Category: Breaking news
Following on from the confirmation of our league structure – today sees the announcement of the playoff format for NIHL1 this season.
The South will retain their home-and-away double header format with the usual top-8 teams qualifying for 3 weekends of successive rounds to crown a Southern playoff champion. The Northern NIHL1 will also be changing their playoffs to match.
What’s new is that we’ll have a National Championship in NIHL1 for the first time in 9 years. The two regional playoff finalists from the North and South will then come together for a National Finals weekend (at a central location yet to be confirmed) with semi-finals on the Saturday and the final on the Sunday.
For me this is very much the best of both worlds. I always really liked the format for playoffs we had in the South with double-header rounds for quarter-finals, semi-finals and final. It meant the teams involved would have income for the weeks they needed to continue playing for and built a real feeling of excitement up to the final weekend. However, we also now get the National Final weekend that the EPL clubs are also used to (and which their fans were lamenting the possible demise of) as a showcase of hockey on which to end the NIHL1 season.
For NIHL1 North who previously saw just the top-4 qualifying for a single playoff weekend, it will mean that more clubs will be involved in playoff hockey and their playoff season will last for a bit longer.
I have seen arguments in both directions for why a single playoff weekend is better/worse than multiple double-header weekends – now we have both!
So here’s to a month-long playoff season with 31 games across the country! Becoming national champion is sure as hell going to be tough!
On a lighter note – this also means the #piamgplayoffs competition just got bigger again!
The full EIHA press release can be seen below:
NIHL confirm playoff weekend will crown National Champions
The League Management Committee of National Ice Hockey League (NIHL) are delighted to confirm that there will be a National Playoff Championship weekend at the end of the 17/18 season.
Over the last two weekends the South and North clubs have met to agree membership of their leagues and playing format for the regular season.
The LMC can now confirm that the playoffs will take place over a four week period at the end of the regular season, culminating in a Playoff Weekend at a central venue.
In both NIHL North and South D1 the top eight teams will qualify for the playoffs. The first three rounds will be regionalised to achieve a North and South playoff champion.
The regional rounds will be a home and away two-legged, aggregate score tie.
The likely timetable will be:
Week 1 – Regional QF North 1v8 2v7 3v6 4v5. South 1v8 2v7 3v6 4v5
Week 2 – Regional SF North (1 or 8) v (4 or 5), (2 or 7) v (3 or 6). South (1 or 8) v (4 or 5), (2 v 7) v (3 v 6)
Week 3 – Regional Final North, Regional Final South
Week 4 – National Playoff Championship (weekend format)
The weekend will feature the two playoff finalists from NIHL North and South playing crossover semi finals on the Saturday, ie North 1 v South 2, South 1 v North 2. The Grand Final will face off on the Sunday.
There are likely to be other fixtures included in the weekend with more details to follow in due course as arrangements are firmed up.
The LMC are working hard with our stakeholders to confirm the date for this showpiece event – once everything is confirmed the details will be published via clubs and on EIHA media platforms.
An NIHL spokesperson said: “This is an exciting development to celebrate the first season of a massively expanded National League.
“A playoff weekend is a fantastic way to end the season, and a huge part of British hockey’s traditions. The LMC are delighted to be able to achieve a joined up, National Finals weekend.
“We are grateful to our clubs for their unanimous support for the idea over the past two weeks at the section meetings and the LMC will work hard to confirm all details as soon as possible.”
Posted in Breaking news
In a lovely touch to two late and great administrators of British hockey, the NIHL1 South Conferences have been named for Bob Wilkinson and Bill Britton.
This is a great nod to the past of our sport as we look toward a changed future for the EIHA leagues. Both men were hugely influential in hockey over the last 30 years and are worthy recipients of this honour.
While the participants of each conference were decided on Sunday, it was not until last night that the draw was done to see which conference would be named after which of our hockey stalwarts.
Prior to his death this year, Bob Wilkinson had been involved in ice hockey in the UK for 35 years. He first got involved at local level in 1982 when he took charge of Durham juniors in 1982. Within 2 years he was involved at the National level after he was asked to form the first GB U16s team. One of his biggest accomplishments was setting up the first conference weekend for the juniors in 1987. He was also hugely influential in the womens game and can be credited with ensuring that the women were given the funding to compete in the Olympic qualifiers alongside the men.
The Wilkinson conference will feature Basingstoke Bison, Bracknell Hornets, Cardiff Fire, Milton Keynes Thunder, Oxford City Stars and Solent Devils this season.
Bill Britton served as Secretary to the EIHA for over 20 years prior to his death in 2005. He has held the role of Chairmen in the EPL, NIHL, Women and discipline sections. After his death, the womens section (which he chaired at the time of his death) named their playoff trophy in his honour as well.
The Britton Conference will feature Chelmsford Chieftains, Invicta Dynamos, London Raiders, Peterborough Phantoms, Streatham IHC and Swindon Wildcats this season.
From the EIHA press release: an NIHL LMC spokesman said: “While both men proudly have their roots in the north of England, they are hugely respected by clubs, players and officials in the south.
“Bill Britton’s dual roles as chairman of the EPL and secretary of the ENL brings those two leagues together in the new structure. The clubs were 100% unanimous in their support of adopting the conference names.
“It’s a fresh start almost for the league, but it is right to have a nod to the past and two great gentlemen who did so much for our clubs, league and sport.”
Posted in Breaking news
So after being locked in a meeting all day in the glamorous surroundings of Newbury services just off the M4, the 25 teams of NIHL South have managed to come up with a new league structure.
Here’s the plan…
NIHL1 South will be a 12 team league, split into 2 conferences of 6 with teams playing home and away twice within conference and home and away once with teams in the other conference to give a 32 game league season.
The two conferences will be as follows:
Milton Keynes Thunder
Oxford City Stars
Playoffs will feature 8 teams, but the exact details of this have not yet been announced.
We’ll also have an NIHL1 cup competition in the South and 8 teams have entered this. Unusually, this is not being seeded and the 4 ex-EPL teams (Basingstoke, Bracknell, Peterborough, Swindon) will form one group and the other group will comprise of Chelmsford, Invicta, London and Streatham. Top two from each group will go forward to the semi-finals.
In terms of rules of the game – the NIHL1 import rules will be used with a maximum of 2 non-British trained players allowed on the team list and only one allowed on the ice at any time. We will however be adopting the old EPL rules for overtime with teams who are drawing after 3 periods going to a 3-on-3 sudden death overtime period of 5 minutes and finishing with penalty shots if there is still no decider.
NIHL2 South will be reverting to a single league of 13 – with 3 new teams being welcomed into the NIHL – as Cardiff and Oxford both enter a second team and Guildford also join the league. With the Bees playing in NIHL1, Bracknell Hornets will also be moving down to NIHL2. Sadly the Wightlink Buccaneers have withdrawn from the league after the loss of their rink last season.
These teams will play home and away once each for a 24 game league season.
The full team list for NIHL2 South is:
Cardiff Fire 2
Haringey (name TBC)
Lee Valley Lions
Oxford City Stars 2 (name TBC)
Peterborough Phantoms 2
Swindon Wildcats 2
Playoff format and cup competitions in NIHL2 are still to be confirmed.
Relegation and promotion between the leagues will be happening but the specifics have not yet been announced.
The EIHA press release has some words from NIHL league manager Richard Carpenter:
“It was a long day, a difficult meeting but we’ve reached agreement on the way forward for next season and beyond. There are no perfect answers or deals to such a highly complicated situation but we would like to thank all teams involved for reaching a deal today to the betterment of British ice hockey. There are wider whole-NIHL issues which will be discussed after the North section next week, but we’re pleased to have carried out this task of integrating the former EPIHL clubs into the NIHL Structure and agreed a format.”
After the meeting (as I had the advantage of driving home with him) he also added “We are absolutely thrilled to have got this deal done. A lot of people didn’t think that we were going to be able to, but what we and the clubs have shown is that in getting everyone around the table together, shows the true resilience of the NIHL.”
So that’s the facts… now for some opinion!
Personally I think that the EIHA and the clubs have done a tremendous job to get a format together that every club can sign up to. I’m not suggesting that all the club owners are completely happy with the way this looks and I know that there has been a lot of compromise by pretty much everyone. But we have a league that everyone can hopefully buy into. I spoke to a few of the club owners after the meeting and there is a feeling that the long meeting (6 hours and 20 minutes) has produced something that they can sign up to and sell to their fans. It may not be exactly what they were hoping for (and of course some are more/less happy than others) – but it’s workable and given the doom and gloom we have had in social media over the last few weeks, frankly I am impressed.
I do think that for NIHL1, one conference looks stronger than the other, but the teams will still be playing everyone else in the league (it’s just a matter of which teams you play twice). This is also a format that can be rejigged each year based on the previous seasons results.
Next season is going to be a huge testing ground. Do I think the ex-EPL clubs will be stronger and finish in the top four? Yes, probably. Are the NIHL1 teams going to find the competition a lot tougher than last season? Yes, probably. But the teams have to give this a chance. Long term, I honestly believe that the difference between the teams will start to even out over the next few years. The wages available for British-trained players will come out of the stratosphere simply because there won’t be the teams willing to pay hundreds of pounds a week anymore as they just won’t need to. That will mean that more of the clubs will be able to afford these players and we’ll see the top talent spread out more across the NIHL. It’s just my opinion of course, but I don’t think that the amalgamation of the EPL teams into the NIHL is going to be the disaster for everyone that has been harping on about for the last few weeks.
I’m a little disappointed that the cup will not see more mixing of the teams in the initial groups – especially since the 4 teams in one group are also part of the same conference for the league. But that’s what the majority of teams wanted – and in the end they are the ones who will need to sell this all to their fans.
In terms of NIHL2, I think this league is also going to get stronger and I am delighted to see it increase in size and go back to a single league system meaning that teams won’t feel stale playing the same teams over and over. I am absolutely delighted to see Guildford join the NIHL, meaning that we now have participation from every hockey rink in the South in our league. it is also great to see second teams coming out of Cardiff and Oxford – expanding the league and providing a strong pathway of development for their junior systems.
So in summary – is this perfect? No. But I think that on reflection it is probably as good as it can be. As Richard Carpenter said – there are no perfect solutions.
Am I excited for next season? Damn right!
Posted in Breaking news
EDIT: April Fool!
482Days.com today confirmed that following the brilliant success of the website and twitter this season, that the Website and Twitter would be switching to a subscription only model ahead of the NIHL1 Playoffs starting tomorrow.
At 12pm today, the Twitter account will be set to Private, meaning that only existing followers will be able to see the tweets that we do, including live coverage of all three rounds of the NIHL1 Playoffs plus NIHL2 Playoffs Final Series. Existing followers will be given a day to pay their £4.82 for annual subscription (just 40p a month or 1.3p a day!), however if they haven’t paid by midnight on Saturday 2nd April, they will be blocked on twitter.
With the success of 482Days, it’s clear that we want to take this to the next level, and monetising the site seemed the best options, after all, it’s what all the other hockey blogs are trying to do at the moment. Really, with the award winning poetry, #predictionisamugsgame, the best live twitter in town and #gamedaylive, is £4.82 a year too much to ask? And frankly, as Ladbrokes wouldn’t touch us with a barge pole after having a go at a member of it’s staff last year who insulted the Invicta Mustangs, we’re kinda desperate.
Speaking from 482 Days base in West Oxfordshire, 482Days supremo Nancy Carpenter commented “I’ve been everywhere this season from old Cardiff to new Cardiff. Well, if we’re honest, everywhere but Peterborough because there’s no way in hell I’m driving there again. A40, A43, A45, A603, nothing but god awful A Roads the entire way. Anyway, it’s been fun 482Days, but it’s about time that our followers started paying their way. So get on it.”
Followers can subscribe to the all-new, all-exactly-the-same-except-your-paying-for-it-now, ad-free 482days by clicking on this link: http://482days.com/shop. Make sure you include your twitter username!
Posted in Breaking news
It’s with fantastic delight that I can announce that Gary Dent has been nominated in the Oxfordshire Sports Awards for Unsung Hero for his work in Ice Hockey, both locally and nationally over the past thirty years. It’s difficult to imagine a more appropriate category for Gary with his tireless work to improve Ice Hockey over the past thirty years.
For those of you not aware of who Gary is (especially if you’re a newer Supporter to the club) Gary has held a wide variety of roles across Ice Hockey in the City in the Oxford City Stars, the Oxford City Stars Supporters Club, the Junior Club and continues that work to this day as Ice Allocator for Oxford, taking care of the home allocations.
In addition, he also had the role of Announcer for the best part of a decade up until I replaced him in 2011, known for his eloquence on the mic, and occasional cutting remark as well Stars Team Manager and Owner between 2003 and 2011.
Nowadays, Gary spends his time as League Manager for the English Premier Ice Hockey League, keeping the big boys in check and helping to run a smooth Premier League and prior to that was a Manager of the National Ice Hockey League.
Gary has not only been a fantastic person for Oxford Ice Hockey but for the National Game, pushing for progress constantly and unnervingly. In my roles as Club Secretary for the Stars and now as Assistant League Manager for the NIHL (South), I’ve dealt with Gary on many an occasion and his greatest strength is that he will give you an honest and frank assessment on whatever you are doing if he agrees with you, disagrees with you or can think of a better way.
For me, getting into the senior league administration side of the game, Gary has been fantastic at giving me help and advice. Dealing with Gary, while it can feel at times that he’s not a person that takes sides easily, the truth is that he always does take a side, that of the sport of Ice Hockey before any person or situation.
Congratulations mate, you fully deserve it.
Posted in Breaking news
More bad news for Oxford City Stars on the import front. After Andrew Bates left Oxford without ever touching the ice, news has been announced today that fellow import Andrew Magee has also left the club due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’ after only 3 appearances.
Magee joined in the summer from NIHL1 club Solent Devils after a breakout season in the league where he scored 23+28 in 36 games. However, in his first three games, although he looked good, he failed to get on the scoresheet at all and did not have quite the impact that Oxford had hoped. 482 Days understands that he requested to be released from his contract early last week.
Magee has an ITC (unlimited international transfer card) in the UK, which means that he can play in the UK indefinitely without clubs having to pay the £850 cost every season. It will be interesting to see if he will move to another club on the strength of this, return home to Canada and try and pick up his hockey career there or move to another European country to ply his trade. It is of note that a close friend, Richard Brown, has recently signed for Solent so a return to his previous club may be an option. However, Solent already have their second import slot filled with Hungarian Dominik Hegyi and he has had an immediate impact for the team having scored 4+1 in just 3 games. So whether Solent will find space for him and be able to meet his salary requests will be in question.
Oxford’s head coach Simon Anderson is now going to have to work hard to find two import replacements to fill the gaps in the forward line. With Alan Green still injured, that’s three major goal scoring threats out of the team for the present and Oxford down to just 9 forwards. Until Oxford can bring in some reinforcements, that leaves them very vulnerable to injury or suspensions.
I bet you anything that whoever Simon Anderson goes for on the import front – they won’t be called Andrew!
Posted in Breaking news
The news was broken this morning that Oxford’s new import Andrew Bates has flown back to the USA. We’ve heard of imports simply not arriving; and of them leaving after the first game because they don’t like the team or think the league is below their standard… but this is a first for me.
482 Days understands that Bates arrived in the UK on Friday, attended a team BBQ on the Saturday and then instead of getting in the car that was picking him up to go to Sunday’s game instead got into a taxi and went back to Heathrow.
Update (10:25) Coach Simon Anderson had this to say:
“Obviously I am disappointed and shocked. We did not have any idea of him doing this, he seemed genuinely happy. However we only want guys who want to be here and pull on that Stars jersey. I am actively searching for a replacement and will take my time to get a guy who 100% wants to be here, it’s nothing less than the fans,sponsors,player and management deserve.”
Update (18:15) I spoke to Andrew himself this afternoon and he made the following statement:
“I was happy with Simon and the players. They are truly wonderful, especially Simon and they will have a great year but unfortunately it is without me. I would not have been able to maximize my potential or career in Oxford. I want to be playing and practising more than what Oxford could offer me unfortunately. The team now has only one practice a week and felt I would have been playing more of a hobby than a professional environment. I wish Simon and the Stars the best of luck this Season.”
Posted in Breaking news