If you’re a fan of European soccer you know that each country has their respective leagues. For example, England has the Premier League, Germany has the Bundesliga, Spain has La Liga and Italy has Serie A. All of them compete to be the top team in their league. But in European soccer, earning that top spot comes with a little bit more. Finishing in the top handful of spots in the league earns you a spot in the Champions League, where all of the best European teams fight for the chance to call themselves the best.
Well, what if I told you, that hockey has a very similar tournament in Europe? In fact, it’s very creatively named the Champions Hockey League. The Champions Hockey League begins August 26th and runs to the beginning of February before deciding who reigns supreme.
As we wait for the ECHL season to start in late October, the Champions Hockey League gives us the chance to watch some early and very competitive hockey. To top it off, five former Indy Fuel players will be suiting up in the tournament.
After playing four seasons with the Rockford IceHogs, goaltender Matt Tomkins took his talents to Gothenburg, Sweden where he joined the four-time Champions Hockey League Winners Frolunda Indians. Tomkins is no stranger to the European atmosphere having played for Team Canada during the 2019-20 Spengler Cup. With 36 AHL games under his belt and having earned a 3.35 goals-against average and .896 save percentage, Frolunda will be relying on Tomkins to lead his team to a fifth title.
After being traded to the Vegas Golden Knights for Vezina Trophy Winner Marc-Andre Fluery, Hakkarainen has had a wild 2021 offseason. With the Golden Knights telling Hakkarainen he’d be staying in Rockford this season where he only played six games, the Helsinki, Finland native decided to return to his native country and join TPS Turku.
Kozun spent parts of last season with six different ECHL teams, playing one game for the Fuel. Looking for more stability in his hockey career, Kozun signed with the Cardiff Devils in the UK’s EIHL. he will be splitting the time in net with former Indy Fuel goaltender Mac Carruth.
After playing for the Fuel in 2015-16, Schneider spent two more seasons in the ECHL before heading overseas and earning the chance to play for the Austrian National Team. Since then, Scheider has spent time in Austria, Norway and the Czech Republic. This season, Schneider returned to his native country of Austria and signed with Red Bull Salzburg. Red Bull has played in the Champions Hockey League five times and has made it as far as the semi-finals. With international experience, Schneider will feel right at home when competing for Europe’s top prize.
Carruth is one of the few players from the inaugural Indy Fuel team that is still continuing their hockey career. Having spent the past four seasons in Germany and Hungary, Carruth joined the Cardiff Devils as their likely starting goaltender. Over his past four seasons in Europe, Carruth has put up a 2.99 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage over 135 total games. As the veteran in the room, Cardiff will be looking for Carruth to help a team that will be the underdog in their group.
Where do I watch?
The NHL Network picks up select games throughout the Champions Hockey League season. However, if the games aren’t being shown on NHL Network, those games are available on the Champions Hockey League Website and App.