About the EUHL
Everything started with the initial thought of pan-European expansion through the creation of four divisions to save money and time– Eastern (Slovakia, Czech republic, Hungary, Austria), Western (Germany I, France, Belgium, The Netherlands), North (Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark) and South (Germany II, Austria II, Switzerland, Slovenia). Presently the EUHL consists of ten teams, but it is already assured that next year this number will be higher. The new applicants come from Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Germany, United Kingdom, France and Hungary etc., accompanied by American Universities and associations from the USA.
The American university system has more than 100 years of tradition behind it. Many an association provides hockey career building opportunities through the system university on amateur leagues such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association(NCAA), or the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA). Another route leading to the NHL is through the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) professional junior league. Players from CHL do not have the right to play in the American university system, but those who do not find success in the CHL are only able to transfer to Canadian universities when they finish their professional junior carrier. “After the NHL draft I was offered the possibility to play in one of the CHL leagues where players chosen in the first draft round were, and my co-player Jaden Schwarts was drafted by St.Louis Blues and got the chance to succeed through university. I had seen the best players leaving to universities, so I asked myself – and of course I asked them too: what was better? Later everything started to make sense. It is an amazing idea – playing hockey and studying at the same time. You never know what is going to happen. I cannot know if I will achieve all my hockey goals yet. So, there will be always a back door open, and I will have other options. ” Radoslav Illo describes his decision for slovakprospects.com, after being drafted by the NHLA Anaheim Ducks. Many players who want to simultaneously study whilst playing hockey usually decide to play in amateur junior leagues. There is usually an average of around 14 players per team in the USHL deciding whatever to sign a contract with the NHL or accept a full scholarship. Up to 99% of players decide to take scholarships instead because they know that the NHL will wait and that they gain more this way. When they reach a certain age and level of education they leave to universities which offer six different competitions under the auspices of the NCAA. But, there is a totally different situation in Europe, it is very complicated to be a full-time university or college student and play hockey simultaneously. This is the reason why many young players have to choose just one of these options.
From a thought to reality
The EUHL was established two years ago and it is managed by the EUHA (the European university hockey association). The league is based on amateur basis, meaning that players representing colleges and universities are not able to accept any gifts or salaries for their hockey endeavours. They do not have contracts with professional teams, nor are they under any kind of commitment to hockey agents regarding representation. Players have to be ISIC or Euro 26 cardholders or have to possess specific confirmation from their university or college – one of which they have to make available during every game. The first condition under which a university can take part in this ambitious league is its willingness to play. “I met up with Jaroslav Straka, we approached many universities and they liked this idea. Many players cannot get to the first league or extra league teams, so after graduation most of these aspiring players usually quit playing. We would like to help them by fusing hockey with higher education.” Ľubomír Sekeráš.
The EUHL Project brings new possibilities
The main EUHL goal is to bridge junior and professional hockey. Until now, players ending the junior league have not succeeded among professionals, for instance; they are forced to quit their careers in the higher national league. Currently, players have a new possibility: to study at university or college and to play hockey simultaneously. This new possibility helps them improve their hockey skills and ameliorate their education. It is commonly known that some players mature a little bit later. There are a lot of junior aged players who want to continue playing and study at the same time. However, the possibilities to continue developing their hockey carrier are limited. On average, there are around ten players from each junior team who quit. To date there has been no system raising their chances of bridging from the junior to the professional league in Europe.
The EUHL’s ambition is to offer a fusion of education and hockey to young players. This program would bring new players to the professional hockey league and increase its quality and competitiveness. If a player is not able to succeed, they still have the possibility to find any other job with the gained university diploma. For example; in America there are companies specifically looking for young hockey players with university diplomas. Because this type of person is considered to be responsible, self-assertive and mentally capable of facing complex situations.