Local children’s charity The Children’s Foundation has thanked Legends Ice Hockey, after they were awarded a cheque for £10,000 following a fierce Tyne and Wear derby.
A new organisation aiming to reunite and celebrate the British ice hockey stars of yesteryear is delighted to announce its launch.
Since my last blog we’ve had the Vipers fan forum which I thought went well, those people that continue to support the club it is greatly appreciated and those that have decided no longer to, I can understand your decision. The club have been very fortunate that the Elite League have agreed to support the club for the remainder of the season, while it’s to their benefit I think everyone connected with the club appreciates what is trying to be done especially when jobs and more importantly season ticket money is on the line. Obviously it’s pretty common knowledge now that there is a restriction on the Vipers signing any imports, which I can understand from a league perspective. However, if we are going to continue getting the level of custom through the door that we have been doing, we need to remain competitive and it concerns me that with so few players it could be asking a lot of the current bunch of guys. It is a shame as we’d worked hard on trying to bring Darius Lelanas from Peterborough and I’d almost agreed a deal with TPS Turku in Finland to take three or four of their prospects/veterans on a loan agreement which would have been at no cost to the club other than flights and accommodation.
The aim for the rest of the season is obviously to put an entertaining product on the ice while Jaimie continues to look for investment. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, the players have been outstanding this season and again on Saturday they came up with the goods and I am sure anyone that was there would agree it was a highly entertaining game. When you compare the two rosters as they currently stand, the Vipers shouldn’t stand a chance against anyone other than Edinburgh but the guys continue to turn up every night and give their all which has to be highly admirable in the current circumstances. The club have a big week ahead with a unexpected Challenge Cup semi-final on Wednesday against Nottingham (7.00pm face-off). Even though Nottingham on paper should have no issues making the final, I am sure the guys will give a very good account of themselves in the home leg on Wednesday, tickets are still available by calling 0191 477 4100.
Congratulations to the Whitley Warriors who won the English National League North Division 1 last night following a 4-1 win against the Telford Titans. That’s back-to-back league titles for the Warriors and Leachy has again done a very good job, so well done to everyone connected to the Hillheads club. However it’s a pretty sad state of affairs when a team has won a league title by the end of January. That’s not the fault of the teams in ENL North nor can the blame be pointed at the Warriors, the top and bottom of it is that it’s time for the Warriors to move up. I don’t think there will be a better time with question marks rightly being asked about professional hockey in the North East, I think the Warriors may have an opportunity here. They got some work to do though as attendances have slowly declined over the past ten to fifteen years. I know right now people will be reading this asking to where though? The EPL is the answer, they are very much open to expansion into the north as they’ve shown interest in the Vipers twice during the past four years but the Vipers are currently committed to the Elite League model and while at Whitley Bay won’t entertain EPL hockey for varying reason’s. Rumours are starting to gather pace in the North East that when the renovated Billingham Forum opens later this year, that the Bombers have shown interest in the EPL which would be superb for the area and a major step forward. In terms of Elite League hockey, until a suitable facility is built there isn’t much of future in the North East at that level.
Talking about the Elite League, I know many question how long the league in it’s current format will last. The EIHL is only as strong as it’s weakest team, however I still believe that it’s the best league the UK has seen in the modern era for overall balance. The sport is no different off the ice to what it was during the Heineken and Superleague era’s. There were clubs having financial difficulties in both those era’s and constant debates about import quotas and the governing body, so nothing has changed in thirty years. The Elite League actually does a lot of things right in my opinion, they’ve utilised some very good revenue streams like the playoff shirt auction and the all-star game which have been innovative and forward thinking. I think in the medium to long term, the league has to look at gradually dropping import quotas to around eight, seven, maybe six and I think that will happen. Since Paul Ragan has become involved with the EIHL, I’ve heard some very encouraging snippets of information. Proof will be in the pudding.
Last week was a rollercoaster ride in terms of football, after the disappointment of again failing to beat local rivals Newcastle United at home, Sunderland supporters we’re shocked to learn last Monday that Darren Bent had requested a transfer. Obviously we now all know that he’s signed for Aston Villa for an initial £18M rising to a possible £24M. While it’s a very good deal for SAFC in the current financial climate, I am worried about the loss of Bent. While he isn’t the best footballer and that’s likely to be one of the reason’s he’s constantly overlooked for England, he still has the natural ability to find the net which we all know is priceless in today’s game. While I wish him all the best with Villa you have to question his motives in heading to the Midlands. From where I am sitting it looks like a move sideways rather than up, in terms of SAFC it’s onwards and upwards with hopefully Europa League football next season.
A disappointing 2-1 home defeat for Ebbsfleet at the weekend against Kent rivals Bromley, however the Fleet are still 6th in Conference South and hopefully come the end of the season we’ll be in the running for promotion back to the Conference Premier. If you’re around the Kent area tomorrow, the Fleet are in action against Thurrock (7.45pm kick-off) with tickets still available.
The Tigers had a mixed weekend against two of the EPL’s bigger team’s in Basingstoke and Slough. Following two losses, Telford have now slipped out of the playoff positions with Bracknell beating Swindon last night. Tom now has two games this winnable games this weekend against Sheffield and Swindon and fingers crossed they can come away with a four point weekend. The Wildcats are visitors to Telford on Sunday (5.45pm face-off) with tickets now on sale.
Has everyone had their annual fix of the Ice Hockey Annual yet? If not get one today, well worth a read. Available here priced at £9.45 which is the cheapest price you’ll find anywhere on the internet.
Follow Gareth on Twitter: www.twitter.com/garethchalmers
Special thanks to Paul Lynch for the photograph of Whitley Bay Ice Rink: www.lynchography.com