EIHL Conferencing: Good Bad and Ugly

After some days thought I have decided that the best way to describe the EIHL’s new conferencing system is as good, bad and ugly.

The Bad

On their own conferencing works as it means there is a reasonable number of games in a season (56). However with the Challenge Cup many teams are still going to face each other 10 teams this season without knockout games. This for me is the biggest issue as it can turn off the more casual fan.

Occasional fans are the gold mine for teams. These are fans that cannot get to every game but will go multiple times a year. On average they pay more per game than season ticket holders to see a game but it is variety that will bring them back. If you can’t get to every game then you want to try to see every team.

The second point is that the biggest teams are in one conference. Sheffield, Nottingham and Cardiff are together which doesn’t help the other teams. Fans of these sides travel in good numbers which boosts revenue for other teams and shares the wealth a little bit. Whilst Cardiff GM Todd Kelman is right nobody is making money in the EIHL surely some are making more than others. And Kelman is right it is the back room staff selling tickets and sponsorship that make the sell out crowds at Cardiff and other rinks but am sure their job is easier if can say the oldest, most successful, biggest fan base sides are playing in your arena more.

The Good

So we have 12 teams which is great. 56 games is a manageable number of league games. Manchester no longer have to travel to Scotland every week which must be good for legs. The smaller teams seem to have won out over the big in the restructuring battle which is nice to see given at times the EIHL feels like the Kelman, Smith and Black show. There are less conference games which is good for variety and gives the league title a little more fairness (though not completely).

The Ugly

Wow I think my 4 week olddaughter could have drawn up more geographically pleasing conferences. Scotland will always be a conference but Cardiff, Nottingham, Belfast and Sheffield looks awful next to Manchester, Coventry, Milton Keynes and Guildford. But that’s what has been agreed and if your Manchester maybe it is not all bad. A 3 hour bus ride to Guildford 4 times as opposed to 4 bus – plane – bus – game – hotel – bus – plane – bus journeys to Belfast is probably more appealing. And some of the journeys I am sure will be negated by the fixture list.

In terms of competition I am not sure it is pretty. 4/5 top teams from last year in one conference whilst everyone else is in the others seems a bit lob sided.

Conferencing like this is not perfect but perhaps it is a growing pain the EIHL needs to go through. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that the NHL developed geographically pleasing divisions. At points Vancouver, California, Los Angeles, New York Americans, St Louis and Minnesota North Stars have played in divisions made up of teams farther away than those in the other divisions. And who knows perhaps this system will leave the door open for more teams such as the much touted London team or perhaps even from the EPL fallout.

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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