December 10th – Slough Jets Programme

Welcome to the Hangar for tonight’s match against the Milton Keynes Lightning.

Once again this week ice hockey has gained media exposure for the wrong reason. It seems as if Coventry are appealing for help requesting a much increased crowd this weekend. In fact it seems they are asking for people who can’t come to buy tickets on-line anyway for the financial support! It’s sad to see any team in trouble, I feel for the fans and supporters of the Coventry Blaze. The Hull Stingrays are managed by the same directors but as a separate organisation and an article I read in the week hinted the directors were looking into whether or not the Stingrays were really what the locals wanted given the lack of take-up of game tickets this season.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a massive fan of Elite League hockey. I’m not a fan of the (in my opinion) import dominated mercenary hockey but that said I don’t like to think of any club in trouble. I hope that the Blaze can weather the storm and that they can make the necessary restructuring to see them through. The Blaze were a team I always enjoyed playing against when we were both in the BNL. They always travelled with good support and their fans were always lively.

Hockey in this country has a big problem. The majority of teams are playing from ice rinks, these have capacities ranging from approximately 1000-3000 but then there’s the Arena teams who have these massive arenas to fill and their needs would appear different to the rink teams.

Ever since the arrival of the arena teams hockey has had to restructure itself to accommodate them. There was the failed ISL and now the EIHL. Imagine the UK hockey scene existing in a domestic fish tank, each fish being a hockey club and the tank being ice hockey and you have the rink team set-up. Then, try to introduce the Arena teams and all of a sudden you now have to try and fit in 3 or 4 killer whales into that same fish tank. Clearly it’s not going to work but those 3 or 4 arena teams can’t have a competitive league just on their own.

The EPL accommodates 10 teams who all play from rinks, this year has been one of the best so far in terms of competitiveness. Obviously some teams do have bigger budgets than others but 8 out of the 10 teams seem to be able to beat any of their opponents on any given night. As I write this just 19 points separate the top and bottom teams, 11 points separate the top 8 teams, 1 point separates the top 3 teams and games are competitive.

Contrast that to the Elite League where 33 points separate the top and bottom teams, 25 points separate the top 8 teams and 8 points separate the top 3.

The obvious solution appears to be to offer the EIHL teams membership to the English Premier Ice Hockey League but that could apply to Coventry and Cardiff. Hull would be a long journey for the EPL teams but it’s just about do-able. Belfast, Braehead, Edinburgh, Dundee and Fife aren’t in England so that’s no solution for them and while Sheffield and Nottingham are in England I wonder if their huge arenas would be suited for EPL or indeed if the EPL would be suitable for their huge arenas.

I’m glad I don’t have to come up with a solution for any of this, we’ll leave that to Ice Hockey UK but in the short term I hope Coventry can get the support they need to pull through this difficult time.

I’ve noticed here at the Hangar this season that it seems as if visiting teams are travelling with less supporters than in past seasons. Milton Keynes have always been one of the best when it comes to travelling with good support and I hope that continues tonight. The Lightning are just behind us in 3rd place going into the weekend so it’s a massive weekend for both teams. Tonight, as it was last weekend against Sheffield is not only a game in it’s own right but a chance to set momentum for the weekend.

Don’t forget next weekend, against Manchester, is our final home game ahead of the Christmas break so if your work are looking for a pre-Christmas outing make the suggestion!!

Let’s hope for a good game tonight and two sets of loud fans generating a great atmosphere.

Enjoy the game

My team, your team, OUR TEAM