New Challenge is Filled with Intrigued

The EIHA has announced its first cross league competition and that has lead to a lot of intrigue and questions. Most of all though the decision has given a great deal of excitement to next season.

The English Challenge Cup sees the 9 remaining EPL teams split into a North and South group. They are joined by the top teams from the NIHL including Solway, Billingham and Blackburn in the North whilst Chelmsford, Invicta and Isle of Wight join the southern teams.

It is something that has been discussed for many years but not since 1996 has it happened. With EPL teams having to abide to NIHL rules on players it will leave many opportunities for younger players and aide development. As well putting players in the spotlight of the EPL teams.

Lets not forget as well the renewing of rivalries. It will be the first time that the senior sides in Manchester and Blackburn have met since 1996.

But it is the intrigue that has brought the excitement back. For many years teams have been pretty static in terms of which league they play and so have seen little change in the teams they face. Now there is a chance to see how teams go against new opposition and for the NIHL teams against higher level teams. It will be particularly interesting for Solway who have dominated the NIHL since joining it and have been one team muted for to make the move up. It would not be surprising to see good attendances for opening matches but that will only stay if the parity measure put in place work and keep the games tight.

This is the point though. If there are blow out games we should not just give up on the idea. It has a plan to develop and put young players in the spotlight if it needs to be tweaked the following season then that is what must be done. It should not be cast aside like so many other plans have been.

I would hope this does work out and many fans will be interested to see new rinks or visit some they haven’t for many years. Whilst this is perhaps final prove that there will be 9 teams in the EPL next season it is something that fills the void and offers something new.

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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