Another day, another shambles in the ongoing soap opera that is British Ice Hockey.
From the high of thinking we had a structure in place to move forward with a revised NIHL set-up to today’s latest developments, it’s safe to say the sport in this country isn’t covering itself in glory right now.
— British Ice Hockey (@BritIceHockey) May 19, 2017
Much has been written across all the usual platforms by all the usual suspects about the situation we find ourselves in.
It’s Ken Taggart’s fault. Wayne Scholes is to blame. Chelmsford are chickens. Neil Morris caused this. EPL owners being selfish is ruining the sport. NIHL clubs have no ambition. Blah, blah, blah.
Whatever the truth of the matter, one fact cannot be disputed. Ice hockey in this country is shooting itself in the foot and it needs to stop. Now.
A certain high profile individual claimed earlier today that the NIHL was a “Beer League” and effectively “rec hockey in a dress”.
Now putting aside the fact that some current Great Britain players cut their teeth at national league level, and giving an honourable mention to the well-run clubs who have worked hard to improve the standard of NIHL on and off the ice, it’s really difficult to argue that the current position is indeed anything other than “Beer League”.
At a time when clubs should be recruiting players, attracting sponsors and laying down plans for the upcoming season, what we currently have is an undignified mess.
The longer the uncertainty goes on, the worse it gets. Players may decide it’s too much hassle. Sponsors? What incentive is there to get involved? Arguably the biggest issue is the fans.
Without them there is no game in this country. There’s plenty of other things people can spend their hard-earned cash on. The longer this goes on, the more likely it is that people will walk away from the game.
With that in mind – and on behalf of everyone who has the best interests of our sport at heart – the time has come for those who run the game in Britain to show leadership.
It’s time to stop the tail wagging the dog and enforce a structure that clubs have to fit into.
Let’s have an announcement this weekend that we have NIHL 1 and 2 in the North and the same in the South. No conferences, no messing about. Just two divisions in each with joined up play-offs at the end.
Set a deadline – 72 hours is plenty – for clubs to decide what level they can operate at within that. If you can’t commit to it, then wave goodbye.
If the self-interest, posturing and behind-closed-doors bickering continues much longer, we run the very real risk of being left with the Elite League and everyone else waiting for ponds to freeze over in the winter.
Sort it out.