All five teams taking part in the NIHL Spring Cup are set and raring to go, with the opening weekend just days away.
First up to kick things off are Sheffield Steeldogs and Swindon Wildcats, who meet again after their double header in the Streaming Series that saw Steeldogs claim victory on both occasions.
Swindon’s head coach Aaron Nell is keen to get back to work following such a barren season and hopes fans will get behind the tournament.
“We’re really happy to be playing again, we have put a lot of hard work into this and I know the players and I are itching to get going,” he said.
“I think it’s going to be great for the players of each five teams in terms of their mental health as well as hockey players.
“We’re looking forward to next weekend and we hope fans are all able to tune in.”
Sheffield co-owner Ali Cree added: “We are keen to build on how the team played in November and supported Greg (coach Greg Wood) in tweaking that side to have a team of locally based players who should create more entertaining hockey.
“Everyone is so excited to be back in action and looking forward to taking on Swindon next weekend.”
The other teams are taking part are Bees, formerly known as Bracknell Bees, who are playing out of Slough following the closure of the John Nike Centre in Bracknell.
For coach Doug Sheppard, he’ll especially be glad to see the team together again and playing after a fraught last 12 months that almost saw the club disappear from the ice hockey landscape.
“After a long, challenging eleven months in the history of Bees IHC, we are excited to be returning to action, especially for our fanbase who at one point might have felt the club they support was going to disappear,” he said.
“The Spring Cup presents us with a great opportunity to get most of our regular players back where they belong – out on the ice, together as a team.
“But it will also be a great opportunity for our prospects to train with and play against international level talent, which will also have huge benefits for their development moving forwards.”
Telford Tigers and Raiders make up the five competitors for the NIHL Spring Cup and both coaches, Tom Watkins and Sean Easton respectively are more than happy to play their part in helping bring the sport back to a UK fan base.
“The competition has provided us with timely boost at a time when it seemed any hockey this season would be lost,” Watkins said.
“There will be nothing normal about this competition, with all fixtures played behind closed doors, no fans in the building, but it is up to us a team to create our own atmosphere in the rink and on the bench.
“I’m sure after such a long layoff I don’t think anyone will require motivating. It’s great news that all teams will be live streaming games, this is fantastic news for the fans.”
Raiders coach Easton added: “It will be great to be back behind the bench again and have the team on the ice.
“The Spring Cup will give us the chance to play our part in getting the sport up and running again and we hope the fans will follow the games online and support all clubs as much as they can.”