The International Ice Hockey Federation has selected Belfast as host of the 2019 IIHF Continental Cup Final.
The final tournament of the Continental Cup will take place from 11 to 13 January 2019 at the SSE Arena Belfast in the capital of Northern Ireland. The arena has a capacity for 7,400 spectators for ice hockey and will offer excellent conditions to host the tournament with the final four teams in competition.
The final tournament in January is the last of four stages of this season’s Continental Cup that involved 17 club teams.
First-time Kazakh champion Arlan Kokshetau, host Belfast Giants representing the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, GKS Katowice from Poland and HK Gomel from Belarus qualified for the 2019 IIHF Continental Cup Final after the recent third-round tournaments and will play the round-robin tournament in January.
It’s the first time a Continental Cup Final will be hosted in the UK which has had one Continental Cup champion, the Nottingham Panthers in 2017.
The SSE Arena Belfast is no stranger to international ice hockey. The Belfast Giants hosted one of the third-round groups with over 5,000 fans in attendance for the last game. The venue was also host for the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B where Great Britain earned promotion in a final battle against Japan, only to get promoted to the top division one year later at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Budapest, Hungary.
With over 330,000 inhabitants, Belfast is the largest city in Northern Ireland and the second-largest city on the island or Ireland after Dublin.
Currently in its 22nd season, the Continental Cup is one of two IIHF-sanctioned European club competitions and aimed as challenger competition for top teams from other than the member leagues of the Champions Hockey League.
The teams will not only play to claim the Continental Cup winners’ plate in Belfast but the winner of the final tournament can also be invited to play in the Champions Hockey League the following season pending formal approval by the CHL board. The last five Continental Cup winners did so including most recently Yunost Minsk from Belarus, which won the 2018 IIHF Continental Cup on home ice.
Photo credit: William Cherry.