Elite League D-Day: What we can expect

Belfast Giants have allowed their players to seek opportunities elsewhere (PHOTO: William Cherry/Press Eye)

The big day has finally arrived and we’ll finally find out if there will be a 2020/21 season, but what can we expect to see as the EIHL announced what’s to happen?

With players moving elsewhere in an attempt to get playing time and no movement in having fans being allowed into venues, it certainly doesn’t look too promising for the top flight.

We asked the question about the likelihood of EIHL action taking place in December, but it’s looking more and more likely the Elite League will shut down for a year until the Covid pandemic is better controlled or a vaccine is found.

So what happens now for the league and those associated with it?

Sheffield Steelers won the Challenge Cup, the only trophy to be won before the season shut down because of COVID (PHOTO: Dave Williams)

THE TEAMS

Each team will or should outline how they plan to proceed in the course of the next year in keeping their fans engaged.

If NIHL hockey goes ahead as planned from the New Year, there may be tie-ins with those clubs to keep the juices flowing as well as regular information from the clubs as they start to look ahead.

Some organisations’ level of engagement have been different from others in the last six months since last season ended abruptly, but you may find more information as we go.

You may already find your team is running with skeleton staff to keep costs down and survival will be the name of the game for the next 12 months.  If you have a query, don’t be upset if they don’t reply to you straight away.

What you can be sure of is they’ll work tirelessly to bridge this gap and be ready to welcome you back in years time.

The likelihood is we won’t be seeing these kinds of scenes for a while (PHOTO: William Cherry/Press Eye)

THE PLAYERS

We’ve already seen players move on from different clubs, taking up opportunities elsewhere so the expected news today will see much more of that as some familiar faces will find themselves wearing different jerseys.

Again, the NIHL stands to benefit if it goes ahead as planned so expect some EIHL names to appear in signing announcements for these clubs in due course.

There may also be some more players, either Brits or imports, going overseas to keep playing as well, but it will be tough with players looking for jobs to tide them over.

Others may either take a year out and re-examine their options or some may decide the time is right to hang up the skates and bid goodbye to this stage of their lives.

Regardless, we’ll soon find out with a number of players what their plans are once the announcement has been made.

Pete Russell’s GB plans may suffer if the EIHL suspends for a year (PHOTO: Ice Hockey UK)

GREAT BRITAIN

It’s too soon to know how this will affect the national men’s team right now, but no top flight action could heavily impact on Pete Russell’s team for the World Championships next week.

While the tournament in Minsk could be under threat for political reasons further down the line, you could have a situation where there’s a number of players who haven’t played or played much between now and then.

Seeing guys take up opportunities abroad will be a positive as they should get the ice time to keep them going, but there’s every chance the team could suffer when they head to Belarus.

Belfast are the last team to win the Elite League title (PHOTO: William Cherry/Press Eye)

THE LEAGUE

As for the EIHL itself, there’s a lot to take into consideration going forward and this shutdown may well affect the running of the league in the first couple of years.

Budgets will have shrunk so you may see smaller import levels in the first couple of seasons as the collective starts to find its feet again.

However, don’t be surprised if we see proposals for a mini tournament of some description scheduled for April or May designed to help ease us back, in the hope that the pandemic by that point has gone.

It would also be a benefit for the GB team as well, if there was some kind of plan a few months down the line.  This is pure speculation on our part and we don’t know this for sure, but with the Elite League and those in charge, it’s always possible.

It’s important to remember the league are the teams so they’re in this together and hopefully all ten are still standing at the other side of this.

Remember this? Good times (PHOTO: Cardiff Devils)

FANS

Disappointment will be the first emotion in all this, but there will be plenty of understanding in the current circumstances.  This is a year like no other.

Those who have paid money for a season ticket will want to know what’s happening with their investment so that’s something for the clubs to decide upon.

The fans won’t forget the sport and will still be there in a year’s time.  Some might take time out while others may explore their local NIHL side instead for their hockey fix.

You just know when the Elite League can resume in its familiar form, there will be a lot of noise.  And we can’t wait for that.

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