The cards are on the table, Sparta’s group stage opponents in the upcoming instalment of the Champions Hockey League have been revealed! The club will kick off its fourth journey through the prestigious European competition with challenging games against Turku, Växjö and Bremerhaven.
After last year’s tournament was scrapped due to coronavirus prevention measures, the CHL will return to its traditional format for the upcoming season. First, all 32 competing teams will be divided into eight groups, with the top two teams from each advancing into the play-offs. The start is scheduled for late August and the knockout phase will begin in mid-November.
Group stage: Swedish champs, ex-Spartans
TPS Turku has qualified for the competition after placing third in the Liiga regular season last year. It then defeated Lahti and HIFK to reach the finals, only to drop the series for the title against Lukko 1–3. In the past, the club won eleven national championship, adding the thus far final notch on its belt in 2010.
Växjö Lakers, on the other hand, went all the way and captured their third Le Mat Trophy in seven years on the route to secure their sixth Champions League appearance. The experienced team will no doubt provide a difficult challenge for Sparta, but not an impossible one. After all, the Prague club managed to defeat the Swedish behemoth several times in the past, specifically during their 2014/15 and 2016/17 European campaigns.
Rounding our list off are the underdogs of the group, the Fischtown Penguins. The team from Bremerhaven will make its CHL debut this August, mere five years after climbing to the top of the German hockey pyramid. Last season, the club made it to the second spot of the northern group of the DEL, a feat made possible thanks in part to solid performances by several ex-Sparta players – namely Dominik Uher, Vladimír Eminger and Tomáš Pöpperle.