This Week: Sunday 24th February
UK ice hockey this week produced stories that have really made you look twice. On and off the ice it has been a rather weird week in the EIHL.
Introducing the Belfast Giants â€“ Back in October British ice hockey was revelling in the news of a major investment in the Belfast Giants. It was great day that secured ice hockey but that turned sour this week. Last Monday it was revealed that the entire Belfast Giants team had quit following the news that new owner Christopher Knight was put on the sex offenderâ€™s register following an incident in 2003. The entire team was then signed by the owners of the Odyssey Arena to play for a new Belfast Giants team. This new team was given the backing of the league in a two-line statement and allowed to carry on where the old team left off. Confused? So were thousands of fans but it seems that it is a case of as you were. The new teams owners have also said that they intend to continue to operate the Giants until a new backer can be found.
Sheffield Return Home But Title May Have to Wait â€“ The Sheffield Steelers had the unenviable task of playing 3 games in 3 nights in 3 different countries. As if that was not hard enough the Steelers were taking on their 2 rivals for the Elite title. On Friday night the Steelers headed to the NIC and all was well thanks to ex Panther Danny Meyers goal but a serious of penalties in the third let the Panthers back into the game and to take the win. Saturdayâ€™s trip to Belfast in Northern Ireland for game 2 and country 2 was a non starter as Giants all but ended the Steelers challenge for league glory this season. Game 3 in country 3 did relief some of the strain of the journey but it was more of case of 4 points lost from the weekend than 2 gained.
Braehead Clan at Risk â€“ The Clan had been tipped at the beginning of the season to be a dark horse. But now with the end in sight their season is in the balance. Losses all of their 3 games this week leaves the Clan just 1 point inside the playoffs and just 1 point separating all 5 Gardner Conference teams as well. The changes on and off the ice perhaps not helping but as a team they will need to gel now to have any chance of reaching the National Ice Centre of the playoff finals. Of course there is still the opportunity to salvage their season as the challenge cup semi final starts this week against the Nottingham Panthers.
UK Hockey Sells Out â€“ Due to the bad weather in January British hockey had a backlog of games. This week saw some of those games played and as a knock to those who dislike midweek affairs there were sell outs. In Guildford on Wednesday night the Flames were hosting the Manchester Phoenix in front of a sell out crowd of over 2000. Then on Friday the NIC was full to capacity as the Panthers faced the Steelers. In a game were anything can happen it is great to see that the fans are again getting their bums on seats at the arenas.
The coming week sees a host of midweek matchups as the EIHL and EPL sides head into their final 10 or so games of the 2013 season. The Sheffield Steelers and the Braehead Clan also meet in the start of their Challenge Cup semi final for the right to face the Nottingham Panthers.