|Swedish Hockey League|
|2015–16 SHL season|
|No. of teams||14|
|Most recent champion(s)||Växjö Lakers (1st title)|
|TV partner(s)||TV4 Group|
The SHL (or Swedish Hockey League, Swedish: Svenska hockeyligan) is a Swedish ice hockey league, and the highest division of the Swedish ice hockey system. The league currently consists of 12 teams, though an expansion to 14 teams is planned for the 2015–16 season. The league was founded in 1975, and while Swedish ice hockey champions have been crowned through various formats since 1922, the title, as well as the Le Mat Trophy, have been awarded to the winner of the SHL playoffs since the league's inaugural 1975–76 season.
As of 2010–11, the SHL was the world's most evenly matched professional ice hockey league. During the 2011–12 season, the SHL was the most well attended hockey league in Europe, averaging 6,385 spectators per match, however in 2013–14, the SHL was third best in Europe, with an attendance average of 5,978.
The league was founded in 1975 as Elitserien (in English often called the Swedish Elite League or SEL), and initially featured 10 teams, though this was expanded to 12 for the 1987–88 season. The league was renamed the SHL in 2013, and in 2014, a number of format changes were announced, including an expansion to 14 teams to be finalized prior to the 2015–16 season, and a new format for promotion from and relegation to HockeyAllsvenskan, the second tier league.
The Swedish ice hockey championships was awarded for the first time in Swedish history in 1922, only two years after ice hockey was introduced in Sweden by the American film director Raoul Le Mat. IK Göta won the first championships final.
Elitserien started on October 5, 1975, in which each team played a total of 36 games. Originally the league consisted of 10 teams but expanded in 1987 with an additional two teams.
On 17 June 2013, the league was renamed "Svenska hockeyligan", since this would allow for an easy English translation ("Swedish Hockey League") and a common abbreviation between the two languages ("SHL"), all of which was considered to make up a better brand identity to invest in.
Each SHL regulation game is an ice hockey game played between two teams and is 60 minutes long. The game is composed of three 20-minute periods with an intermission of a maximum of 18 minutes between periods. At the end of the 60-minute regulation time, the team with the most goals wins the game. If a game is tied after regulation time, overtime ensues to force a winner. During the regular season, overtime is a five-minute, four-player on four-player sudden death period, in which the first team to score a goal wins the game. If a game still is tied after the overtime period, a shootout will decide the game. In a shootout, the team that scores the most penalty shots out of three attempts wins the game. If the game is still tied after the first three penalty-shot rounds, a sudden death shootout will decide the game, meaning that the first team to miss a penalty shot (while the other team scores) loses the game.
In the playoffs, an unlimited number of sudden-death 20 minute five-on-five periods occur until one team scores. While a game can theoretically continue forever, only a handful of games have ever surpassed four overtime periods, and none have gone beyond six.
SHL games are played on a hockey rink, which is rectangular ice rink with rounded corners and surrounded by a wall. It measures 30 by 60 meters (98.42 by 196.85 ft), conforming to international standards.
SHL originated in 1975 with ten teams, and after expansion in 1987 currently consists of twelve teams. The two lowest ranked teams after the regular season have to play in a regulation series called Kvalserien together with four teams from the second tier league HockeyAllsvenskan. The top two teams of Kvalserien qualify for the next SHL season, while the other four are demoted to HockeyAllsvenskan. Theoretically, there is a possibility that two 'new' teams will play in SHL at the beginning of each season.
Counting from the start of the SHL in 1975, Färjestad BK is the most successful team with nine Swedish Championship titles, commonly called SM-guld in Swedish. The second most successful team is Djurgårdens IF with six championship titles. Counting from 1922, when the first Swedish championships were played, Djurgårdens IF is the most successful team with sixteen championship titles, followed by Brynäs IF with twelve and IK Göta with nine.
The future of the SHL has been uncertain, especially its relation to ice hockey in the rest of Europe. In 2009, Håkan Loob, the general manager of Färjestad BK, sent a letter to Alexander Medvedev, the owner and president of the Russian Kontinental Hockey League, on behalf of five SHL teams – Färjestad, Frölunda, Djurgårdens IF Hockey , Linköpings HC and HV71 – that were reportedly "interested in discussing the future of European hockey". It was believed that these five teams had intended to leave the SHL league after the 2009–10 season; they terminated their shareholders' agreements with Hockeyligan, who governs the SHL league. However, this never happened, and the plans to unite with other European leagues were officially put down in November 2011.
|Brynäs IF||Gävle||Gavlerinken Arena||8,585|
|Färjestad BK||Karlstad||Löfbergs Arena||8,647|
|Karlskrona HK||Karlskrona||Telenor Arena Karlskrona||3,464|
|Linköpings HC||Linköping||Saab Arena||8,500|
|Luleå HF||Luleå||Coop Norrbotten Arena||6,300|
|Malmö Redhawks||Malmö||Malmö Arena||13,000|
|Modo Hockey||Örnsköldsvik||Fjällräven Center||7,600|
|Rögle BK||Ängelholm||Lindab Arena||5,150|
|Skellefteå AIK||Skellefteå||Skellefteå Kraft Arena||6,001|
|Växjö Lakers||Växjö||Vida Arena||5,700|
|Örebro HK||Örebro||Behrn Arena||5,150|
The SHL season is divided into a regular season from late September through the beginning of March, when teams play against each other in a pre-defined schedule, and a playoffs from March to the beginning of April, which is an elimination tournament where two teams play against each other to win a best-of-seven series in order to advance to the next round. The final remaining team is crowned the Swedish champion, or Svenska mästare in Swedish.
The regular season is a round-robin, where each team plays 55 games in an unbalanced schedule. Points are awarded for each game, where three points are awarded for a win, two points for winning in overtime or shootout, one point for losing in overtime or shootout, and zero points for a loss in regulation time. At the end of the regular season, the team that finishes with the most points is crowned the league champion and is awarded a prize sum of 1,000,000 SEK (approx. 150,000 USD) as a bonus. The eight highest ranked teams by points qualify for the playoffs. The two lowest ranked teams after the regular season have to play in the relegation and promotion series Kvalserien in order to qualify for the next season of Elitserien.
If two or more teams end up tied in points, the seeds are determined by the following tiebreaker format:
- Best goal difference
- Most goals scored
- Head-to-head results between the tied teams
The SHL Playoffs is an elimination tournament, where two teams battle to win a best-of-seven series in order to advance to the next round. The first round of the playoffs, or quarterfinals, consists of the first seed choosing which team to play against from the seventh or eighth seed; the second choosing from the remaining two lowest seeded; the third choosing between the remaining two lowest seeded after second's pick; and the fourth playing against the sole remaining team. In the second round, the semifinals, the teams are re-seeded, with the top remaining seed playing against the lowest remaining seed, and the other two remaining teams pairing off. In the third round, the finals, the two remaining teams face each other.
In each series, the higher-ranked team of the two will have home-ice advantage. Four of the seven games are played at this team's home venue — the second and fourth, and, when necessary, the fifth and seventh games — with the other games played at the lower-ranked team's home venue.
The two lowest ranked teams after the regular season have to play in a regulation series called Kvalserien together with four teams from the second tier league HockeyAllsvenskan. The top two teams of Kvalserien qualify for the next SHL season, while the other four are demoted to HockeyAllsvenskan.
Trophies and awards
At the end of the SHL playoffs the Swedish Champions are awarded the Le Mat Trophy. There is only one trophy that is awarded to players based on their statistics during the regular season; the Håkan Loob Trophy for the goal-scoring leader.
One of the most prestigious individual awards is Guldhjälmen, which is awarded annually to the Most Valuable Player; the voting is conducted by the players in the SHL. Guldpucken is awarded annually to the ice hockey player of the year in Sweden. It is not necessarily awarded to a player in the SHL; season 2005–06 the award was given to Kenny Jönsson in the Swedish second highest ice hockey league HockeyAllsvenskan. The award Årets Rookie (Rookie of the Year) is awarded annually by Svenska Spel and Svenska Hockeyligan to the best rookie player in Elitserien.
Previous SHL regular season winners
See also: List of SHL seasons
Previous SHL playoff winners (Swedish Champions)
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<ref>tag; name "Renamed Swedish Hockey League" defined multiple times with different content
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- Swedish Hockey League official site
- Official statistics - Official standings and statistics from the Swedish Ice Hockey Association
- Eliteprospects - Swedish Hockey League news in English
- Eurohockey - Elitserien info in English
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