With the recent news that MK Lightning will be stepping up to the Elite League, and that the addition of a new London-based franchise is on the horizon, things couldn’t be looking more prosperous for the EIHL.
Immediate views from a fan perspective seem positive – new places to visit, new fans to meet and, most importantly, new teams to see. What more could you want as a hockey fan?
However, this is a rather naïve and basic outlook on what could turn out to be a very, very complex situation.
Current Nottingham Panthers and Braehead Clan owner, Neil Black, recently announced he is heavily involved in the creation of the new London outfit, although he has not confirmed if he will be at the helm of the ship.
While the ownership of two hockey teams in the league has worked well so far for Black, history has taught us that it’s not always been the case.
Fans will start raising questions about whether or not their team is being given an equal amount of attention – such as when Paul Ragan owned both Cardiff Devils and Sheffield Steelers.
Although things have been plain sailing so far, being involved with three teams and effectively a quarter of the league may open up a can of worms.
It would be fair to assume though that plans would be put in place to make sure this is sustainable.
The next issue that may crop up is attracting a dedicated EIHL fanbase in London. While the English capital is huge, there are many EPL teams based close to the London area.
EPL fans are some of the most passionate around, with many arguing that the product on display in their league is more exciting and entertaining than the tier above them.
This seems to be a minor issue. London is the busiest and most populous city in Britain, so with the correct amount of advertising and marketing a franchise could thrive in the capital.
It worked with creating a team based in the Glasgow area – which is not traditionally a hockey city – so why wouldn’t it work with London?
The addition of these two new teams in the near future raises the question of what is going to happen to the current conference system in the EIHL?
Would these new additions mean Belfast Giants would move to the Gardiner Conference to even up the numbers? And just how fair would it be to have two first-year EIHL teams playing in the same conference?
While all this merely scratches the surface of the effects a league expansion would have on everyone else, there are certainly several questions to be asked and issues to be raised that will all be answered over time.
Perhaps the important question is just how much is it going to cost for a pint in London?
If the league does expand into the capital, visiting fans better start saving up – it’s not cheap down there!