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Champions Hockey League cancels season because of pandemic

Champions Hockey League

BIEL, SWITZERLAND - DECEMBER 10: #81 Ryan Lasch of Frolunda HF in action during the second quarter-finals game between EHC Biel-Bienne and Frolunda Indians at Tissot-Arena on December 10, 2019 in Biel, Switzerland. (Photo by RvS.Media/Basile Barbey/Getty Images)

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ZUG, Switzerland -- The Champions Hockey League, one of Europe’s leading ice hockey competitions, canceled its 2020-21 season Tuesday because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The CHL was due to begin next month in an already shortened format with a knockout bracket and no round-robin.

League CEO Martin Baumann said the board decided Tuesday to cancel because of quarantine rules for international travelers and the recent rise in coronavirus cases across Europe.

“Travel restrictions between participating countries were a big issue and even if many of them could have been potentially solved by receiving special permits from authorities, a lot of uncertainty and risks remained _ especially as the epidemiological situation across Europe is currently worsening from day to day,’' he said in a statement. “As of today, I’m convinced that we’ll be back in 2021-22 better than ever. But of course, no one can tell what COVID-19 brings. If the pandemic still affects ice hockey and the global economics a year from now, not only the CHL will be facing serious problems,’' he said.

Baumann said that as many as 12 first-round matchups could have been disrupted by travel restrictions.

European soccer has forged ahead with its Champions League and other international events. However, that’s been helped by costly protective measures like the widespread use of charter flights, something Baumann said wasn’t affordable for hockey. Many countries also have looser restrictions on hosting outdoor sports than for indoor sports.

Baumann argued the CHL couldn’t use a centralized “bubble’’ format, with all games in one location, because its teams also have to play regularly in their national leagues.

The CHL was due to include 31 teams from 12 countries this season after Cardiff Devils withdrew when the British national league was suspended. Clubs from Sweden, Finland, Germany, Switzerland and the Czech Republic have historically been the most successful in the CHL format since the competition began play in 2014.