The future of British Ice Hockey?

Although I wouldn’t normally do this I thought this was an important subject so I thought I’d share an excerpt from last week’s column in the Basingstoke Bison programme

While the league is going well I still fear for the future of British Ice Hockey! The Elite League is mainly run from multi-purpose arenas and as such has to fit around higher grossing events. This can be a problem, as was proven by the postponement of a game a couple weekends ago; Belfast vs Sheffield. The Arena was due to be holding One Direction Concerts on Wednesday and Thursday and turned back around for ice hockey on Friday but due to the Wednesday concert being postponed and rescheduled to Friday the ice hockey missed out.

While the EIHL has to cope with the demands of multi-purpose arenas the EIHA saw multiple games cancelled last weekend alone due to plant faults. Bracknell’s home game was postponed on Saturday due to a plant fault and then in the cruelest of ironies their away game on Sunday was postponed due to a plant fault at the Hull Ice Arena. These things happen, usually very infrequently, and I hope for the sake of both teams their respective plant is operational again soon and they lose no further fixtures.

The worrying thing for Bracknell is that last Saturday’s was the third game they’ve not been able to play at home so far this season due to plant faults! The two challenge games were played at Slough so disruption was minimal but with Slough having a game last weekend’s couldn’t be accommodated.

Many of the EIHA rinks are older rinks. In the EPIHL you’ve got the fantastic MK Arena that’s just undergone a huge ground up refurbishment. You’ve got the now 12 year old Ice Sheffield and there’s Guildford Spectrum hailing from the 90s. Then you’re into the older rinks that make up the majority of the EPL and of course the NIHL and below.

Logic tells you the older something becomes the more it needs maintaining to keep it in top condition. Now while these older rinks may be washing their faces commercially while they’re running how many of them might continue to do so if they required huge investment to maintain/repair or even replace the plant? How many of them might need large repairs of refurbishment that would make them no longer attractive financial propositions?

It stands to reason that Ice Hockey teams need ice to play on so it’s a worry that in a continuing tough financial climate many rinks are now ageing. These EIHA rinks also host the junior development, where the future’s EPL stars are currently learning their trade. It’s therefore vital that they keep operating to keep the sport flourishing and developing across the country.