Hockey bodies overcome cash problems, agree to relaunch European club event

ZURICH, Switzerland – The International Ice Hockey Federation agreed with seven European countries to relaunch the Champions Hockey League next year.

The annual tournament was cancelled in June because of financial problems after main sponsor Gazprom, the Russian energy supplier, dropped out.

The IIHF said it has started looking for new investors after agreeing to a relaunch with leagues in the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland.

“We are all in it together now,” IIHF president Rene Fasel said in a statement Wednesday. “The IIHF, the national associations and the leagues have agreed to settle our differences and the common objective is to focus on a successful restart of the league.”

Compensation will be paid to 12 clubs which had qualified for this season’s cancelled event.

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The new format will be announced later, including the number of teams which will qualify for the anticipated start around September 2010.

The CHL began play a year ago with 10 million euros in prize money. It was won by Swiss club Zurich Lions, which beat Metallurg Magnitogorsk of Russia in a two-leg final last January.

The victory earned Zurich a place in the annual Victoria Cup match against a visiting NHL team. It beat the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 in Zurich last month.

The IIHF hoped to get backing from the NHL and expand the league to 29 teams from 22 countries in the current season. Those plans were scaled back and then dropped because of the global financial crisis.