November 11, 2011

Get Real Guide to the British Elite Ice Hockey League

The Elite League or EIHL is the top league in the UK. It currently has 10 members stretching from the Welsh capital to the north of Scotland and Northern Ireland. The 2011 champions were the Sheffield Steelers who won the title for the title for the second time.

The EIHL was formed in 2003 and replace the Superleague as the top league. The 2002- 2003 season had been a traumatic one for the Superleague. The spiralling costs and the loss of the novelty fact amoungst casual fans led many teams into difficulty including the once biggest supported club in Europe, the Manchester Storm and one of the Superleague’s most successful teams the Scottish Eagles. The professionalism that the Superleague era ushered in was at risk as both of those teams folded just weeks into the season. Two other clubs, London Knights and Bracknell Bees also announced they would be leaving the league. The remaining clubs together with some teams in the now defunct British National League and new teams in Manchester and London pulled together to form the Elite League and put in place an import quota (currently at 10 non British trained) and a salary cap to ensure costs stayed low.

Those measures have been partially successful as the number of clubs has risen from 8 to 10. However clubs in Manchester, Basingstoke, London and Newcastle have dropped out of the league mostly citing financial problems but also the lack of a level playing field regarding the salary cap which is not overseen by the league. The EIHA also runs a challenge cup competition and a play offs as well as the main league competition. The challenge cup is played in group format with the teams split geographically into two groups. Each team then plays each other twice with the top two playing a home and home two legged semi-final and final against the other group. This is a competition that always been played in British ice hockey at top level and the EIHL have carried this on.

The play offs on the other hand is home and home two legged quarter final that is decided by the league positions. (Top eight only qualify). The remaining four teams then in the finals weekend in the National Ice Center in Nottingham. The semi-final is played on the Saturday with the final on the Sunday.

The Elite League has been compared to the ECHL in North America and has attracted several NHL draftees including 5th overall pick in Ed Courtney who played 27 games for San Jose, Atlanta Thrashers goaltender Scott Fankhouser and former Toronto Maple Leafs’ defenseman Wade Belak. Perhaps the most notable player to have iced in the EIHL is former Calgary Flames forward and agitator Theo Fleury who iced for the Belfast Giants.

Current Teams
Coventry Blaze
Nottingham Panthers
Braehead Clan
Hull Stingrays
Fife Flyers
Dundee Stars
Edinburgh Capitals
Sheffield Steelers
Belfast Giants
Cardiff Devils


Neil Tucker

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