Decision time for EIHL over 12th team

EIHL logo
EIHL logo

Plans for the new ice hockey season should be finalised today.

The Elite League has a board meeting at which it will decide how many teams will take part – and how the competitions will be structured.

The meeting comes after the league lost Edinburgh Capitals when the club failed to secure the ice-time contract to operate out of Murrayfield Ice Rink next season.

That was handed to a new consortium seeking to revive Murrayfield Racers – only for it to come unstuck when the EIHL rejected their application at the first hurdle.

Speculation that Hull Pirates were ready to step up then took a twist when they said they would ... but not until next year.

Pirates had teased fans with a tweet referring to ’’an amazing opportunity’’ but, this week, the club said it had opted to stay in the NIHL for another year.

That leaves the EIHL with 11, rather than 12 teams as it lays down the structure for 2018-19 and, significantly, future seasons.

An odd-number of clubs means a team sitting out each night, and leaves the league with a possible headache over how to shape the conferences.

It also hits clubs already pushing season ticket sales based on a determined number of games – so the league either has to re-think its set-up to ensure fans don’t lose out, or come up with a 12th team.

The EIHL’s most recent statement said it was ‘’pursuing a number of options’’ relating both to the participants and the format.

In terms of a 12th team, they dfon’t appear to have many options.

Fans have speculated of a partnership between Caps and Racers, the return of Caps, or the league revisiting the application from Racers which it has discarded.

The consortium behind Racers– led by David Hand, brother of hockey legend, Tony – aimed for the top flight, but hinted it would also seek entry at a lower level.

That hasn’t happened.

The semi-pro NIHL announced its structure for 2018-19 at the weekend with no mention of Murrayfield Racers.

As it stands, Edinburgh, as a city, looks like losing out completely. Capitals are no more and have spent the summer removing their property from the rink, while the team which wanted to replace them now has an ice time contract but no league to participate in.

As ever, it’s what happening behind the scenes which holds the key to the emergence of any 12th team. Tuesday is D-Day for the board.

The league has said it will announce its deicion in the coming days.