Slow Start to EIHL Fixtures

The EIHL season is now underway and it is great to have hockey back. And two new teams showing they have recruited well and are up to standard. There is though a question mark around the fixtures.

The fixtures are something that is never going to make everyone happy. It is a complicated business with many factors determining who can play who and when. Braehead Arena is unavailable for most of September, Sheffield may not have their arena on most Saturday nights and the CHL and Intercontinental Cup play a role. However this season seems to have produced a lobsidedness to the opening weeks.

Manchester have played 6 games in the league whilst some teams have only played 1 or 2 and it is the same in the cup fixtures. You also have situation where the Scottish Cup which is a preseason tournament (maybe with a bit of added grit and prestige) happening after the start of the season.

Due to the amount of games hockey teams play there is rarely an evenness during the season to the number of games played but it would be better for advertising the league if all teams started the season at least on same weekend. Look at the fuss the NHL and indeed MLB make of starting the season. It would really give a bang to September hockey rather than struggling to understand if it is a league cup or both game.

The last 2 weeks have also seen midweek fixtures with some pretty long road trips. Dundee had the long trip to Sheffield last week then this Wednesday hosted Cardiff whilst Milton Keynes had the relatively short trip trip to Sheffield. Midweek fixtures are a going to be a fact of life with all those arena availability questions and European games but the league has come under fire for who is playing who in them. Around 900 turned up at ice Sheffield for the visit of Dundee and Cardiff’s visit to Dundee attracted only 700.Not surprisingly those figures were not boosted by many fans for the away sides. However how many away fans would have made the trip anyway? Perhaps it is better to cut the loses on the long distance games (which were streamed) playing them midweek and go big at the weekends with more local ties except the Steelers and the Panthers both attracted better attendances for their midweek games. 1100 on hand at Ice Sheffield for the visit of Milton Keynes and 4,300 at the NIC for Conference clash with the Giants. On that note perhaps the jury is still out regarding midweek games but to say in Austria fixtures have been arranged with shorter distances midweek and longer at the weekend to allow fans to travel with some success.

Compiling the fixtures is not easy and it is not down to computer but a person (importantly) under the guidance of the clubs. However as that is the case perhaps a little more thought and flexibility from the decision makers would make the fixtures easier to understand for newcomers to the sport and create a bigger buzz about the beginning of the season which can only be good for the sport as a whole and maybe increase attendances at midweek ties.

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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