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Belfast Giants push for wild card entry to Euro league

The Belfast Giants will find out in around three week's time if they are to be invited to take part in ice hockey equivalent to football's Champions League.

An application has been made by the Elite League to have the winners involved in the new Champions Hockey League, which will involve the top clubs from the major leagues around Europe, including Austria, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland.

Forty teams will play in the 2014-15 tournament, starting in August and the Giants want to be there.

"Ourselves, Nottingham and Sheffield started the process at the start of the year and we are hoping to get a wild card entry," said Giants general manager Todd Kelman.

"We are down to the last few potential spots after the bigger leagues take their places and we are very hopeful of being involved.

"It is a great opportunity to be involved at the start of something that will grow over the coming years and become a really strong competition."

Kelman was in the Belfast Giants team that reached the Super Final of the Continental Cup back in 2003, when Dave Whistle's men finished sixth in Europe.

The Giants also played in the Ahearne Trophy against teams from Germany's DEL around that time, but it is over a decade since there has been competitive action against European teams at the Odyssey.

And that's why Kelman sees the Champions Hockey League as such a big thing for the Giants.

"When we did so well in the Continental Cup Robby Sandrock got a move to Germany out of it and spent 10 years there. That's what can happen for a player," said Kelman.

"It's not ideal for us to lose our best players, but it is something that we can use to recruit others who are looking to make a step into one of the higher leagues in Europe."

More immediate in the mind of Giants coach Paul Adey and his players, though, is this weekend's play-off quarter-final battles with the Hull Stingrays.

The Giants won all four league meetings with Hull, scoring 14 goals and conceding just three, but Adey knows that counts for nothing as the team heads to Hull tonight before the return at the Odyssey tomorrow (4pm).

Belfast Telegraph