Is it the worst thing?
We have now had chance to digest that the EIHL season is not going to start till the new year (if at all). I don’t think there are any fans that can be 100% against the decision. It is a very difficult situation and one that changes all the time. It does though raise questions about the British game, structure and is it really all bad news.
The EIHL seems to be the biggest league in Europe to be facing a suspension for the entirety of the 2020/21 season. Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Austria are all ramping up their return to play but if we are honest these leagues are the wealthier cousins. The biggest reason given for not returning to action is that the league needs attendances to be pay the bills. A fair statement but if you look at Germany the DEL2 is returning to action, Poland and Italy are also approaching start dates. These are not exactly leagues bursting with big finances and sponsor deals to support in the absence of ticket sales. So what is wrong with the EIHL business model that isn’t allowing it cut spending to cover reduced capacities? Maybe it is the lack of rink ownership by teams, the disparity between budgets or the government backing. It may not be an easy question to answer and once you have the answer it may be harder to implement.
Are there any positives from the situation though? Perhaps having team building start from scratch in 2021 will mean end the dominance of the established teams. Since the Elite League started only Coventry, Belfast, Sheffield, Nottingham, Cardiff and Newcastle have won trophies and all of whom were founder members and established teams prior to the start of the EIHL in 2003. Perhaps this will allow the ‘expansion’ teams are more even recruiting field.
Our national team at least can say it has survived to play 3 seasons in the World Championships which is something of a claim. That said though it is not the most ideal preparation for the tournament (should it go ahead) next May having players not playing. However there are some taking the steps to play in Europe further enhancing the British game by showing the world we do have some players.
And what about the national leagues? If they can get going it could be a brilliant coup for sides feeding on not only British players from EIHL teams looking for a game but also hockey hungry fans who don’t get chance to see the lower league teams play.
We are desperate for a return to hockey and whilst we understand the situation it is still easy to get down but hold on hasn’t playoff hockey in August/ September been great. Sure two of the most southernly teams in the NHL playing in its most northern city is odd but who cares and if you look deep enough you can make a positive.