By Bailey Arnold-Wilkin
Hull Pirates have announced they will not be competing in the NIHL National league for the 2021/22 season.
Work began this month on the Hull Ice Arena including installation of new air ventilation systems and ice pad, as well as general maintenance upgrades.
The work, contracted to well-known ice specialists Ice Tech UK and local construction company JP Developers, was scheduled to be completed by early September.
This would coincide with the Pirates beginning their campaign in the National league for the 21/22 season.
However, the Hull Pirates owner Shane Smith announced in a Facebook post on their official page that the team would reluctantly be withdrawing from the season after being informed that the essential work at the arena wouldn’t be complete until 30th October 2021 at the earliest.
“We’d like to thank our sponsors, match night volunteers and helpers, fans and the NIHL teams as a whole for their patience whilst we worked with all parties to understand the timelines and issues we faced in order to make the start line for the 2021 / 22 season,” he said.
“Unfortunately our business model isn’t sustainable with the rinks delays a situation that I personally and my volunteer team are truly saddened by.
It is with reluctance that the Hull Pirates Ice hockey team have had to make the difficult decision to announce that they will not be competing in the 21/22 NIHL National division.
— Hull Pirates IHC (@Pirates_ihc) July 15, 2021
“We’ve been working hard behind the scenes to understand if there was any movements or leeway in the dates the council have given us but unfortunately there isn’t.
“It’s very disappointing, especially as we had verbally agreed with many of the 2019 / 20 roster to return for the forthcoming season.
“We have kept the players informed of the ongoing situation and reluctantly have now agreed that the players need to find a roster slot elsewhere for the forthcoming season.
“With all these things taken into consideration and after lengthy discussions with Andrew Miller EIHA Director of the NIHL we both felt (mothballing) was the best way forward for the team and the league.”
This news comes despite Hull City Council Leader Daren Hale reassuring fans last month that the £1.4m arena revamp was on schedule.
“We are listening to the concerns of these clubs, who represent the future of ice hockey and figure skating in the city,” he told Hull Daily Mail last month.
“The Hull Arena is an important part of the city’s sport and leisure fabric and we are delighted that these works are underway so it can reopen to the public as quickly as possible.”
The club is expected and welcomed to rejoin the National League for the 2022/23 season, but there is the question of if the club will survive until then with the uncertainty of work at both the current and new rink in the city, could we see another ice hockey franchise in Hull fall into the abyss?
The news left player-coach Jason Hewitt frustrated at having to sit out the new season, however he’s looking at his own options after expressing a desire to continue playing.
“Frustrated is the best word to describe it,” he told the Yorkshire Post. “Mainly because it’s been 16 months, maybe more, that the rink has been shut and nothing has been done.
“And it’s not just the Pirates, it’s hockey in Hull as a whole that is suffering. I had a lengthy chat with Shane about the potential different outcomes, if it was delayed and how this and that would look. But it became pretty obvious that it was out of his control.
“There was nothing he could have done and I feel for him, I really do. He’s put a lot of time, money and effort into Hull and we built something pretty good over the last few years and it’s such a shame that it has come to an end this way really.”
“I fully intend on playing. I feel good and I’m still loving the game. Ultimately, I’ve got to have a discussion with my family and see what is best for us.”