EIHL - League Structure Changes

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The new conferences, which have yet to be named, will look like this, Conference 1 - The Northern Conference. Braehead Clan Dundee Stars Edinburgh Capitals Fife Flyers Conference 2 - The Southern Conference Coventry Blaze Guildford Flames Manchester Storm Milton Keynes Lightning Conference 3 - The Arena Teams Belfast Giants Cardiff Devils Nottingham Panthers Sheffield Steelers

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From this coming season, 2017-18, there will be a change of format for the league structure with the addition of Guildford Flames and Milton Keynes Lightning. Both clubs will join the other ten teams for the start of the season which means a number of different structure changes were required in order to accommodate the league expansion.

Let's make no bones about it, the introduction of more teams to the Elite League can only be a good thing for one of the fastest growing sports in the UK in terms of reach and from a commercial aspect. The addition of the two teams has had a knock on effect to the conference systems within the league.

Previously, the league had been split into the Gardiner and Erhardt Conferences and was seen as a north/south split geographically for the majority of teams with five clubs in each of the conferences. The league setup was such that one club would play more games against inner conference rivals which often resulted in a great spectacle but was criticised for its repetitive nature.

With the addition of MK Lightning and Guildford Flames, it meant there were two possible avenues for the league to go down. The first involved having the same two conferences but adding a team to either conference or changing the teams around the conferences to allow the two southerly teams to join, creating two conferences of six.

The second option was to have three conferences of four teams. The league have decided to keep the same number of games against conference rivals, which results in less inner conference games as there is one less team in the conference.

This created a bigger scope to play out of conference teams on a more regular basis which can only be good news for the league if they are to start progressing and expanding ice hockey as a sport in the UK by keeping fans interested by playing different teams.

For any NHL fans out there, the way the EIHL is setup is to reflect and engage more with football fans in the UK. The major trophy is competed for is the league trophy and not the playoff trophy, as the Stanley Cup would be in the NHL.

Further down the line, it would be great to see an expansion of the playoffs in terms of number of games. As it currently stands in the playoffs, it's a two-legged affair with the winners proceeding on an aggregate basis.

To even introduce another game and have a best of three series would be incredible for the sport in this country, however there are many factors which currently prevent this from happening. Anyway, I digress...

Funding is a major issue for a lot of smaller teams in the league, therefore the worry about the expansion from their point of view was the extra costs it would take to travel further afield, particularly for teams like the Edinburgh Capitals and the Dundee Stars who would have much further to travel to play Milton Keynes and Guildford.