Hockey is Back Just Not EIHL
So the good news we have hockey in the UK this weekend but just not at the top of the sport.
Saturday and Sunday will see the Sheffield Steeldogs and Swindon Wildcats clash in a home and home series as part of the NIHL’s spring cup. They will be joined by the Bees (formerly Bracknell), Romford Raiders and Telford Tigers with players from across all levels of the sport involved. It is great news and means outtings for players like Liam Kirk, Ben Lake and Ross Venus who will be hoping to earn a place in the Team GB Squad.
But is not a sad state of affairs that it is the NIHL clubs making this competition whilst their supposedly senior EIHL counterparts have scrapped any plans for a competition. It shows a real lack of leadership and resolve from the EIHL clubs.
There of course many hurdles to putting on a tournament. The venues need to be decided and COVID risk assessed. That may prove problematic but with no fans in attendance doesnt matter if the Sheffield Steelers played at Ice Sheffield or if Nottingham played on the second pad. Lets put it this way; if the Bees can ice a team despite their own rink closing down during the lockdown it surely can not be that much of a stretch for teams that already have a rink.
Granted EIHL does have issues with half the teams not playing in England and coming under different restrictions and funding rules but not every team needed to take part and players could have swapped teams just as they are for the NIHL’s spring cup.
The reason given by the EIHL seems to be that it would damaging to the future of the league and its clubs if a tournament was held and would make the league financially unviable. However there was funding available from Sport England (reportedly upto £4 million) and I would credit fans with knowing the difference in the on ice product from a team put together at the last minute and one prepared for months in advanced. Personally was rather looking forward to squads being shaken up and potential a different winner.
Smith and the rest of the EIHL leadership should be ashamed of themselves. Fans of these clubs have been buying raffle tickets, entering auctions and donating money to keep the clubs afloat during this time and they have not been rewarded with an on ice product. For years the sport has cried out for government and central support to be invested in the sport and yet again it seems due to personal agenda’s elsewhere it has been rejected.
Don’t get me wrong it is massive undertaking to put on a competition like this at the moment. The risk assessments alone are way beyond anything anyone has had before and full credit and hats off must go to the NIHL teams in the Spring Cup and the players for ditching (temporally) their club allegiances to put on a tournament for the fans.
Streaming tickets for Sheffield Steeldogs home games can be found here