The Tigers welcome Hull Pirates to the EPL

The Tigers will face a brand-new team in Hull Pirates next season – and Red Hockey CEO Wayne Scholes is relishing the challenge.

A difficult summer for the sport’s governing body, the EIHA, saw Hull admitted to the English Premier League at the eleventh hour last week.

Grave concerns arose over Hull’s Elite League side, Hull Stingrays, just days earlier, before they were placed into liquidation.

Getting another side to fill that gap proved simple, however, when Manchester Storm took Hull’s place in the EIHL just hours later.

And for Scholes, the challenge of taking on another ‘northern’ EPL side, owned by Sheffield Steeldogs boss Shane Smith, could prove to be a blessing for the entire league.

“Rather than run with just nine teams, the EIHA have finally got to grips with the structure and thankfully, we now have ten teams,” Scholes said.

“The introduction of Hull Pirates is being rightly welcomed as a real shot in the arm for the league and the new owner’s efforts to form this side should not be sniffed at. Without him, other teams would have had to tighten their belts.

“It is inevitable that Shane will have to go for some young players, but I don’t think he will have any trouble attracting youngsters to such a great city and organisation.”

Several new rules have been introduced to spice up the competition next season, including three on three overtime and minor changes to the play-off structure.

Other alterations include a return to the traditional 54-game schedule, with teams playing each other three times at home and three times away.

White, or light styles, will remain the primary colours for away team jerseys in the first half of next season, before changing after Christmas.

New rules concerning play-offs will see the top three teams able to choose their opponents for the quarter-finals, from the other five sides.

Each of those clubs will have their choice of a home leg date, as long as they choose a team from outside the top four finishers.

“Deciding on a quarter-final opponent is crucial for any team and this format adds a lot more intrigue to the post-season competition,” Scholes added.

“By giving clubs the choice, we will hopefully see a better range of teams at the tournament itself and even in the final match.

“Yes, travelling to Hull will be a difficulty for the southern teams, but we have to look at this league as a whole and the Pirates are now part of that. Besides, the fans in Hull are known as great fans, so it’ll be fun!”

Play-off seedings aside, the English Premier League clubs are now looking forward to a competitive year with ten teams – and the chase for that precious league title.

“I am delighted that finally, we can get on with the hockey and hopefully leave the politics behind for at least a little while,” Scholes said.

“Seeing our team skate out onto the ice in September will be an emotional moment for the whole club, as we’ll be starting the season as league champions.

“But we can’t take anything for granted and the whole team is determined to start the season in the right frame of mind.”

*Ken Taggart, Chairman of the English Premier Ice Hockey League, welcomed the changes and said: “It’s taken a little time and a lot of work behind the scenes but it’s great to see the EPIHL back to ten teams and likely to be better and more competitive than ever before.

“The future is looking bright for the league but nobody will be sitting back congratulating themselves. We need to keep on moving forwards and I know everybody involved with this league is determined to do that.

“Season fixtures are in the works and will be announced in the coming weeks.”

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