Phoenix Saga Leaves Unanswered Questions

Fylde Ice Arena

Like Star Wars the Manchester Phoenix saga continues. After last season in Deeside they started the season in Blackpool and now end up in Widnes. To say the saga has shocked and surprised at every turn would be an understand but then again you can not say that anything Neil Morris has done has been understated. The latest move though has raised more questions than answers. Putting a side the fixture list changes that will come and not announced on Monday bigger questions came to mind.

In the medium term, what happens beyond this season. The Phoenix didn’t offer much on this however on Tuesday night the Widnes Wild offered more. There statement talks about assessing the long term viability of the EPL side playing out of Widnes suggesting that if all goes well then the Phoenix could be on the Mersey estuary for some time.

In the long term though are the biggest questions. Most of which come from the famed new rink in Manchester that had been promised. The temporary rink, where the Phoenix had hoped to be playing in November has been abandoned as being no longer economically viable. Any mention of the permanent home has bundled under a line stating until a long term solution can be brought to fruition.

Widnes Ice Rink

Then there are the implications for other teams in Widnes. In the short time since the Wild arrived in the Widnes the sport has grown massively. Not only is the NIHL side well supported but so are recreational sides the Widnes Wildcats and Riverside Raiders and the Widnes Wild women’s side has also grown. Will the Wild remain so well support when the EPL arrives and there are multiple games on in a week and a higher standard on offer.

Other implicants though could be positive. The Widnes Wild spoke about a path way for players to progress through the system from the Wild and Aces to the Phoenix and on to the Manchester Storm which would be great for youth development if taken advantage of at every step.

But whilst Widnes is closer to Manchester and is a nice rink there are draw backs. The capacity of the rink for one may be a problem. We all know hockey is a bums on seats sport and the more people you can get in the more stable the club is. At a capacity of around 500 it will be the smallest in the EPL and that capacity is about a third of most of the other teams. Only Telford is comparable at 600 and they too have struggled financially even with good crowds.

There are a lot of ifs and buts however the one thing is for sure Widnes is not Manchester and so it cannot really be a long term solution. However with a £1.5m overhaul of the Ice Dome in Altrincham promised by and if the Phoenix are welcomed back into Silver Blades family a return to Manchester might just be promised.

Monday’s announcement was not what anyone wanted but it was not the one everyone dreaded. It is time to bury the hatchet and work together.

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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