|Formerly||Ice hockey Bundesliga|
|No. of teams||14|
|Adler Mannheim (7th title)|
|Most titles||Eisbären Berlin|
Adler Mannheim (7 titles)
|Relegation to||DEL2 (2020-21 onward)|
The Deutsche Eishockey Liga (German pronunciation: [?dt '?a?sh?kili:?a:]; English: German Ice Hockey League) or DEL, is a German professional ice hockey league that was founded in 1994. It was formed as a replacement for the Eishockey-Bundesliga and became the new top-tier league in Germany as a result. Unlike the old Bundesliga, the DEL is not under the administration of the German Ice Hockey Federation.
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The Eishockey-Bundesliga was formed in 1957 as the elite hockey competition in the Federal Republic of Germany, replacing the Oberliga in this position. It was in turn replaced by the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, which now also carries the name 1st Bundesliga in its logo.
The DEL was founded in the 1994-95 season, consisting of teams from the Eishockey-Bundesliga's 1st and 2nd divisions. The condition of these earlier leagues had become intolerable. Many 1st and 2nd division teams were heavily in debt. The 2nd division attracted few sponsors and spectators. As a result, many clubs were forced to fold or withdraw to the lower leagues. Fans and corporate sponsors focused on the 1st Bundesliga teams, forcing the elite teams to invest heavily in players to avoid relegation. This increased budgets 25 percent over the previous two years.
In the final Bundesliga season, 1993-94, only 11 teams wanted to play in the 2nd Bundesliga. Furthermore, two teams folded during and after the season. Ice hockey's reputation in Germany was heavily tarnished. This made it difficult to attract serious sponsorship. In January 1994, 20 out of the remaining 21 1st and 2nd Bundesliga teams voted for creating a new entity, the DEL.
Upon founding, the "DEL Betriebsgesellschaft mbH" was the first German professional sports league managed by an organization whose members were incorporated as well. The goal behind the DEL was to create a league, based on the model of the North American NHL, in which teams could play consistently without relegation concerns and create a stable league. Clubs in the DEL were required to conform to rules, which were designed to ensure long-term viability. Twelve clubs from the old 1st Bundesliga, and six from the 2nd Bundesliga came together as founding members. The new league immediately attracted corporate sponsorship with the Krombacher Brewery, which was prominently featured on the new league logo.
The hope of avoiding the troubles of the old Bundesliga by stricter financial controls did not materialize. During DEL's initial season, on 18 December 1994, the Bundesliga's final champion, the renamed EC Hedos München, folded. This was controversial, as DEL's president Franz Hofherr had approved their license and certified their finances. Hofherr was Mad Dogs former president and it was alleged that he must have known about their desperate financial situation.
The Bosman ruling, a 1995 decision of the European Court of Justice regarding the movement of labor in soccer, had profound influence on the league. The old Bundesliga had national character with German clubs competing for the German title using mostly German players. After the ruling European Union players were excluded from the "foreign" player quota. In the 1995-96 season following the decision, the DEL teams employed 97 EU players. This lowered costs significantly, enabling smaller teams to compete more effectively. However, frequent player moves were not viewed positively by the fans, resulting in smaller attendance numbers.
The 2004-05 season was significant due to the NHL lockout. 26 NHL players came to play the season in the DEL, including Jamie Langenbrunner, Erik Cole, Stéphane Robidas, Doug Weight, Mike York and several German national team players - Jochen Hecht, Olaf Kölzig, and Marco Sturm.
The DEL is an independently run league, fully owned and operated by its 14 member teams. Each team must fulfill the DEL's basic requirements to remain in the league:
The DEL can only admit one 2nd Bundesliga team per season to the league, unless the league strength falls below fourteen, in which case two clubs can be admitted. Since the 2006-07 season, no DEL team can be automatically relegated, a team can only lose its league status through non-compliance with the leagues regulations (see above).
The ESBG guarantees to admit any DEL team wishing to step down to the lower 2nd Bundesliga or Oberliga. The team, however, has to purchase a license (licensing fees for the 2nd Bundesliga are currently set at EUR100,000.00).
To regulate the relationship between the DEL, the DEB and the ESBG (2nd Bundesliga), a so-called Kooperationsvertrag exists. This cooperation contract was signed in December 2005, and was valid until 2011. This contract ended years of dispute between the three organizations over competencies and financial issues.
In November 2007, the DEL announced another change in policy. The league expanded to allow 16 teams beginning in the 2008-09 season, resulting in direct promotion for the 2nd Bundesliga league champions, should they fulfill all requirements and be interested in joining the DEL. Should this not be the case, or a current DEL team resigns from the league, a selection process would determine the club, or clubs, who would be eligible to join in order required to achieve 16 teams. (Note: Füchse Duisburg resigned before the 2009-10 season and was not replaced until the following season.)
For that season, it was also mandated that each DEL club would be allowed to have no more than ten non-EC players under contract.
Additionally, a new format for the game schedule will limit the number of regular season games to 52 for each team. This is achieved by each team playing four games against eleven others and two games against the remaining four. To determine which teams play which, the final standings of the previous season are used.
The DEL would also reintroduce promotion once more. The first- and second-lowest ranked teams will play a best-of-seven series to determine which team faces the 2nd Bundesliga champion for a place in the league. There is, however, an ongoing dispute about those games as second division teams may only have five foreign players on contract, and therefore face a handicap in comparison to the DEL teams with twelve import players each. For now, the ESBG has declared that no team from the 2nd Bundesliga would take part in these matches and therefore no promotion/relegation with the DEL will take place.
32 clubs have played in the DEL since founding, with 14 currently playing. The 1994 standing represents the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga.
|Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers||25||2BL||12||11||15||12||1||10||5||4||5||2||3||4||3||1||5||5||10||13||7||3||8||6||3||3||10||8|
|Iserlohn Roosters 1||19||15||12||9||12||11||11||11||5||11||11||12||10||13||10||6||3||13||8||13||13|
|Schwenninger Wild Wings||16||1BL||9||5||10||9||10||11||12||16||14||13||14||14||12||10||14||14|
|Düsseldorfer EG 6||24||1BL||5||3||9||5||11||9||3||8||10||3||2||9||3||6||2||7||14||14||5||5||11||11||6||5|
|Hamburg Freezers 2||14||8||3||8||6||7||7||8||14||11||5||5||1||4||11|
|Munich Barons 23||3||2||3||1|
|Starbulls Rosenheim 1||6||1BL||8||13||6||15||12||12|
|Landshut Cannibals 3||5||1BL||2||4||7||6||6|
|Maddogs München 4||1||1BL||18|
|White||Did not qualify for play-offs|
|Red||Folded during regular season or relegated to DEL2|
|Bold||Regular season champion|
|Italics||Play-offs not conducted|
|No.||Number of seasons in league (as of 2017-18)|