For the third time in four years, the Frölunda Indians are the champions of Europe. On Tuesday night before a packed Scandinavium in Gothenburg, they defeated Red Bull München 3-1 in the Champions Hockey League Final. As such, they become just the fourth team to become three-time club hockey title-holders of the continent.
“I’m so proud of this team and this organization that we won again,” said captain Joel Lundqvist, who first came to the club 20 years ago as a 16-year-old and has been at the helm for all three titles. “The whole arena with the atmosphere – Munich with their fans too – it was a great evening for hockey. And to win too, of course. That’s the best feeling.”
Frölunda’s dominance over the five-year course of the CHL is remarkable. The Indians have reached the Final four times during that period, while no other team has even reached the quarter-finals that often. It isn’t simply a case of Swedish dominance, as only three other SHL clubs have made it as far as the semis and the only other SHL club to win the competition hasn’t even qualified for it the past two years.
The one year they didn’t make the Final, they could have. Last season, Frölunda was dominant in the group stage, then led the round of 16 with a 2-1 road win before surprisingly blowing their lead in the return leg at home and losing in overtime to Bílí Tygři Liberec.
This year could have been a similar story. They almost ran into a roadblock in this year’s round of 16 in the form of HC Lugano, trailing by two goals in the second period of the return game before coming back to win, thanks to a late power-play goal by Ryan Lasch.
Once they got past that, though, they won five games in a row, outscoring Czech clubs Kometa Brno and Škoda Plzeň 19-6 in the quarters and semis before hosting Red Bull München in the final. There, they built up a 3-0 lead through two periods before withstanding a late push from the three-time reigning German champs and winning 3-1.
In addition to homegrown veterans like Lundqvist, there are new young stars on the rise like Samuel Fagemo, who became the youngest player to score a goal in a CHL Final when he opened the scoring in the first period.
“It’s amazing, you know, with the sold-out Scandinavium,” a delirious Fagemo said on the ice after the game. “So many emotions right now and celebrating with this team. Oh my gosh, I’m so happy for this team.”
As mentioned earlier, three titles now put Frölunda in an exclusive club – one of only four hockey clubs with three or more European titles. The all-time leader is in a class to itself – CSKA Moscow won 20 between 1969 and 1990, including a mind-boggling 13 in a row. Talk about a dynasty.
The other three have all won exactly three and all won those three in a relatively short period of time – mini-dynasties if you will. Kometa, or ZKL Brno as the team was then known, won the first three IIHF European Cups in 1966, 1967 and 1968. Metallurg Magnitogorsk won the European Hockey League in 1999 and 2000 and then the European Champions Cup in 2008. And now Frölunda has won the CHL in 2016, 2017 and 2019.
CSKA’s total is well out of reach, but with one more CHL title, Frölunda would move into second place in all-time European club championships. Based on the standard the club has set over the CHL’s first five years, the possibility seems quite reasonable that the dynasty could grow.
Photo: Mathias Bergeld / BILDBYRÅN / Cop 200