Friday Nights the Right For Stingrays

If the Hull Stingrays make the playoffs this year they will have done it the long way round. The move to conference play in the EIHL has effected all the teams in different ways and on the whole made the playoff race much tighter than in previous season. Whilst travel for most clubs has been reduced by playing conference rivals 4 times away for the Stingrays it has increased massively. Trips to Scotland must weekends have meant the Humberside based side face over 400 miles of coach journeys most Saturdays. Owner and assistant coach Bobby McEwan believes with his side bottom of the table and outside the playoffs this gruelling schedule has had its toll on his players.

It is a fair comment. Whilst Hull’s 4 conference rivals arrive back at their home rink after an away game against another conference rival before midnight it can take the ‘Rays another 4 or 5 hours and then the players need to be back at the Hull rink another 5 hours later to play a home game. Rather than booing and blaming the conference system that does disadvantage his side, McEwan has a plan for next season. Friday night games.

SPORT  ICE HOCKEY  20.03.10  HU-71084K5 -  Hull Stingrays v Cardiff Devils at the Hull Arena.  Pictured is Bobby McEwan.   PICTURE: Jack HarlandThe Elite League want seem likely to press ahead with the conference system again next season. After many sceptics it is turning them around and quitting on it now would be the wrong thing to do. Yet Hull are put out and the Elite League need to do something to help Hull out and by helping them accommodate more Friday games will help.

The plan though needs the backing of the council who operate the rink but they too should back the idea. Hull is a major sporting city but that often is forgotten as cities like Manchester are more often in the national news for its sporting prowess. However Hull boasts a soccer team hoping to regaining its Premier League status and two Superleague rugby teams as well as host of other sports including roller derby alongside its Elite League ice hockey side. This means that Hull weekends are pretty full with sport. But what better way to market the cities sporting events than by offering a Friday night of top flight ice hockey to go along with a Saturday of soccer action and a Sunday of high impact rugby.

And it is a two-way deal. With Hull City generally in action on a Saturday and rugby in action on a Sunday the Stingrays would no longer be in competition for spectators with the two more established sports.

It would of course need to be a flexible arrangement as occasionally rugby games at the near by KC Stadium do take place on a Friday night but with rugby being played over the summer and hockey the winter there is only 3 months of cross over. Away fans may moan at needing to have time off work to travel however due to the long journey from Scotland to Hull many away fans from within Hull’s Gardiner conference have already been put off.

This season may not be over yet but McEwan’s plan gives the EIHL and its 9 other teams something to mull over when it comes to fixture scheduling this summer.

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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