New COVID restrictions spark cancellation of Scottish ice hockey season

Tom Muir and Chris Wands in action for Kirkcaldy Kestrels at Dundee Ice Arena (Pic: Derek Black)Tom Muir and Chris Wands in action for Kirkcaldy Kestrels at Dundee Ice Arena (Pic: Derek Black)
Tom Muir and Chris Wands in action for Kirkcaldy Kestrels at Dundee Ice Arena (Pic: Derek Black)
Plans to stage a season of ice hockey at rinks across Scotland have been scrapped just hours after the latest COVID restrictions were announced.

With 11 Scottish council areas being put into Level 4 - the highest level - and a travel ban between areas enforced by law, Scottish Ice Hockey announced it was scrapping its plans to stage the 2020-21 season.

The decision will impact on clubs across the central belt, including Fife and Edinburgh.

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These include Kirkcaldy Kestrels which had recruited players, and, last month, launched an online fundraiser to support the club through the pandemic. It has raised over £1800.

But, hopes of a competitive return to the ice were ended with tonight’s announcement.

The SIH said COVID presented it with “an unprecedented set of challenges” and the latest Scottish Government advice “moved us further away from a potential return to play.”

As a result, it decided to cancel the season.

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David Hand, chairman, said: “We feel restrictions are unlikely to be lifted sufficiently to allow us to formulate plans to resume competitive action.”

With some rinks still closed, the ban on fans rinkside was a major barrier.

Added Mr Hand: “Even if we get to a point where all these venues re-open, it appears fans would not be allowed back in to watch any games

“Clubs are reliant on gate revenue to operate effectively, and, without this income stream, they simply cannot function properly.”

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Looking ahead, the SIH said it would consider staging a Spring Cup or tournament if restrictions were lifted.

Added Mr Hand: “In the long term it is our intention to stage an extended 2021-22 season starting as early as possible, providing all rinks remain open in summer.“We would like to thank everyone for their patience over the past few months and look forward to facilitating a return to action when it is deemed safe to do so.”

The loss of the season follows on from the Elite League’s decision to suspend its 2020-21 campaign with clubs having to mothball until next September at the earliest.

A large number of imports had already moved to Europe in search of teams, and a number of British players have followed suit.

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