British Hockey Primer

This is intended mainly for North Americans who stumble upon this blog and aren’t quite sure how things work…

The Elite League or EIHL is the top league in Britain. It consists of ten teams, and was formed in 2003 out of the ashes of the old Sekonda Superleague and the British National League. Below’s a quick geographical guide to each team.

Northern Ireland Belfast Giants 2000 Belfast, Northern Ireland Odyssey Arena 6,600 2003–present
Scotland Braehead Clan 2010 Glasgow, Scotland Braehead Arena 4,000 2010–present
Wales Cardiff Devils 1986 Cardiff, Wales Cardiff Arena 2,500 2003–present
England Coventry Blaze 2000 Coventry, England SkyDome Arena 2,600 2003–present
Scotland Dundee Stars 2001 Dundee, Scotland Dundee Ice Arena 2,300 2010–present
Scotland Edinburgh Capitals 1998 Edinburgh, Scotland Murrayfield Ice Rink 3,800 2005–present
Scotland Fife Flyers 1938 Kirkcaldy, Scotland Fife Ice Arena 3,280 2011–present
England Hull Stingrays 2003 Kingston upon Hull, England Hull Arena 2,000 2006–present
England Nottingham Panthers 1946 Nottingham, England National Ice Centre 6,900 2003–present
England Sheffield Steelers 1991 Sheffield, England Motorpoint Arena Sheffield 8,500 2003–present

The league is divided into two conferences, the “Bunny” Erhardt Conference (Belfast, Coventry, Cardiff, Sheffield and Nottingham) and the Charles Gardiner Conference (Braehead, Dundee, Edinburgh, Fife and Hull). This was a system adopted anew for the 2012/13 season. 

Each side plays teams in their own Conference eight times (four at home and four away) and face sides in the other Conference four times (twice at home and twice away). The winner of the League title is the side with the most points from their full 52-game season.

Teams also compete for the Challenge Cup. This competition sees the 10 clubs split into two groups of five, following by two-legged quarter-final, two-legged semi-final and a two-legged final.

The season ends with the play-offs, which culminates in a final-four weekend at the National Ice Centre in Nottingham in April.

There was originally a plan to have the top two teams in each conference face each other in a one off “league final” to decide who wins the league trophy, but that appears to have been scrapped.

In order, the league is considered the most prestigious title to win for British fans, followed by the playoffs (which run on seeded quarter finals with the top eight qualifying for the POs and playing each other home and away before four teams progress to a Final Four held in Nottingham over Easter weekend each year) and Challenge Cup.

IMPORT LIMITS

You’ll hear a lot of talk of “imports” in British hockey. This is because the EIHL only allows eleven non British-trained players to dress for a team at any one game, although in theory import numbers are unlimited. Most British team “imports” come from North America, although there has been an increase in Eastern Europeans recently. British hockey is usually considered to be around CHL/ECHL standard, with rosters being a little less deep than ECHL teams.

WAGE CAP

In theory, all EIHL teams are limited as to how much they can spend on wages in a season, much like the NHL. However, this is often a subject for major debate, with teams accused of overspending all the time. Probably best to assume that for all practical NA understanding purposes, there isn’t one.

OTHER LEAGUES IN BRITAIN

There are two leagues below the EIHL-the English Premier League (EPL) and National Ice Hockey League (NIHL, which has the SNL as its Scottish equivalent). Those we won’t be considering much in this blog, and any references to them will be explained at the time.

Hopefully that’s given you a VERY brief guide to UK hockey…

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