What Is The Challenge Cup In Hockey?
The Challenge Cup is a hockey tournament organized by the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL), the United Kingdom's professional ice hockey league. The Challenge Cup is one of three competitions organized by the EIHL annually, each one following a different format, which makes it very exciting.
Challenge Cup History
The Challenge Cup first came into existence during the 1997-1998 season; however, the format has undergone a wide variety of changes since its establishment. Most notably, the Challenge Cup has been a fixture within both the Super League (1997-2003) and Elite League (2003-Present). During the Challenge Cup’s time in the Super League, single games were the format used to decide the final. Meanwhile, the Challenge Cup’s first 11 years in the Elite League utilized a format that featured two legs in the finals. This two-leg format was used until the 2014-2015 season, when the format was reverted back to the current one-game format.
Challenge Cup Format
The Challenge Cup uses a unique format compared to other hockey tournaments around the world. This tournament consists of a group stage, quarter-final round, semi-final round, and final game, all described below.
The Challenge Cup starts with nine EIHL teams divided into three groups of three teams. Each team will play each other twice at home and twice on the road. During the group stage, teams are awarded two points in the standings for a win, one point for an overtime loss, and no points for a regulation loss.
After all group stage games have been played, the three group winners automatically advance to the quarter-finals as the 1-3 seeds, based on points. The next five teams with the most points, regardless of group, will also advance to the quarter-finals as the 4-8 seeds. The quarter-finals are played in a two-leg format, one home game and one away. The winners by aggregate score will advance to the semi-finals. The matchups for the quarter-finals are as follows:
- 1 seed vs. 8 seed
- 2 seed vs. 7 seed
- 3 seed vs. 6 seed
- 4 seed vs. 5 seed
In the semis, teams are re-seeded, meaning the highest-ranked team will play the lowest-ranked team and play, and the remaining two teams will play each other. The semi-finals are a two-game series, just like in the quarter-finals.
The Challenge Cup Final is a single game played on neutral ground, where the winner gets to raise the challenge cup trophy.
List of Challenge Cup Winners
|Nottingham Panthers||8||2003–04, 2007–08, 2009–10, 2010–11, 2011–12, 2012–13, 2013–14, 2015–16|
|Sheffield Steelers||5||1998–99, 1999–00, 2000–01, 2002–03, 2019–20|
|Belfast Giants||4||2008–09, 2017–18, 2018–19, 2021–22|
|Cardiff Devils||3||2005–06, 2014–15, 2016–17|
|Ayr Scottish Eagles||2||1997–98, 2001–02|
|Coventry Blaze||2||2004–05, 2006–07|