Redhawks & Brynas proud to make CHL
The Malmo Redhawks and Brynas Gavle have eached qualified for the Champions Hockey League for the first time, and their respective general managers feel that it's a significant accomplishment for their clubs.
by Derek O'Brien
In each of the first three CHL seasons, Sweden was represented by the same eight teams. In 2017-18, however, there will be two newcomers. By advancing to the SHL semi-finals, Brynas Gavle and the Malmo Redhawks will be among the 32 teams competing for the European club championship.
While the main focus of the two clubs right now is advancing to the SHL Finals and competing for the national title, they both nonetheless acknowledge the significance of their accomplishment.
“Making the CHL group stage is another reflection of the fact that we've been doing lots of good things this season and we're looking forward to participating,” said Malmo general manager Patrick Sylvegard.
A former player himself, Sylvegard spent most of his career in Malmo. He's the club's all-time leader in goals, had his number 18 retired, and helped the team advance from Division 1 to the top Swedish pro league in 1990. The team then quickly rose in the league, winning two titles within four years of promotion and the European Cup in 1992-93. Now as a GM he's trying to do the same thing – just two years after promotion the Redhawks are one of the last four SHL teams standing and have earned a chance to prove themselves on the European stage.
Meanwhile, further north in Gavle, Brynas general manager Stefan Bengtzen is equally pleased.
“The fact that we have now qualified for the CHL is a sign that we are one of the top hockey associations in Sweden,” said Bengtzen. “Getting the chance to come to Europe and to measure our performance against other top teams is very inspiring and challenging. Now, together with our fans, we must show that Brynas IF belongs in the CHL and in a positive way work in order to increase the popularity of the league.”
The year that Malmo competed in the European Cup, Brynas won the Swedish title and played for the European championship the following season, where they finished third. Since then, they have won two more national titles – 13 overall – and now they're looking for another.
“As one Sweden’s strongest sports brands and most successful hockey clubs, we want to be a central part of the ongoing internationalization and development of the CHL,” said Johan Cahling, vice-CEO. “As the world's first hockey association that collaborates with UNICEF, it also fits our business and social strategy well.”
The SHL semi-finals are currently in progress, with Brynas facing CHL champions Frolunda Gothenburg and Malmo taking on HV71 Jonkoping. All four of those teams will play in next season's CHL, as will the Vaxjo Lakers – the team that finished first place in the regular season standings before behing ousted by the Redhawks in the quarter-finals.