Ice Hockey: Capitals boss likes the new Elite League

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Edinburgh Capitals’ owner Scott Neil has today welcomed changes to the structure of British ice hockey’s Elite League, which will see the ten league clubs split into two conferences of five teams.

The new set-up was rubber stamped at a meeting in Nottingham on Monday, and Edinburgh will play in a conference with the league’s other Scottish teams – Fife Flyers, Dundee Stars, and Braehead Clan. Completing the conference will be Yorkshire outfit Hull Stingrays.

An enthusiastic Neil commented: “This new format has a few benefits for us. We were very competitive with all these teams last year, which generally provides a better game for your fans to watch.

“It’s important to be in a position to win games, especially at home; it allows you to grow your fan base, and keeps the media and sponsors happy.

“We’ll also be travelling less, which helps keep costs down, and it has a positive effect on the players. It helps with wear and tear, and keeps them fresh.”

Last season’s 54-game schedule saw each team play one another six times. Under the new rules the number of games drops to 52 and will see teams from the same conference play one another eight times, while playing the five teams from the other conference only four times. Prizes will be awarded to the winner of both conferences, as well as an overall league champion.

The top eight teams in the league will still qualify for the end-of-season play-offs which remain unchanged.

The thinking behind the radical re-vamp is for more competitive games across the league, and the new conferences are a reflection of the haves and have-nots of British ice hockey. Last season, Edinburgh failed to win a single game against the Elite League’s bigger budget clubs – Belfast Giants, Sheffield Steelers, Nottingham Panthers, Cardiff Devils and the Coventry Blaze – all of whom make up the other conference.

Neil concluded: “The competition among the league’s big clubs, especially Belfast, Nottingham and Sheffield has been increasing year on year, and they are now building squads with such depth that Edinburgh and a lot of the other smaller clubs realistically cannot compete. That does not mean we will not try, and with our experience on recruitment, and head coach Richard Hartmann’s coaching ability, we have a chance.

“The conference system is a necessary product to try and bring competitive games to the home rinks of most clubs.”