Ice Hockey is still an up and coming sport in the UK. In England hockey is seeing its popularity grow exponentially and it’s clear to see that when you consider that six of the 11 teams in the Elite League (EIHL) all hail from England, with the remaining teams split between Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively.
With the recent news that the Elite League teams voted unanimously to suspend the 2020/21 season, which was due to begin to December, we decided to profile a few of the top teams in the league to give you an insight into British Ice Hockey.
The most successful team in British Ice Hockey history, with nine championship titles to their name. Aaron Fox took over as Head Coach and General Manager in April 2019 and led the Steelers to their first Challenge Cup victory in 17 years, with a 4-3 win over Cardiff Devils. They were on track to win their tenth championship in the 2019/20 season, until the season was brought to an abrupt end.
Cardiff are the reigning EIHL play off champions, after winning the title in 2019, and the second most successful team in the league with six championships. The Welsh side missed out on the chance to make it seven in the 2019/20 season, as they sat top of the table before the season was brought to an end due to the coronavirus pandemic. They’ll be looking to put that right when the league does return and will be among the favourites to do so.
Founded in 2000, the Giants are the third most successful team in the EIHL with five championship titles to their name. The latest of those came in the 2018/19 season and they were just four points off leaders Cardiff Devils when the season was curtailed earlier this year. Former captain and now Head Coach, Adam Keefe will be aiming to take to the Giants to top again when league action returns.
With four championship titles to their name, Coventry Blaze are the fourth most successful franchise in EIHL history. Former player Danny Stewart took the Head Coach position in 2016, but has since struggled to bring the success the Blaze had in the noughties, during which time Stewart won two consecutive titles. They were poised for a title challenge before the current season was ended and if they can build on that when the league returns, they could be dark horses.
The Panthers haven’t won a championship title since 2013, which was only the second ever regular season title win for the franchise. They made a solid start to the 2019/20 season, with two good wins against Sheffield Steelers and win over league leaders Cardiff Devils right before the season was brought to an early end. If they have a similar start to the one they had last season, they’ll have a good chance of landing their third championship title.
At this moment in time, there’s no way of knowing exactly when the EIHL will return. All we know for sure is that the national league cannot return until spectators are legally allowed to attend games again. We hope that this day comes sooner rather than later and hockey fans get to see their favourite players back out on the ice.