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It’s official, the Nottingham Panthers will play in the 2017-18 Champions Hockey League. On Tuesday, the CHL Board approved the participation of the Continental Cup winners, making the English club the first team known for next season.

“It was a great achievement for a club from the UK to win the first ever European championship when the team lifted the Continental Cup in Italy a couple of weekends ago and it will be an honour for us to take part in the Champions Hockey League again,” said Panthers GM Gary Moran. “It is the cherry on the top of the cake for us.”

Under the new format in place starting next season, 32 teams will compete in the CHL and all must qualify based on on-ice merits. The Panthers are the first to secure their place in the competition, where they will face some of Europe’s top club teams.

“We will be up against some extremely talented clubs and we will of course be the underdogs but we’ve been there before,” Moran continued. “We had a victory the last time we were in the CHL and we were the lowest ranked team in the final weekend two weeks ago (at the Continental Cup) and look what happened there.”

In the 2014-15 season, the Panthers were in a group with the Hamburg Freezers from Germany, Lukko Rauma from Finland, and eventual champions Lulea Hockey from Sweden. After losing their first four games, the Panthers secured a historic 3-1 win over Hamburg in front of a jubilant home crowd at the National Ice Centre.

“Our fans will be behind us in numbers and we will be doing our best on the ice to make them proud once more,” Moran concluded.

Joining the Panthers in the field of 32 will be qualifying teams from the CHL’s six founding leagues – the national leagues of Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, Czech Republic, Germany and Austria – as well as the national champions from Slovakia, Norway, Denmark, France and Belarus. Other teams will be subject to confirmation by the CHL Board.