Murrayfield Racers have confirmed they will be staying in the Scottish National League - for now.
The Capital outfit, on course for an unbeaten season in all competitions across the SNL, had been widely tipped to take a step up in class and enrol in the UK-wide - but predominantly English-based - National Ice Hockey League for the 2019-20 campaign.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s play-off quarter final tie with Solway Stingrays at Murrayfield, Racers director Willie Dunn, who, along with Dundee Comets chairman Rab Brown, attended a meeting with all NIHL member clubs last week, said: “We’ve enjoyed being in the SNL. I think the standard is a lot better than some people had thought, and the top end of the league is particularly competitive. We have a lot of young Scottish players who are also working, and long journeys back from England on a Sunday night aren’t good for them.
“We want to build a robust organisation so that when opportunities come up that suit us we’ll be in a position to take them. We don’t want to join a league and go bust at Christmas - we’ve had that before in Edinburgh. We’re in this for the long haul and people need to realise that. There is a lot of work still to be done.
“Another year in the SNL, as well as competing once more in the NIHL North Cup, will be good for us, but things change all the time in hockey and we’ll see what comes up after that.”
Racers found it tough in this year’s NIHL North Cup, winning just one of their 12 games in the home-and-away round robin tournament against semi-professional opposition but, along with Dundee Comets, they have already committed to next year’s competition.
Dunn continued: “There is a lot of things we want to improve and we’ve learned a lot this season. We want to be more competitive with teams in the NIHL and prove to people that Scottish hockey is actually very good and can compete with these English teams.”
The SNL is very much an amateur league and, asked whether other member clubs share Racers’ drive to improve the standard and standing of the SNL within the British game, Dunn said: “Absolutely. There are five teams at the top of our league who are very competitive against us and the results we’ve had with them bear that out. They want to improve and get better, and they’ll all do that in different ways. We all want competitive, entertaining hockey and want to build rivalries that excite fans. There is a lot of ambition in the SNL, and the Comets joining us in next season’s NIHL North Cup proves that.”
Racers, already crowned SNL champions, and with two cup final dates to look forward to, are huge favourites to advance to next week’s play-off final weekend at Dundee Ice Arena, following tomorrow’s Stingrays clash (face-off 6pm), a team Racers have beaten 15-2 and 18-0 in their two previous encounters this season.
“Of course were heavy favourites,” said Dunn. “But this is a one game knockout.
“We can’t afford to take anything for granted.”