NIHL Deja Vu

So the NIHL is set and it is pretty much what was expected but with the bonus of a much wanted national champion via the playoffs. But there is a bit of a case of deja vu.

Many teams are taking the realignment as an opportunity to ice second teams. One team in the top flight and a second in the lower tier. It is not uncommon and is in fact anything but. Invicta have iced 2 teams successfully for many years with the Dynamos in Division 1 and Mustangs in Division 2.

What is surprising is that the new teams are in places were they have been before. Cardiff for example previously iced teams in both divisions under the Devils banner, Oxford City Stars also iced teams in both divisions and in Blackburn were an under 25 side takes the place of the ousted Eagles.

With the addition of the EPL teams many rinks will host 2 NIHL sides. Basingstoke, Bracknell, Swindon, Peterborough, Hull, Sheffield are joined by the above with the Deeside Dragons also joining the list.

The reason is development and it is not a bad idea. Juniors are often left with nowhere to play if there talent needs a bit more nurturing before making the leap to the senior squad. It is sound reasoning but you have to wonder if it is practical. Oxford, Cardiff, Blackburn and Sheffield have all lost 1 of their teams in recent years.

Yes there have changes in owners and circumstance but with teams entering the league with bigger budgets that will push up the budgets of the existing teams it seems a strange time for a club to endure the additional expense of an additional team.

Fans  will apprehensive but there is a lot to be open minded about with the new structure. It is also interesting the SNL has announced it will bring itself inline with the NIHL by having 2 imports per side from the season after next. It may lead to a Memorial Cup style playoff finals to find a UK national league champion. It just may take some time to settle into itself and for the level to be found for all teams. We have seen teams dominate the NIHL for a season or two at a time but then another team takes the mantle. It will probably happen again.

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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