EIHL unveils season with Fife Flyers IN starting 12

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It’s the news every Fife Flyers fan wanted to hear -the club WILL ice in the Elite League next season, and with the conference set up it wanted.

The structure for the 2017-18 season, which will see the league expand to 12 teams, was confirmed after an EIHL board meeting today.

Fears had been growing that Flyers were about to step away from top flight hockey after six years with nowhere else to go.

The club had put its plans on hold until today’s key meeting amid concerns over possible changes to the conference structure which, they say, would have impacted heavily on their running costs.

The league has now confirmed three conferences of four teams each – and they will dominate the forthcoming season.

It has also made some changes to the latter stages of the Challenge Cup to accommodate newcomers Guildford Flames and MK Lightning.

Flyers response was a one-line statement. The club’s website only said: ‘‘Fife Flyers will be holding discussions with directors and management over the course of the next week and will release further information towards the end of next week.’’

League chairman Tony Smith was more expansive, saying it was key to going with all 12 teams for 2017-18.

He said: “I’m excited at how our league looks on the back of these changes and it was important that we had all 12 clubs involved in this new set-up,” he said.

“We’ve made sure every team gets the best out of this layout and I’m sure it’s something the fans will get behind when they see how it’s all come together.

“It’s going to be a very competitive competition and I, for one, will be fascinated at how things play out in the coming season when we get back to action.”

The conferences will see the four Scottish teams – Fife Flyers, Braehead Clan, Edinburgh Capitals and Dundee Stars – grouped together in what is being called ‘Conference One’.

There will then be a quartet of Guildford Flames and Milton Keynes Lightning will join Coventry Blaze and Manchester Storm in Conference Two.

In Conference Three are the big guns of Belfast Giants, Cardiff Devils, Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers

The top two from each mini-section will progress to the quarter-finals along with two third placed teams on a wild card format.

Teams will play each other in conference four times at home and four times away.

They will then meet teams outwith their conference twice at home and twice away to make up a 28-game card on home ice; a total of 56 games, four more than last season.

The Challenge Cup will begin with three groups – Flyers have been paired with Belfast Giants, Dundee Stars and Edinburgh Capitals.

They will meet home and away with the top two going on to the quarterfinals where they will again be joined by two wild card entrants made up of the two clubs will the most points who didn’t clinch one of the qualification berths.

The season will begin the weekend of September 9 and 10.