Confused.NIHL South

Ok I am going to come out and say it. I just do not understand the NIHL South. At the AGM I was impressed with the clubs. I did feel there was a chance to save the second tier perhaps with a regionalised structure but the fact that the NIHL divisions kept the nucleus of last season was good. However the decision of Solent, Oxford and Chelmsford to resign is somewhat baffling.

I can understand the decision of the Solent Devils to some extend. Of the teams in the NIHL S1 they were amongst the smallest in terms of capital and rink capacity making it difficult to compete with the new teams that will have a much bigger budget.

Oxford though is very confusing. They are team that has been on the rise since losing one of their teams in 2011-12 season and had plans to launch a second team. Now though they have claimed that due to the loss of one team and the conference structure they have claimed it is not viable to play at the S1 level. Oxford are pretty centrally located and will benefit from the additions of Bracknell, Swindon and Basingstoke being quiet close by. So the additional travel argument is hard to comprehend especially as compared to starting a second team it must be minimal.

Then there is Chelmsford which just seems bizarre Last season they were the dominant team in the league. The Chieftains won all but three games and lead the league by 18 points and had a massive +103 goal difference in 2017. So it seems hard to see how they would not be competitive this year. The main reason behind their decision seems to be that players have been asking for more money.

Whilst I believe this is true and caused by bigger budget teams coming into the league I think it is too early to tell just how it will settle. It is a game of supply and demand. We have lost the Manchester Phoenix and with Milton Keynes and Guildford moving in the EIHL there are fewer opportunities for British players and so more players have been put back into the market. The result of this should be that the teams are controlling the market more and can dictate the prices more than players can. It is still early in the summer but as players go unsigned it should further aid the teams.

Ultimately it seems like teams are again acting out of self interest and a desire to work the rules and league structure to their own advantage in order to win the league. Teams should instead be looking to create a league structure that allows a team to improve in in order to win the league.

We await the decision on the structure of NIHL S2 for the final outcome of this long running saga.

Neil Tucker

Neil has written on ice hockey for many websites concentrating on British ice hockey mostly. Neil also covers ice hockey in other countries and organises his Blueliner Hockey Tour. A graduate of the Manchester Metropolitan University Neil turned his hand to hockey writing in 2009. As well as contributing on Blueliner Hockey Neil has contributed to Get Real Hockey and Slapshot Magasine.

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