EIHL Expansion: How the league might look?

wembley-arena_s345x230So EIHL expansion is on the cards with the long rumoured London franchise a real possibility. But London will not be alone in entering the league as another team is also likely to be added. We of course do not know when these teams will be added nor do we know where the other one will be with Aberdeen and Dublin long rumoured and Red Hockey’s money being the basis of Telford’s possible entry. But what might an expanded EIHL look like.

Games

Currently the EIHL has a 52 game regular season with 2 more teams under current format (assuming conferencing stays) that means a 62 game schedule. That is hard to see how teams will fit in all those games and something will need to change. An example may be the EBEL in Austria which has 12 teams playing each other 4 times for a 44 game season followed by 10 games in which the top 6 play each other for their playoff seeding whilst the bottom 6 play for a second change to make the playoffs. The EIHL could use this method with the 10 extra games for the Challenge Cup.

Conferences

If conferencing stays in an EIHL with 12 teams we can expect fewer conference games. The current 8 and 4 format well have to go and playing only 2 games against the other conference raises even more questions about the legitimacy of the league champion. We could see a 6 and 4 game split with each side playing their conference rivals 6 times (30 games) and the other conference 4 times (24 games) for a 54 game regular season. A format most fans will like with a better balance in the variety of opponents whilst keeping the travel down and local rivalries up. Plus who begrudge saving Dundee from making the 986 mile round trip to London more times than they needed too.

The make up of the conferences will obviously depend on where the new teams are but there must be changes. We would expect to see London play in the Erdhart Conference because surely even the EIHL cant justify them playing the Scottish teams more.

Imports

The import rule has been most talked about but having two new teams under the current system would create more opportunities for British players. There will be a temptation to raise the limit to afford stretching the British pool more but if this can be resisted it would be benefit the national team.

Playoffs

I doubt there would be any changes to the playoffs. The addition of 2 more teams does not mean there are enough for an extra round of playoff games. The length of the season possibly being 2 games longer also puts a pressure on the fixture list.

Challenge Cup

The Challenge Cup has a potential to change a lot or not at all.

It could a lot like it does now but there would be 6 teams in each group and 2 more round robin games. It would be expected 2 teams would be eliminated leaving the 8 teams for the quarterfinals as there are now.

The changes could come depending on how the league games are divided. In a 44 game season the challenge cup games would standalone games. In a 54 game season these games are more likely to be doubled up.

With 12 teams though the opening group stage could be shaken up with perhaps 4 groups of 3 with only the group winners progressing to the semi finals. This would put some more spice into the opening round with every game being meaningful.

 

It is positive that the EIHL has come out after board meeting and announced its interest in a London franchise. Its also positive that they are not rushing in and all the above will be considered if the EIHL is expanded.

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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