There was a time when Streatham Redskins, having been British champions for a series of successive years, would have expected to be in the most important ice hockey league in Britain. Perhaps one day Streatham may be back in the top level. It does no harm to dream. In any case, although it did not exist in the days when the Redskins were sweeping all before them, the “top level” of British ice hockey is the Elite Ice Hockey League.
There are ten teams in the EIHL:
- Basingstoke Bison
- Belfast Giants
- Cardiff Devils
- Coventry Blaze
- Edinburgh Capitals
- Hull Stingrays
- Manchester Phoenix
- Newcastle Vipers
- Nottingham Panthers
- Sheffield Steelers
It was with Nottingham Panthers that Streatham Redskins fought its battles for British ice hockey supremacy in the 1970s, and it is good to see that they, at least, have remained in the top flight.
There are four competitions in the EIHL:
- the league itself
- the play-offs
- the Challenge Cup
- the Knockout Cup.
Although the two cups and the play-offs provide great excitement, it is the league that everyone thinks of day-to-day. Each of the 10 teams plays against each of the others three times at home and three times away and, as is usual with leagues, the team with the most points at the end of the season is the league champion.
However, it isn’t quite as simple as that; the British Champion is the winner of a knockout tournament at the end of the season and it is the most successful teams over the course of the season who compete. The finals take place at the National Ice Centre in Nottingham.
The Knockout Cup is an oddity; it was brought in in 2005, when London Racers withdrew from the EIHL to make up for the sudden shortfall in fixtures, but it has continued to take place, at least for the time being.