Czech ice hockey’s national association has escalated its battle with local top clubs by saying it will organize the top league competition next season without an agreement with the top clubs. At the same time it has approval a new club setting up in Prague and playing in the mainly Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).
Both decisions taken on Thursday by the executive committee of the Czech Ice Hockey Association (ČSLH) should heighten tensions between top league teams and their body, the Czech Association of Professional Ice Hockey Clubs (APK LH).
The two bodies have been at loggerheads since the end of 2011 over a new contract between them over the running of the top Extraliga competition to take over one that expires at the end of May. The APK LH gave notice in December that it would be seeking a new deal. It later put forward a new agreement, but that was rejected by the national association — which said it conflicted with International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) rules.
“From June 1, the management of the Extraliga will come to the association, which will organize the 2012-2013 season,” said ČSLH president Tomáš Král. He added that it was the intention of the top clubs to close the top Czech league, meaning that no clubs would be relegated from it and none promoted from the second division. This, Král said, was unacceptable to the national and international associations.
The second decision allows HC Lev club, which already plays in the KHL, to move sticks from the Slovak town of Poprad to Prague and play in the capital’s O2 Arena represents another blow for the Czech clubs.
The KHL competition, regarded as the best in Europe and featuring many Czech star players, could draw ice hockey fans and sponsorship from the Czech Extraliga competition. The ČSLH has now paved the way for the Prague transfer by allowing HC Lev to register as a Czech club. An initial attempt by HC Lev to site itself in the Czech Republic was made in 2010 but turned down them by the ČSLH.