Proposed league hits trouble as Bees face uncertain future

The proposed Premier Ice Hockey League could face a battle to get off the ground after Bracknell Bees confirmed their participation was far from guaranteed.

The owners of the current EPL teams recently announced their intention to create a revised second tier league which would reduce import player numbers from five to three, while only British-trained net-minders would be allowed from season 2019/20.

To date, neither Ice Hockey UK or the English Ice Hockey Association have commented on the announcement, but with the prospect of increased running costs from their rink’s owners the Bees’ future in any new set-up remains unclear.

Player/Coach Lukas Smital told Bracknell News: “We are in talks with the rink (bosses). They are in the early stages and we will have to see what happens in the next few weeks.

“We need to know where we are before we make a decision and see whether it is worth going forward or not.

“I can’t give a 100 percent assurance that Bracknell will be there (next season). We need to see where we are. It will not be an overnight decision – it’s not that easy.”

UK ice hockey’s governing bodies had taken the lead in looking to develop a financially sustainable nationwide conference model for the sport’s second tier, with IHUK boss Richard Grieveson driving the idea.

Representatives from IHUK, EIHA, SIH, EPL, NIHL and rink owners attended a meeting in January, where the initial proposals received broad support.

The EPL owners appeared to take things in a different direction with their PIHL proposal, but with IHUK and the EIHA preparing to meet again in mid-March it appears the make-up of the second tier is still some way from being formalised.

(Image permission: Kevin Slyfield)

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