With the dawn of a new year, Chronicle.lu reached out to several sports clubs in Luxembourg to learn about their activities in 2022 and what they are looking forward to in 2023; for many, this marks the half-way point in their respective seasons.
Speaking to Chronicle.lu, Liam McEvoy, Media Manager of the Luxembourg Ice Hockey Federation, highlighted three major ice hockey events for Luxembourg in 2022: the inaugural season of the Luxembourg Hockey League (LHL); Luxembourg hosting the senior world championships; Luxembourg’s women's team taking part in and securing bronze at the International Ice Hockey Federation's (IIHF) first Women's Development Cup in Kuwait.
Regarding the LHL, Liam noted that the Luxembourg Ice Hockey Federation had been organising a national championship since its creation (as part of international federation requirements) but until recently the only competing senior-level teams were Tornado Luxembourg and Beaufort Knights. "With the growth of the sport, particularly at the adult level, we now have seven senior teams and a junior under-20 level," explained Liam. The 2021/22 season thus saw the launch of a larger Luxembourgish championship featuring eight teams, with Beaufort Knights winning for the first time in "a big final showdown" with Tornado Luxembourg at Ice Park Beaufort. The final drew close to 600 attendees in person, with a couple of hundred more watching the game online. According to Liam, it remains the most watched video on the federation's YouTube channel.
On the second point, Liam stressed that whilst hosts Luxembourg did not do too well on the ice, the senior world championships were "organisationally a huge success". The opening game against Turkey drew a record-breaking 1,500 attendees or so. All ten games were streamed, attracting approximately 56,000 views worldwide.
Thirdly, the inaugural IIHF Women's Development Cup marked a major achievement for Luxembourg's women's ice hockey. From 6 to 12 November 2022 in Kuwait, the Lionesses competed for the first time at the international level, securing historic victories including bronze overall. "Coming from not even having a national [women's] team in July to winning a medal in November is remarkable," noted Liam.
Currently, all divisions are around the half-way point, although the Beaufort Knights are closer to the end of their season since the ice rink in Beaufort will close next month. There are three more home games to come, with later games being played away from home.
"What I'm most excited for this year are the finals of the LHL which will have a slightly different concept compared to last year," said Liam. He explained that games played throughout the season will determine who faces off against whom in the semi-finals of this two-day tournament (1-2 April 2023). The two finals (1st and 2nd divisions) are scheduled for Sunday 2 April 2023, with all eight teams playing at Kockelscheuer Ice Rink (Luxembourg’s largest ice rink), thus offering maximum capacity.
Internationally, the women's team are preparing for the next Women's Development Cup (details to be confirmed); the goal is still to eventually be eligible for the world championships. At the rate the sport has been growing in Luxembourg over the past four years, Liam felt that they were on the right track, and there is currently a recruitment drive to encourage more women to get involved. Meanwhile, the under-18 men will head off to Reykjavik in Iceland in March and the seniors will play in South Africa in April 2023.