway (Apr. 6 and 7 @ Lillehammer)
Slovakia @ Denmark (Apr. 6 @ Odense, Apr. 8 @ Aalborg)
Belarus @ Latvia (Apr. 7 and 8 @ Daugavpils)
Switzerland @ France (Apr. 8 @ Amiens, Apr. 9 @ Cergy-Pontoise)
Second Leg, April 12-16
Norway @ Czechia (Apr. 12 and 13 @ Chomutov)
Denmark @ Finland (Apr. 13 @ Mikkeli, Apr. 15 @ Lappeenranta)
France @ Russia (Apr. 13 and 15 @ Chelyabinsk)
Switzerland @ Slovakia (Apr. 13 @ Trenčín, Apr. 15 @ Žilina)
Germany @ Belarus (Apr. 14 @ Zhlobin, Apr. 15 @ Bobrusk)
Latvia @ Sweden (Apr. 14 and 15 @ Södertälje)
Third Leg, April 19-23
Finland @ Slovakia (Apr. 19 @ Košice, Apr. 21 @ Bratislava)
Norway @ Denmark (Apr. 20 @ Vojens, Apr. 22 @ Rungsted)
France @ Latvia (Apr. 21 and 22 @ Rīga)
Russia @ Switzerland (Apr. 21 @ Fribourg, Apr. 22 @ Biel)
Sweden @ Belarus (Apr. 21 and 22 @ Grodno)
Czechia @ Germany (Apr. 22 @ Nuremburg, Apr. 23 @ Mannheim)
Fourth Leg, April 26-30
Finland, Russia and Sweden @ Czechia (Carlson Hockey Games, Apr. 27-30 @ České Budějovice)
Denmark @ Switzerland (Apr. 26 @ La Chaux-de-Fonds, Apr. 28 @ Basel)
Slovakia @ Norway (Apr. 28 and 29 @ Hamar)
Belarus @ France (Apr. 30 and May 1 @ Bordeaux)
Latvia @ Germany (Apr. 30 @ Bietigheim-Bissingen, May 1 @ Ravensburg)
There are a number of potential scenarios for how the International Hockey Lineal Championship can land at the First Leg of the challenge, with Latvia, Denmark or France potentially hosting an IHLC matchup. The picture will become clear following the Slovakia Cup next month, with a number of exciting possibilities for the IHLC possible leading up to the Worlds!