Elite League runs with 11 teams and shakes up structure for 2018-19

EIHL logo 2017
EIHL logo 2017

Ice hockey’s Elite League will run with 11 teams next season.

Clubs will play each other six times across season 2018-19 – and the Scottish-based Gardiner Conference will continue with just three teams.

But, it means there will be no top flight ice hockey in Edinburgh.

Murrayfield Ice Rink decided against handing the ice time contract to perennial strugglers, Edinburgh Capitals, and gave it instead to a new consortium which planned to revive Heineken era legends, Murrayfield Racers.

That ambition was killed at the very first hurdle when the EIHL clubs dismissed its application even before the new club could present its business case in person.

Hull Pirates were widely tipped to step in as the 12th team until they decided to defer their application for 12 months.

While the league publicly said it was exploring all options, in reality, it had none.

And any slender hopes some fans harboured of the board re-visiting Racers’ bid – or anyone connected with hockey in the capital – ended today when the league decided to run with just 11 teams.

It means a re-working of the cup and conference competitions,

The days when clubs played more games against teams in their conference than outwith it are gone.

In 2018-19, teams will play each other three times home and away with all league games against conference opponents counting towards that championship.

All three conferences will also run, but the Gardiner Conference - won by Fife Flyers last season – will operate with just three teams; Braehead Clan and Dundee Stars completing the all-Scottish mini-league – but the focus is very much on the league.

The structure of the Challenge Cup won’t be announced until after the fixtures meeting takes place in late June.

Tony Smith, league chairman, hailed it as “the next exciting step’’ for the league – although it has come at the cost of a franchise in the Scottish capital, and the loss of a long-established, albeit struggling, club in Edinburgh Capitals; a team with a pedigree stretching back to the early 1950s.

Smith said: “Having to meet to decide the way forward was not one we particularly relished after the circumstances involving Edinburgh.

“While we are sad to lose them, it means we have to move on and it’s by no means been an easy day for us in plotting the next step.

“As a league, we examined the options available to us at great depth and the most logical one to take was to go with 11 teams for the 2018/19 season.’’