The EIHA and teams from the NIHL North have been working hard over the past months to determine options for returning to play and as a result we are delighted to announce that the Blackburn Hawks, Nottingham Lions, Sheffield Scimitars and Widnes Wild will take part in a series of games over February and March.
As the participating clubs are a mix of NIHL1 and former NIHL2 clubs, this will be a Cup competition, designed to send a positive message to hockey players, fans and volunteers and build on the sport’s gradual return to play. The first games will be over the weekend of February 27/28 and run through to the end of March.
The series takes place in the context of any forthcoming government announcements impacting elite sport competitions. Both Sheffield Scimitars and Widnes Wild have applied for and been granted their elite status under DCMS guidelines allowing them to take part in this event to allow for athletes across the North to access a key part in the EIHA development pathway.
Round robin fixtures will be announced in the coming days and, as games will be played behind closed doors, teams will do everything they can to either stream the games live or to produce a highlights package, as well as ensuring there is full social media coverage of the games to involve supporters as much as possible.
Throughout the competition the safety of everyone involved – players, officials, volunteers, rink staff – will be paramount. All players will be subject to weekly testing and at all times our teams and venues will comply with both current and future government regulations and the return to play protocols from the EIHA. The role of our venues in support of the EIHA Return to Play and their ability to comply with the regulations for ice hockey has been pivotal in our ability to deliver the series.
The venues involved – iceSheffield, Nottingham Ice Centre, Planet Ice Blackburn and Planet Ice Widnes – have all been involved in the planning of the games, along with the Ice Rink Managers Association, with a view to collecting data to support returning rinks to use once the government restrictions start to ease. All stakeholders are mindful of the fact that the Prime Minister is due to outline the government roadmap the week beginning the 22nd February, and whilst this is expected to be positive, all stakeholders reserve the right to revisit the fixture dates if it is appropriate following the Prime Minister’s announcement.
Whilst we recognise that for many people, playing ice hockey may not be seen as a priority at the moment. We are confident that this series will provide a real boost to the mental health of players, coaches, volunteers and fans, and be another step towards the survival and wider return of our sport as the benefit of COVID vaccinations is seen across the country.
We look forward to seeing all of our fans being loud and proud on social media, and if you don’t support one of the four teams involved, why not pick one to support during this series of games?