With each passing year, the Elite League is giving its fans a fair share of thrill. Be it the players giving literal meaning to war on the ground or Giants finding themselves in a miraculous scenario of making it to the Champions Hockey League, it is safe to say that the fun doesn’t leave the game after the final blow on the whistle.
Even the league competition is closely competitive this year with a mere one-point difference between Cardiff Devils and Belfast Giants— it’s surely going to give one roller coaster ride to the fans and to the punters who fancy betting on sports—which you can find here if you’re one.
Speaking about the latter, this season typically has given them a lot to fancy their wagers on and the unpredictability of the season has made things only tricky for the punters. Nonetheless, the excitement in the betting domain or the fantasy one has been intact and it might end up being a season that they’ll remember for ages.
And it’s pretty obvious to be fair; betting gets easy when there’s an obvious winner in the race. But this time, the league is making you scratch your head a lot before placing each bet. From the entertaining perspective, it’s been fantastic. But it’s safe to say that this isn’t something the punters enjoy a lot—as a competition like this only makes life more difficult.
If you’re a fan of ice hockey in the UK, you’re going to have the luxury of watching some of the teams produce the utmost level of competition this year. It’s been the season for Devils and the Giants, but it’s the latter who’d be having the glamour of a brand-new experience this year as they’re about to usher into a greatly revered competition across Europe.
Addressing the elephant in the room, if you didn’t know yet, the Belfast Giants have accepted the invitation to play in the Champions Hockey League this year for the first time. If you’re a fresh fan, the competition has a similar prestige as the UEFA Champions League holds in the game of football—giving its reference because it is the most popular sport in the world.
What to expect from the competition?
To put more light onto the highly coveted competition, each year teams from different parts of Europe where Ice Hockey is prevalent —like the Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland, etc.— lock horns for the esteemed glory. In the British league, Cardiff Devils have been representing the competition.
The defending champions would be Sweden’s very famous Frolunda Indians who were crowned as Champions for the third team after making Red Bull Munich bite the dust in a close tie.
The competition manifests top-notch quality of the game with one of the best talents across the world making their way to the centre stage. Clubs often reap the benefits of being in the competition to showcase their ambitions and attract top talents to their team in order to bolster their squads. One of the examples of something similar to that is from the British League is Cardiff, who participated in the competition last few years were able to scout and attract three great players this season that belong to superior leagues—Mike Hedden (DEL), Charles Linglet (KHL) and Ben Blood (Liiga)— to their team. Giants who are getting this opportunity for the first time would fancy doing something similar to their league rivals this year.
For the group stages, the draw would take place in the month of May while the competition will get started in the month of August.
How did Giants get the invitation?
If we go by the rules, Giants might have missed the golden ticket for this year. Because usually the final spot for the Competition is given to the champions of Continental Cup of the preceding year. Giants tasted defeat in the final against the Arlan Kokshetau in penalty shots of the final.
Although the Giants’ glorious climb was one step short of the glory, it turned out that they had lady luck on their side and managed to salvage something from the defeat. As the crowned winners were ineligible to take part in this year’s competition, the spot was ultimately given to the runners up who managed to impress the IIHF officials by hosting both the semis and finals of the competition. The decision to accept the invitation must have been a no-brainer for the British Club.
This is what chief executive of CHL had to say about the situation, “Belfast only missed the qualification at the Continental Cup by one shot in a penalty shoot-out in the decisive game against the winners, and showed that they are as competitive as Arlan.”
“Furthermore, teams from the UK have proved in previous seasons that they are ready to compete with the bigger hockey nations and also that their fans are very enthusiastic about the Champions Hockey League.
“That’s why we are happy to invite Belfast to our competition, even though they slightly missed out on the win at their very well-organised home tournament.”
Fun fact: Giant’s first season in CHL coincides with the club’s 20th anniversary season.
The chief executive of the Odyssey trust had nothing but praise for the fresh participants in the competition, in an interview he said, “This is a proud moment for our organisation following the team’s superb achievements in the Continental Cup.”
“This is a proud moment for our organisation following the team’s superb achievements in the Continental Cup,” added Robert Fitzpatrick
What to expect from the Giants?
It’s a big competition and Giants are in ‘the new-boy in the school’ situation. Although their efforts have earned them the spot, it is anticipated that the team’s chances of progressing beyond the group stages are very slim. However, the team is surely going to get the opulence of competing with a top side as they will be facing at least one of the elite sides of the European Leagues.
It’s clearly not a mission impossible for Belfast Giants, but their fans wouldn’t be very surprised if the club doesn’t promote to the further stages of the competition.
Nonetheless, the future of the club looks rosier as they’re still in for the fight for the league title and possible spot in the CHL next season. They are only one point behind the Cardiff Devils and if they keep their heads in the right place and manage to get their momentum going till the end of the season, they might clinch the title with another year in the European tie.
It’s an exciting time to be a Belfast Giants fan as they have a lot of ecstasy at their disposal this season. Only time will tell the rest of the story.