It’s often said that there’s no room in Britain for another spectator sport to succeed, but the Elite League has recently been making tremendous strides to prove that sentiment wrong.
Once in such a state that it didn’t even get a spot in European hockey’s Champions League equivalent, the EIHL is in the midst of a popularity boom that’s seen its following rise from Belfast to Dundee to Cardiff.
So popular has the British game become, you can even wager on every EIHL and Challenge Cup match from any UK betting shop or one of the many good online sportsbooks.
To get you ready for the next season of EIHL action, we relive five of the best British ice hockey matches that still have supporters (and punters) talking about them.
April 10, 2005: Coventry Blaze 2-1 Nottingham Panthers
Blaze are one of the EIHL’s most successful clubs, and their finest season among many came back in 2005.
That year they won the coveted Grand Slam, meaning they claimed all three British Ice Hockey titles – the league, the Challenge Cup, and the play-off championship.
The last one came in dramatic fashion as Coventry attempted to turn their double into a treble. In their way was Nottingham, who didn’t look like they’d be much of an obstacle the way Coventry dominated the first period.
But at the end of sixty minutes, and after many chances for both sides, the score remained tied at 1-1.
Things looked destined for penalties until Coventry captain Ashley Tait hit the winner with just under two minutes remaining, giving the Blaze the win, the title, and the treble.
April 4, 2010: Cardiff Devils 2-2 Belfast Giants (0-1 on penalties)
It was a tale of the immovable object versus the unstoppable force when Cardiff met Belfast in the 2010 Play-off Final.
The Devils and Giants were on respective six and seven game unbeaten runs and it was anyone’s guess as to who was going to break first.
After the first period that answer looked like ‘nobody’. The scoreless match broke free in the second when the Giants took just 10 minutes to take a 2-0 lead.
But Cardiff battled back and by the time the third began the score was level again. The final period and overtime couldn’t decide a winner despite both sides having several chances, meaning the final was settled via a shootout.
Belfast’s Evan Cheverie proved to be the difference maker, scoring his penalty to give the Giants just their second play-off title.
April 7, 2013: Nottingham Panthers 3-2 Belfast Giants
By almost any measure, the Nottingham Panthers are Britain’s most successful hockey club.
Their five EIHL play-off and eight Challenge Cup titles are unrivalled, yet for a long time one particular feat escaped their clutches – the elusive treble.
But after winning the Challenge Cup and their first regular-season EIHL title in the 2012/13 campaign, the Panthers finally had their shot in the Play-off Final against Belfast.
It looked like all was meant to be after Nottingham went up 2-0 at the end of the second, but minutes into the third period the match was tied, ultimately going to overtime.
Captain Jordan Fox scored on the powerplay to put a third and final trophy in the cabinet for Nottingham that year.
April 7, 2014: Braehead Clan 7-6 Fife Flyers
The third place match in the EIHL Play-Off weekend has come to be known as a goal smorgasbord of sorts.
But in 2014, the scoring was kicked up one notch further when it was rival Scottish sides Braehead and Fife vying for the bronze.
After going down 4-0 in the first, Braehead had closed the gap to one in the second period.
They carried that momentum into the final session, scoring three more consecutive goals to take a commanding 6-4 lead.
Fife battled back, tying the match with eight minutes to go and forcing overtime.
In the extra period, Braehead found themselves on a 2-on-1 that allowed Ed McGrane to claim third place for the Clan.
March 6, 2016: Nottingham Panthers 1-0 Cardiff Devils
While Nottingham supporters would probably love to see their club win more league titles, they likely aren’t complaining about their club’s dominance in the Challenge Cup.
In a rare slip-up, the Panthers failed to make it to the final of the 2014/15 cup but had their opportunity in 2016 to take back what is seemingly always theirs against defending champions Cardiff.
The match resembled football more than hockey during regulation, remaining scoreless despite a number of close calls.
In overtime, Nottingham’s Evan Mosey settled the game, scoring on a slapshot from the circle to hand the Panthers their seventh cup in nine years.