The Euro Hockey Challenge will return with a new, shorter format in 2019, with national teams preparing for the 2019 World Championship in Bratislava and Košice, Slovakia this May.
The 2019 tournament will comprise of yet another format, this time only being broken into three legs of two games apiece. Additionally, the twelve teams will be split into three groups, each playing each other once – a Nordic group of Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark, a second group made up of Czechia, Slovakia, Germany and Austria, and a third and final group of Russia, Switzerland, Latvia and France.
The final weekend before the Worlds, which in the past has featured the non-Euro Hockey Tour final eight teams playing each other while the final leg of the EHT is underway, will still feature the Tour’s Carlson Hockey Games (featuring Russia, Czechia, Sweden and Finland), but the other eight teams will not be playing in the Euro Hockey Challenge. Some have two-game sets against other EHC opponents, some will stagger their group play to the final leg (such as Switzerland and Latvia), while some, such as Austria and Slovakia, will play just one European game before playing the USA and Canada, respectively.
This means that the winner of the Euro Hockey Challenge will not be tied to the Euro Hockey Tour any longer, and will be determined this year before the Euro Hockey Tour winner is crowned; this time, the winner will be known a week after the Challenge is over at the end of April. However, like last year’s dual-winner Finland, it is still possible for the same country to win both tournaments. All 12 teams from last year’s tournament will return, with the only European non-participants in this year’s Worlds being the newly-promoted Italy and Great Britain.
Schedules for the 2019 Euro Hockey Challenge are as follows (with dates and locations updated as they are confirmed), with IHLC games marked in bold:
First Leg, 8 – 14 April
🇨🇿 Czechia vs. Austria 🇦🇹 (10 Apr @ Znojmo 🇨🇿, 13 Apr @ Linz 🇦🇹)
🇫🇮 Finland @ Denmark 🇩🇰 (11 Apr @ Aalborg, 13 Apr @ Vojens)
🇳🇴 Norway @ Sweden 🇸🇪 (11 and 13 Apr @ Östersund)
🇷🇺 Russia @ France 🇫🇷 (12 Apr @ Rouen, 13 Apr @ Cergy-Pontoise)
🇸🇰 Slovakia @ Germany 🇩🇪 (11 Apr @ Kaufbeuren, 13 Apr @ Garmisch-Partenkirchen)
Second Leg, 15 – 21 April
🇩🇪 Germany @ Czechia 🇨🇿 (17 and 18 Apr @ Karlovy Vary)
🇱🇻 Latvia @ France 🇫🇷 (19 Apr @ Méribel, 21 Apr @ Grenoble)
🇳🇴 Norway @ Finland 🇫🇮 (18 Apr @ Rovaniemi, 19 Apr @ Kokkola)
🇸🇰 Slovakia @ Austria 🇦🇹 (19 Apr @ Salzburg, 21 Apr @ Innsbruck)
🇸🇪 Sweden @ Denmark 🇩🇰 (17 Apr @ Rødovre, 18 Apr @ Odense)
🇨🇭 Switzerland @ Russia 🇷🇺 (18 and 20 Apr @ Sochi)
Third Leg, 22 – 28 April
🇦🇹 Austria @ Germany 🇩🇪 (25 Apr @ Regensburg, 27 Apr @ Deggendorf)
🇨🇿 Czechia @ Slovakia 🇸🇰 (26 Apr @ Trenčín, 27 Apr @ Nitra)
🇩🇰 Denmark @ Norway 🇳🇴 (25 and 27 Apr @ Lørenskog)
🇫🇷 France @ Switzerland 🇨🇭 (26 and 27 Apr @ Geneva)
🇷🇺 Russia @ Latvia 🇱🇻 (26 and 27 Apr @ Rīga)
🇸🇪 Sweden @ Finland 🇫🇮 (25 Apr @ Kouvola, 26 Apr @ Helsinki)
additional confirmed exhibition games, 29 April – 7 May
🇫🇮 Finland, 🇷🇺 Russia and 🇸🇪 Sweden @ Czechia 🇨🇿 (Carlson Hockey Games, 2-5 May @ Brno)
🇩🇰 Denmark @ Austria 🇦🇹 (5 May @ Vienna)
🇱🇻 Latvia @ Switzerland 🇨🇭 (2 and 4 May @ Weinfelden)
🇳🇴 Norway @ Slovakia 🇸🇰 (7 May @ Poprad)
The winner of February’s Beijer Hockey Games should be the incumbents leading into the 2019 Challenge, and right now Russia holds the belt heading into February, making the IHLC all but guaranteed to finish the Euro Hockey Challenge. Wherever it lands following the Challenge, whether at the Carlson Hockey Games or an alternate route, there will certainly be a lot of action for the IHLC before the World Championships begin in May.