As part of the Baltic Challenge Cup in Vilnius, the „Baltic League“ – a project of the three Baltic hockey associations – was presented to the public.
The idea of a joint championship between the Baltic States had been on the table for some time. The initiative came from Aigars Kalvitis, Latvian Federation President, who took the lead and responsibility for this project. The presidents of Estonia, Rauno Parras, and Lithuania, Daninius Zubrus also see a great future for this project. In addition, there is not only joint cooperation for a common championship, but also for all tournaments for the Baltic teams.
Now this idea is being turned into reality – starting with the 2019/20 season, this three-country cup will be held as the „Baltic League“. The first edition will involve eight clubs – four top Latvian teams and two clubs each from Lithuania and Estonia.
These eight teams participating in the championship will be split into two groups. These groups, this league starting in October, will be named after the Lithuanian and Latvian legends Sandiz Ozolins and Darius Kasparaitis. After a six-game return round, the top two finishers in each group end up in the final four tournament in Latvia at the end of December.
The idea of developing a common Baltic league will also receive the full support of all four participating Lithuanian teams who have officially confirmed their participation in this new „Baltic League“. This means that the Baltic League will be the two strongest Lithuanian championships this season next year. However, the Baltic league will not affect the Lithuanian championship, which will continue with all the strongest teams next year.
Likewise, in Lithuania and Estonia, the regional championships will continue. There are currently four teams in these two leagues, which should change over the next few years. This was confirmed by the Estonian Association President, Rauno Parras.
Parras commented on the project: „There is a huge potential in these countries: in Latvia, hockey is the No. 1 sport, also due to Dinamo Riga at the KHL, in Lithuania it is basketball, but due to the great success of the World Cup in Kaunas, the kids have had a hype, and football in Estonia is football and volleyball, which is why such projects as the „Baltic League“ are important, as well as Jokerit’s KHL guest appearance against Spartak Moscow Ice hockey offered.“
In addition, the dates of the Turkish Airlines Baltic Challenge Cup of the following years have been fixed, and in 2019 this tournament will take place in Latvia and one year later, in 2020, Estonia has the right to host this tournament.