Should the play-off winners be crowned Elite League champions?

It was interesting to see a debate about league champions v play-off winners on social media over the weekend.

Currently – and rightly in my view – the team that tops the league table after the regular season is crowned the Elite League champions.

However, there are some that have suggested that it should be the play-off winners who earn the “champions” tag, which is of course the case across the pond – get your hands on a Deposit Bonus if you’re looking to predict the upcoming NHL Stanley Cup finals series.

A bit closer to home, rugby league’s Super League competition is currently reversed to ice hockey – whereby the team finishing top of the table are paid lip service, with the team going on to win the Grand Final via the play-offs being crowned champions.

There is often a debate over this in rugby league circles, about how it devalues finishing top of the table, which in theory is a much greater achievement than winning a few play-off games. Teams have won Super League from fifth place.

For me, ice hockey has the perfect balance. It’s a long season and the championship keeps it going.

Likewise, the play-off weekend is revered and anticipated by fans and clubs alike. An argument for the Grand Final in rugby league is the revenue that the play-off final generates, whereas ice hockey already seems to be doing a good job of maximising play-off weekend.

In the 16 full seasons of the Elite League since its foundation in 2003, five clubs have been crowned champions – Sheffield (five), Coventry (four), Belfast (four), Nottingham (one) and Cardiff (two).

On five occasions, the league champion has also gone on to win the play-offs – Cardiff (2018), Nottingham (2013), Sheffield (2003 and 2009) and Coventry (2005).

One other club, never league champions in the Elite League, did win the play-offs on one occasion – Newcastle Vipers in 2006.

The other 15 play-off series have all been won by the same five champion clubs, with Nottingham and Sheffield scooping five each.

Play-off series were first used in sports where it was not possible to provide a balanced fixture schedule.

A typical example of course being football, whereby teams play each other home and away an equal times a season.

With the Elite League ensuring that teams play each other six times across the season, three home and three away, it does have that balance of fairness to argue that the league table should decide the champion.

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Some fans had their say on Twitter…

RhysWilliams79 on Twitter: “The lack of importance that the regular season has in NA really lessens it’s appeal. I like the fact that every game means something in the EIHL from the get go. 8/10 teams would qualify basically making the majority of the season a bunch of exhibition games.”

block2mark on Twitter: “Caviat would be we have proper playoff though. Best of five series as a minimum.”

max_springer2 on Twitter: “No way. In a ten team league the league competition has to mean more than the playoffs where 80% of the teams qualify. Also just makes a bunch of games at the end of the season mostly meaningless.”

The good news (if you’re of my way of thinking) is that 74% of the 1,000+ people polled want things to stay as they are.

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