The Euro Hockey Challenge will return in the lead-up to the 2018 World Championships this season, with yet another scheduling reformat thanks to the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, with national teams fine-tuning their rosters before heading to Copenhagen and Herning.
Like in 2017, the Carlson Hockey Games will become part of the Challenge, with the Euro Hockey Tour teams Sweden, Finland, Czechia and 2017 champions Russia playing their Tour games as part of the Challenge, but now a second EHT competition will join the fray, with the Sweden Hockey Games, normally held in February but postponed due to the Olympics, comprising the fourth leg of the Challenge for these four nations.
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-participant in this year’s World Championships being Austria. Switzerland enters the tournament as the incumbent champions, seeking their second straight title; will the title return to one of the previous winners (as only Czechia, Finland and Sweden have won prior), or will a new champion emerge from the field?
Schedules for the 2018 Euro Hockey Challenge are as follows (with dates and locations updated as received), with IHLC games marked in bold:
First Leg, April 4-8
Belarus @ Finland (Apr. 4 @ Turku, Apr. 5 @ Hämeenlinna)
Denmark @ France (Apr. 6 and 7 @ Grenoble)
Germany @ Russia (Apr. 6 and 7 @ Sochi)
Latvia @ Norway (Apr. 6 and 7 @ Halden)
Slovakia @ Sweden (Apr. 5 @ Norrköping, Apr. 6 @ Oskarshamn)
Switzerland @ Czechia (Apr. 4 and 5 @ Příbram)
Second Leg, April 12-16
Belarus @ Switzerland (Apr. 13 @ La Chaux-de-Fonds, Apr. 14 @ Lausanne)
Czechia @ France (Apr. 12 @ Cergy-Pontoise, Apr. 15 @ Amiens)
Finland @ Latvia (Apr. 11 and 12 @ Rīga)
Russia @ Norway (Apr. 14. and 15 @ Gjøvik)
Slovakia @ Germany (Apr. 14 @ Weißwasser, Apr. 15 @ Dresden)
Sweden @ Denmark (Apr. 12 @ Rungsted, Apr. 14 @ Rødovre)
Third Leg, April 19-23
Finland, Russia and Sweden @ Czechia (Carlson Hockey Games, Apr. 19-22 @ Pardubice)
Denmark @ Belarus (Apr. 20 and 21 @ Grodno)
France @ Germany (Apr. 19 @ Wolfsburg, Apr. 21 @ Berlin)
Latvia @ Slovakia (Apr. 20 @ Michalovce, Apr. 21 @ Poprad)
Norway @ Switzerland (Apr. 20 @ Langenthal, Apr. 21 @ Biasca)
Fourth Leg, April 26-30
Czechia, Finland and Russia @ Sweden (Sweden Hockey Games, Apr. 26-29 @ Södertälje and Stockholm)
France @ Slovakia (Apr. 27 @ Nitra, Apr. 28 @ Piešťany)
Germany @ Denmark (Apr. 25 @ Vojens)
Switzerland @ Latvia (Apr. 26 and 27 @ Rīga)
Norway @ Belarus (Apr. 27 and 28 @ Babruysk)
Whether the IHLC will join the Euro Hockey Challenge, and whichever team it may come to the Challenge with, will be determined following the Pyeongchang Games, as the IHLC will likely follow the Gold Medal winners in Korea (although history has shown a few exceptions to this rule), meaning the defending champions will have a lot of momentum heading into April, looking to continue that momentum into the World Championships the next month.