European event, league canceled

6/15/2009 - NHL

ZURICH -- The European hockey club championship has been canceled because of financial problems with sponsors.

The International Ice Hockey Federation said Monday the Champions Hockey League would not be played but could return in 2010, backed by the NHL.

It had set a mid-June deadline for the NHL to invest and save next season's competition after original sponsor Gazprom pulled out of its three-year agreement. The Russian energy firm was the main sponsor of the league, which offered $14 million in prize money.

"We believe it is better to take the necessary time and ensure conditions are right for the continuation of the league," IIHF President Rene Fasel said in a statement.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he believed the CHL could still offer a solid foundation to develop the game internationally.

"We have advised the IIHF of our willingness to offer resources and strategic contributions toward the pursuit of that objective," Bettman said.

The inaugural championship was played with 12 teams from seven countries and won by Swiss club Zurich. An expansion to 22 countries had been planned for next season.