The Monday After – Taking a road trip

The Challenge Cup needs changing...or scrapped (PHOTO: Elite League)

Taking a road trip

We’ve seen another magnificent Challenge Cup Final held in Cardiff and another showpiece to please the Elite League so how about they take it on the road now?

It’s the fourth in a row at the Viola Arena and take nothing away from the organisational abilities of the staff at the Devils, it’s an occasion that’s brilliantly run every year and they do a great job.

But how about moving around various arenas and share the love and experience of seeing various cities hosting a cup final?

There are quite a few adequate venues capable of hosting a Challenge Cup Final so perhaps it’s something to consider as we move forward.

If the minimum capacity is set at 3,000, in keeping with the attendance Cardiff has, you’re looking at six out of the 10 Elite League clubs capable of hosting it at their venue.

According to the numbers on Elite Prospects, Belfast (9,957), Cardiff (3,088), Coventry (3,000), Glasgow (4,000), Nottingham (8,000) and Sheffield (9,000) would be big enough in terms of capacity to host.

That, sadly, would leave out Dundee, Fife, Guildford and Manchester and the only way they would host a final would be to return to the two-legged final format, but I don’t see it happening any time soon.

So, how about either a bidding system for those interested in seeing the final come to their arena or even work it on a rotational basis, which would be my preferred option?

Cardiff’s Viola Arena has hosted the last four Challenge Cup Finals. Should the event be taken around the country?

There will be objections from fans, of course, about having to travel to the further flung places such as Belfast or Glasgow, but it would only be theoretically once every six years, again based on the minimum criteria of capacity set.

As I recall, Belfast and Guildford both had to make the trip to Cardiff for last year’s final, without any great fuss, because they knew well in advance it was where the final would be.

Even if you took Nottingham out of it, by virtue of the fact that they host the play-offs every year, then that still leaves five tangible venues to host a showpiece final once every five years.

In Coventry’s case, they host the NIHL Play-offs every year so are more than equipped to handle a one-off in the Challenge Cup while we’ve all seen what Belfast have done with World Championship groups and the annual Friendship Four competition.

I see no reason why this would not be a way forward in helping the other clubs more involved with the league, as a whole, not that I’m suggesting they’re not, but it makes it a more together organisation in sharing the big occasions.

I’m all in favour of all the other venues getting to host the Challenge Cup Final at some point and would wholeheartedly support a move like this.  After all, can you imagine Fife Ice Arena and the noise it generates for a Challenge Cup Final?

But even if they were to limit to the rinks and arenas with higher attendances, there is an argument for taking it on the road and bringing the final to new destinations.

It’s just a matter of hoping the clubs have an appetite for it and would like to think they could play host to one of the biggest dates on the Elite League calendar.

Sheffield Steelers won the Challenge Cup on Sunday (PHOTO: Helen Brabon)

Steelers enjoy a beautiful Sunday

Congratulations to Sheffield Steelers on winning the Challenge Cup and it’s been a long time coming for a club who, prior to yesterday, hadn’t won it in the Elite League era.

It’s incredible to think a team like the Steelers have had to wait 17 years to get it done after six attempts that ended in disappointment, especially for a club that prides itself on success and silverware.

Alas they got the job and did so against a Cardiff Devils team who had leapt over them into first place following their league meeting on Friday that saw Andrew Lord’s men win 7-3.

You wondered how they would bounce back and they did so in impressive style, especially with the first two goals coming so quickly and putting Cardiff on the back foot.

Devils could never really be counted out of it, even at three down and when they pulled it back to 3-2, I’m sure a few Steelers fans may have started to get nervous.

Michael Davies’ second goal was well taken in its execution and enough to get them over the line and while Joey Haddad’s finish a minute to go caused minor heart murmurs, it was Steelers’ night.

Those in the know will insist it won’t have any impact on the title race, but with half a dozen games or so to go, it could give the Steelers some impetus, but they need to hope the other teams do them a favour.

Regardless, they’ll enjoy this for a couple of days and knuckle down as they plot a way of trying to capture the league title.

Scott McKenzie’s four goals and an assist for Telford this weekend could have swung the NIHL National League title their way (PHOTO: Steve Brodie)

They think it’s all over…

They may have wobbled a little, but barring a collapse of epic proportions, it’s hard to see Telford Tigers relinquish their grip on the NIHL National League title after another dramatic weekend.

A narrow 4-3 win over Leeds Chiefs for Tigers while Swindon Wildcats were beaten on overtime by Basingstoke Bison looks to have swung it decisively in favour of Tom Watkins’ side.

A seven-point gap looks to be a step too far with so little games left, but Telford can afford to put that to one side as they ponder the NIHL National Cup Final second leg, where they’re taking a 6-4 lead home against Peterborough Phantoms.

It’s fair to say it could be a great week for Telford as we look ahead to seven days time.

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