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ECEL Welcomes the Nordic Hockey Academy to the Winter Classic

12/09/2019, 11:30am EST

December 9, 2019

Guilford, Conn. – The ECEL is excited to announce that the Nordic Hockey Academy from Norway will be competing at the 18U and 16U level in the Winter Classic Showcase on January 10th through 12th.

“We are very glad and honored to be the first European program to be approved to the showcase and will work hard to meet the needs and expectations,” said Academy manager Sam Liebkind.

The Nordic Hockey Academy was founded when, in August of 2017, athletes from all over Norway, Sweden, Austria, and Slovakia moved to Skien, Norway for their high school studies and to play hockey for the Skien Ice Hockey Club and newly established Nordic Hockey Academy U18 Division 1 team. 

In their first season (2017-2018), NHA was able to experience some early success. They went on to win the Norwegian U18 Division 1 league and had three players nominated to represent their national teams in Norway, Slovakia, and Austria. They also became the first and only European team to win the CanAm tournament in Lake Placid, NY at the AAA level. Later in June of 2018, NHA coach Sam Liebkind along with three of his players were invited to take part in an international showcase being held in Nashville, TN. 

Following their league victory in their first season, the Academy was promoted to play in the highest U18 Elite league in Norway in the 2018-2019 season.

When asked why the ECEL was a high priority for the Academy, manager Liebkind stated, “Part of our International Academy is to promote and introduce our athletes to understand North American hockey better and inform and prepare them for the college world, where they can combine their studies and top level of hockey further after high school.” He also expressed that ECEL has a great reputation within North America, adding that the combination of Canadian and American teams gives them the perfect platform to experience North American competition. 

Currently, the Nordic Hockey Academy has 56 student-athletes living, studying, and playing hockey for the academy, making them the fastest growing academy in Europe. Their U18 and U21 teams are both having great seasons so far and presently sit in the top 6 in their leagues. 

At the 18U level, some players to watch at the Winter Classic include goaltender Christopher Fagerström, forward Joonas Hunkilen and defenseman Håkon Bråthen. Both of them took part in the international showcase in Nashville, while Bråthen represented Norway on their national team.  

NHA’s 16U team also had national representation in the likes of goalie Jan Korec for Slovakia and Alexander Gschiel of Austria. In addition, Janick Wernicke and Gschiel also skated in Nashville’s showcase. 

In their history, NHA has helped 7 players reach the national level in their respective countries (NOR, LAT, SVK, SPA, AUT). Most recently, Paul Schmid and his Austrian U20 team won the Gold medal in the Division 1A World Championships in Belarus and will be promoted to the A-pool tournament next December.


Founded in 2013, the East Coast Elite League is a four-weekend showcase series that will provide maximum exposure for its member organizations and their players, by playing in top venues, in ideal scouting locations. Spread across the U15, U16, and U18 divisions and represented by several of the top hockey organizations across the country, the ECEL is the premier showcase series in the United States, unmatched in its format and exposure opportunities. For more information on the ECEL, log on to or on Twitter @ECELHockey.

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