Growing the product
With the Elite League down to ten teams this year, would it be a good thing to look at extending those numbers again, if certain teams are willing and ready for it?
There was great excitement in 2017 when Guildford Flames and Milton Keynes Lightning made the step up from the English Premier League as it crumbled and having the 12 certainly gave the fans something to enjoy.
Bear in mind, Edinburgh Capitals were still around as well and while they struggled in what turned into their final season, then MK’s well documented issued forcing them to step down to the NIHL National League, is it worth looking at what’s out there?
It can be argued ten clubs is a good number and with the financial demands of playing at the Elite level, doesn’t stretch things ridiculously much in terms of travel and other such expenses.
The divisions into the Conference system helped with that too, but now that everyone is playing each other the same number of times, it’s maybe suitable, especially for the lower-end budget teams.
But if the league were to expand, just who exactly could come in and add to the league, assuming they have the right resources to not only come in, but compete to a reasonable level?
We’re heard so much about the team that’s coming in from London, but it has been really quiet on that front for some time. Is it still happening? Has talk of a KHL team based in London silenced that for now? We just don’t know.
Todd Kelman revealed at the EIHL fans’ forum, which took place at the play-off weekend last year, that Dutch side Tilburg Trappers applied then withdrew. Had that gone ahead, that really would have been a good addition.
Murrayfield Racers wanted to the join the EIHL and replace Edinburgh Capitals, which saw a messy divorce at the time and Tony Hand has always been honest to admit it’s something they would look at, but with them strolling things in the SNL, will they revisit it again?
There was a possibility of a team from Aberdeen, who, I’m led to believe, examined the possibility from afar, but have either held off or ditched the idea completely.
Can you imagine the return of having four Scottish teams in the league and restoring that four-way rivalry again? That would be something.
Would a team based out of Dublin be something the EIHL would explore, if someone came forward to propose it? It would be some competition for Belfast Giants at least and would be as big a rivalry as Nottingham-Sheffield and Glasgow-Fife, I think.
MK fans would love to return to the top flight and I know some were disappointed with the decision to drop down, but who knows under the right circumstances and under, dare I say, much better owners.
There are avenues to explore and the league, who invited applicants for next season some months ago, will no doubt keep their options open if they are approached.
One thing everyone will agree on, whoever does come in, have to be prepared for it and hit the ground running. Anything less could be problematic for the reputation of the league going forward.
I didn’t get the chance to write this last week, but I wanted to extend my best wishes to Tom Darnell, who retired as an Elite League referee around New Year time.
He’s been donning the stripes for 22 years and has seen and done a lot in his time in the various leagues and teams he’s officiated down the seasons.
As many will agree, Tom is undoubtedly one of the good guys and his departure is very much ice hockey’s loss, taking that experience with him.
From a media point of view, he was always great to deal with. I remember when I worked for the league, he was good enough to do a Twitter Q & A for us so I basically handed him my laptop and let him crack on. He must have dealt with 50 or more questions, good, bad and indifferent.
I couldn’t believe my eyes on Twitter yesterday afternoon when I read that Glasgow Clan fans had been moved to an upper tier of Sheffield’s Fly DSA Arena in the game with the Steelers…because they were being too noisy.
The information I had post game was that a health and safety complaint was made to the club, who were duty bound to act upon it and did so, meaning the 40-odd travelling support were shifted.
While Steelers were right to act on a complaint, especially where H&S is concerned, it still leaves questions.
Firstly, why were a crowd of 40 or so, with drums, more noisier than when the building had 9,200 in it last week?
And why was it deemed to be more necessary and efficient to move 40 people than provide alternative seating for the person or people who were inconvenienced?
To be clear, a complaint of this nature had to be dealt with by Steelers so I don’t fully blame them so I understand why they acted, but on the face of it, doesn’t seem as though the best solution was reached.