The Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL) and the New Zealand Ice Hockey League (NZIHL) have agreed in principle to join forces for an annual Trans-Tasman Champions League (TTCL) beginning in 2012.
The inaugural TTCL series will be held in Australia, and the series will shift to New Zealand in 2013.
The TTCL series will involve two teams from each league; The Minor Premiers and the Champions. If the Minor Premiers are the Champions then the grand final runner-up will become the other team to play.
Each team will play each other once and the winner will be determined by which team finishes on top of the round-robin standings.
After meeting with Gunther Birgel, General Manager of the NZIHL, last week, AIHL Chairman Tyler Lovering was extremely excited about the future of the tournament, plus the NZIHL's (with the support of the New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation) have not ruled out the prospect of New Zealand based teams joining the AIHL within the next three years.
“There are still a few details to work out with this exciting news,” explained Lovering, “But we are committed to making it happen and grow our great sport within our countries.”
The NZIHL has five teams, Auckland Admirals, Botany Swarm, Canterbury Red Devils, Dunedin Thunder, and the Southern Stampede.
The AIHL currently has eight teams, Adelaide Adrenaline, Canberra Knights, Gold Coast Blue Tongues, Melbourne Ice, Mustangs, Newcastle North Stars, Sydney Bears, and the Sydney Ice Dogs. With the Perth Thunder holding a provisional license and possibly joining the league in 2012.
Lovering also noted that the upcoming AIHL finals will hold extra incentive to the competing teams, “The upcoming AIHL finals will now hold event more significance as the wining team is granted TTCL access the following year.”
From the NZIHL, the Botany Swarm and the Southern Stampede meet in the Grand Final on August 27th. They will join the Melbourne Ice (2011 AIHL Minor Premiers) as the first teams, with one more AIHL team to be named, in the inaugural TTCL.
Australia and New Zealand clash tonight in the NZ Winter Games, which as Lovering notes was perfect timing for the announcement, “With the AIHL Selects currently playing at the NZ Winter Games we thought it was a fitting time to let our fantastic supporters in on this exciting development between our two leagues.”