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From Nordic Trophy to Nordic League?

Swedish and Finnish teams are planning to create a new league in Scandinavia.

story by Timo Savela

This summer some Finnish and Swedish teams have discussed the possibility of forming a new Nordic League, which would consist of both Finnish and Swedish teams. Finnish newspaper Keskisuomalainen reported that the Finnish teams interested in the Nordic League are Helsingin IFK, Helsingin Jokerit, Oulun Kärpät, Turun Palloseura and Tampereen Tappara. It also named the Swedish teams that are interested in forming a new league: HV 71, Djurgårdens IF, Frölunda HC, Linköpings HC and Färjestads BK. It remains open whether any teams from Norway or Denmark will be invited to the discussions.

Why are the Finnish and Swedish teams planning a new multinational league? Bo Lennartsson, Färjestads BK's Director of Development, states that the teams are looking into their options due to economic pressure. He states that the teams also fear of turning into developmental teams of developmental leagues, while the NHL and the newly formed KHL function as proper hockey leagues.

Keskisuomalainen has contacted some of the General Managers of Finnish SM-Liiga teams with mixed replies. On one hand, the General Managers of both Helsingin IFK and Oulun Kärpät replied that they do not have any concrete plans at the moment. On the other hand, Jukka Seppänen, the GM of JYP, replied that his team has no interest in a new league and that JYP supports SM-Liiga.

Kalervo Kummola, the Vice President of IIHF and the president of the Finnish Ice Hockey Association, claims that the plan is doomed and that IIHF would ban the member teams from international competitions.

Ari Mennander, the executive producer of the Finnish national broadcasting corporation YLE, indicates that SM-Liiga has split into different factions. The first faction consists of the original Finnish member teams of the Nordic Trophy: Helsingin IFK, Oulun Kärpät, Tampereen Tappara and Turun Palloseura. These teams have not signed membership renewals with the SM-Liiga, nor have they indicated whether they plan to renew their memberships. The second faction is Helsingin Jokerit, which was invited to take part in the Nordic Trophy tournament. Jokerit has not been in serious talks with the other members of the Nordic Trophy. However, the team is not happy with the current situation and willing to develop new ideas. The third faction consists of the rest of the SM-Liiga teams, which have not been invited to participate in the discussions regarding the fate of hockey in Scandinavia. The members of the third faction support a solely Finnish league, the Finnish SM-Liiga, and the Finnish Ice Hockey Association. In other words they support Kummola and are not willing to upset him, although Kummola does not actually have any direct of control over SM-Liiga.

One thing is clear: it is speculative whether a Nordic League will be formed in the near future. However, the possibility of this happening is now probably the highest as NHL and KHL teams pump more money into luring players. The sheer economic pressure is forcing the Scandinavian teams to weigh their options. A new cross league between the Finnish and Swedish top teams might get more media attention, more big sponsors and a better television contract, but what will the fans do? Will the average fan in Karlstad be interested in attending match against Oulun Kärpät or Tampereen Tappara instead of a local Swedish team. The same question is important in both countries. Will new sponsors keep supporting the league if no one will see their advertisements?

Story added on 10th August 2008 at 09:59 GMT
Story submitted by: Alessandro Seren Rosso.

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