New TV Deal Is Good for NIHL As Well

I was pleased to hear that the subscription TV channel Premier Sports is going to show a live Elite League match once a week on Saturday evenings from the end of November. As far as I am concerned, any extra coverage afforded to British domestic ice hockey is good – even if it is on a channel that you have to pay extra for. Premier already show lots of other sports as well as regular NHL games and coverage of the Ice Hockey World Championships so it would seem a logical – and welcome – step to offer regular coverage of league games as well.

It means that somebody who may already watch NHL matches – or, indeed, a non-hockey fan who watches the various rugby, boxing and motor sport programmes that they have on – will now also get a glimpse of domestic British ice hockey.

Now, it is a sad but true fact that, apart from people who live in the vicinity of an ice hockey team – or people who play themselves, or know somebody who plays or used to play – the vast majority of the British public have no idea that ice hockey is played in this country.  They think it is a game that they play in Canada… or Russia…or at the Olympics and that is it.

I hold my hand up here – until the ice rink opened in Peterborough and I attended my first ice hockey match in the 1982/83 season, I didn’t know either. I was amazed to find that there were teams from Bradford and Deeside and Solihull to play against and that there was a whole British League with even bigger and better teams than the one that I was watching.  Once I started reading the various magazines, I was even more amazed to discover that teams like Blackpool, Streatham,  Richmond and Fife had been playing on and off since the 1930s.

I may be getting a bit carried away here, but I think this new TV deal will also have a positive knock-on effect for teams in the EPL and the NIHL as well.

Once people begin to see British ice hockey on their TV screens on a weekly basis, it may encourage them to find out who their own local team is. They may decide to go and check out a live game at Widnes – or Blackburn – or Oxford or wherever and, as we all know, once you go to a live ice hockey match for the first time, you get the bug!

There are other unexpected things that can come along as a consequence of TV coverage as well.  This isn’t about hockey but football- but it’s an interesting story all the same.  A few years ago the veteran football manager Ron Atkinson appeared in a fly on the wall documentary series where he went behind the scenes at Peterborough United to help them sort out their financial and administrative difficulties.  The place was an absolute shambles – deep in debt and with players fighting in the dressing rooms.  The TV show caught the eye of a property millionaire who was living in Spain looking for something new to invest his money in. He took over the club, injected a load of cash and brought huge improvements to Peterborough United.

The first live Elite League match on Premier Sports in on Saturday 23rd November from 7pm when Coventry Blaze take on Belfast Giants.

You can find out more about Premier Sports and all the various events that they cover at


Paul Breeze

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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