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Upon founding, the "DEL Betriebsgesellschaft mbH" was the first German professional sports league managed by an organization whose members where 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. 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 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.
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 —05 season was significant due to the NHL lockout. 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 —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.
This cooperation contract was signed in December This contract ended years of dispute between the three organizations over competencies and financial issues.
In November , the DEL announced another change in policy. The league expanded to allow 16 teams beginning in the —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 archive 16 teams.
Füchse Duisburg resigned before the season and was not replaced until the following season. 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. Füssen rectified the slip-up of the previous year, winning the league again, Bad Nauheim was relegated and new team Eintracht Dortmund survived in seventh place.
The —62 modus was different again from the previous year. After 14 games each the league was split into top- and bottom eight, with each group playing another home-and-away series just against the teams in its group.
The reason for this was the large gap between top and bottom clubs which resulted in very one-sided games. Direct relegation was however abolished and Dortmund had the chance to hold the league in a promotion-relegation round, which it completed successfully.
The following year saw Füssen on top again and Dortmund last in an unchanged modus. This time however the club from Westphalia could not hold the league and EV Landshut was promoted instead.
After a home-and-away season of 18 games each, which the EV Füssen won with an eleven-point advantage, the league was split again between top and bottom, now two groups of five.
Unlike in the past however, points from the first part of the season could not be transferred and EC Bad Tölz was crowned champions with a two-point advantage despite having earned nine points less than EVF.
The —67 season, in retrospect, marked a turning point of German ice hockey, also not an instantaneous one, the shift from the dominance of small-town Bavarian teams to the clubs from the large cities.
The Düsseldorfer EG ended a spell of championships for Bavarian clubs that had lasted since and also condemned the EV Füssen to a fourth-place finish, the worst in its post war era at the time.
The league itself was played with ten teams again, but the modus had changed. A northern and a southern division of five clubs each was played followed by a six team championship round of the best three of each division.
EV Füssen took out the league title once more in —68, in a season with only slight modifications to the modus. Of the bottom two teams of each division which had to defend their league place the northern clubs both succeeded while the southern clubs both failed.
The league expansion of is generally explained by the fact that the German ice hockey federation, the DEB , wanted the two clubs that had finished third and failed in the promotion round in the league as they were big names, the ice hockey departments of FC Bayern and Eintracht Frankfurt.
Neither impressed during a season that saw EV Füssen defend its title, the last club to do so until At the end of the season, FC Bayern was relegated and soon disbanded its ice hockey department.
The modus however had been changed again, all teams played a home-and-away round in a single division, 22 games each.
At the end of this, the best eight teams played another home-and-away round against each other. The championship was won for the first time by the EV Landshut, while Cologne and Frankfurt were relegated.
The —71 saw the league reduced to ten teams but the number of season games remaining at 36 per club. Because of this, the league did not have a new club in it and ended with the familiar result of EV Füssen taking out another championship.
In this season, the league also introduced the Friday-Sunday rhythm of games, with a team playing one home and one away game per weekend, a system that would remain in place for the duration of the league and beyond.
Consequently, no club had to fear relegation while the Düsseldorfer EG, the best supported club in Germany with a spectator average of almost 10, per home game, took out the championship while EV Füssen came second.
It was to be the last-ever title for the club from Füssen and marked the end of the Bavarian dominance, with championships going to the state now becoming as rare as they had been commonplace.
The league modus experienced another change when, instead of ten clubs the league was expanded to eleven, courtesy to the promotion of both Berliner SC and EV Rosenheim.
The later was found to be uncompetitive in the league however, only accumulating twelve points in 40 season games and being relegated again.
It was also the last season of the Oberliga as the second division, the 2nd Bundesliga being introduced in After a year wait, the Berliner SC won another championship in —74 in a league which had returned to ten clubs and 36 season games.
The —75 seasons saw a continuation of the south-north shift of German ice hockey, with the financially strong northern clubs recruiting a large number of players from the southern ones.
Consequently, spectator numbers for the Bavarian clubs like Riessersee, Bad Tölz and Füssen went down, making it even more difficult to retain their young players.
In the north, another championship was won by the well-supported DEG, with Berlin coming second. At the bottom end, Kaufbeuren was replaced by Rosenheim for the next season.
The league modus unchanged in —76, the Berliner SC won its second post-war title in convincing fashion while, at the bottom, the last three clubs finished on equal points and the goals for-against had to decide who would finish on the tenth and last place and be relegated.
From onwards, the first golden era of the Kölner EC began with the club taking out titles in —77 and — The team from Cologne was generally the first to be seen as bought together rather than having grown.
The success of the club was brought about by the clubs chairman, Jochem Erlemann , an investment banker. Unknown to club and players, Erlemann invested other people's money into the club, without their approval and eventually would serve eight years in jail for it.
On the ice the league modus had been slightly altered again. After the 36 games of the regular round a championship- and relegation round was added.
The top six played for the championship while the bottom four played against relegation, in another home-and-away series within each group.
In the end, new club AEV was relegated from the league again, under unfortunate circumstances on the last day of the season, while a club joined the league that had never played at top level before, the EC Deilinghofen.
The SC Riessersee, often branded as a rough team, won its first championship since in the —78 season, one point ahead of Berliner SC after 46 games in an for once unchanged modus.
At the bottom of the league, Deilinghofen, who had only been promoted after 2nd Bundesliga champions ESV Kaufbeuren declined for financial reasons, was hopelessly outclassed and thirteen points behind the saving ninth place.
The —79 season saw the league expanded to twelve teams. Because of the insolvency of the Krefelder EV who dropped out of the league, the ESV Kaufbeuren was also admitted to the league while the financial collapse of the EV Rosenheim meant that the ice hockey department joined the SB Rosenheim instead, a lucky move that would soon pay off.
Apart from the financial troubles, Augsburger EV would also declare insolvency at the end of the season and drop down to the Oberliga , Mannheim and Rosenheim were also accused of fielding players without correct transfer papers.
Consequently, both clubs had points deducted but later reinstalled again. Mannheim, under coach Heinz Weisenbach , also started a trend that would soon become commonplace in the Bundesliga, to import Canadian players of German origins, the Deutschkanadier , who would be eligible to play for the West German ice hockey team and not take up any of the limited spots for foreigners per team.
On the ice, the expansion meant that the main round was reduced from four to two games per team, 22 each.
The search for the perfect modus continued in —80, with an extra round introduced after the regular season. The twelve clubs were split into three groups of four, with the best eight overall than entering the championship round while the worst four played against relegation.
The complicated modus was blamed for Riessersee not defending its title, which went, for the first time, to the Mannheimer ERC and its Canadian-German star players.
While Mannheim was, unjustly criticised for playing them other clubs already fielded foreigners with fake passports, which would blow out the following season.
At the bottom of the league, new club Duisburger SC had no trouble saving itself in seventh place while ERC Freiburg came a distant last. The highlight of the —81 season should have been the introduction of play-offs to the league, for which the best eight teams qualified, and SC Riessesee's last-ever championship.
However, the season was overshadowed by one of the biggest scandals in German ice hockey. The German consulate in Edmonton, Alberta , Canada, had sent a message to the DEB highlighting that a number of Canadian ice hockey players were living and playing in Germany with fake German passports.
The DEB banned the guilty players and, eventually, deducted large amount of points from the two teams. At that stage the Kölner EC was already playing in the play-off quarter finals, which had to be repeated since the KEC was not qualified for them anymore after losing the points.
Apart from all this, the league also found itself in a row with the television broadcasters who refused to show games of teams with advertising on their shirts, with the clubs not backing down as they could not afford to lose the sponsorship money.
The —82 season saw a recovery of the league after the scandal of the previous year and the introduction of the sudden-death format in the play-offs.
SB Rosenheim turned out to be the surprise team of the season, finishing fifth after the regular season. The team managed to reach the final where they defeated the Mannheimer ERC and took home their first ever-championship.
Of the new teams, ERC Freiburg, like two years before, could not keep up and was relegated while local rivals Schwenninger ERC came close to qualifying for the play-offs.
The league shrunk in size in —83, now having only ten teams again. A double round of home-and-away games, 36 each, was followed by the play-offs contested by the top eight.
The EV Landshut was the surprise champions, the second title for the club after On both occasions, it was due to its coach, the Czech Karel Gut.
Landshut's championship team was low-cost, with the lowest budged in years for a championship winning side, achieved through the fact that 20 of its players were local boys who had been born in Landshut.
Apart from them, only Erich Kühnhackl and the two Canadian Laycock brothers were not born in Landshut. Only one club was relegated that season, the EV Füssen, the second-last of the leagues founding members that played in it uninterruptedly since day one.
Füssen became insolvent at the end of the season, restarted in the 2nd Bundesliga but never returned to the top flight again.
In the —84 season, the league once more made a slight modus change, introducing a round of two groups of four between the regular season and the play-offs and skipping the quarter finals instead.
The final was won by the Kölner EC, defeating champions Landshut in five games. In —85 the league returned to the old system of a regular season of 36 games followed by the play-off quarter finals.