10 UK cities that could host new EIHL teams

The bumper spectator numbers over the Christmas period suggest that British ice hockey is growing more popular by the minute. Clubs at all levels of the domestic pyramid are recording sell-out matches, it’s only natural that thoughts turn to the growth of the UK’s premier division, the EIHL

The Elite Ice Hockey League currently has 10 teams which play each other numerous times over the course of the season. While it is extremely competitive and the games are always entertaining, that said, the lack of diversity can sometimes make the division seem a little restrained. 

While simply adding new teams won’t naturally help the division grow in popularity, it may help to feed the growth of the sport in the UK. With this in mind, we have highlighted 10 locations that could potentially operate EIHL teams. 

1 - Birmingham

Birmingham is often considered the UK’s second city and with a population of over 2.6 million people, surely this city could be a viable host for an Elite Ice Hockey team. Infrastructure wouldn’t be a problem either, as Birmingham boasts two sizeable arenas that would be suitable for hosting games. The Utilita Arena Birmingham is located in the city centre, making it an extremely attractive location for both home and away fans alike. 

Ice Hockey clearly has a good following in the Birmingham area already, with both the Telford Tigers and the Solihull Barons consistently attracting good attendances. Perhaps the pull of an EIHL team within a 30-minute drive of these two teams would entice these hockey fans to turn up to Elite league games in Birmingham? 

The prospect of a Midlands derby between the Coventry Blaze and a prospective Birmingham team would be an added bonus, the added marketability of such games would surely increase spectator numbers, increasing the potential interest in the sport. 

2 - Liverpool

As one of the UK’s main cities, it is a surprise that Liverpool doesn’t already host an Elite Level team. Despite the lack of ice hockey history in the city, there is a thriving NIHL team in Widness within a 30-minute drive from the city, so there is surely a market for such a team. 

The issue regarding a venue is actually quite an easy fix, the M&S Bank Arena would be the perfect place to host home games and the prospect of a North West rivalry between Manchester Storm and a Liverpool-based team would certainly add to the appeal. 

With football and rugby league both popular sports in Liverpool, sport is something that Liverpudlians enjoy. Could a good few of these sports fans be tempted to watch Elite ice hockey games regularly?

3 - London

The idea that the Elite Ice Hockey League doesn’t have a team in the capital is often seen as farcical, but the high costs associated with the League combined with the extremely high operating costs on the ground have been the downfall of an EIHL team in the past. In order for the team to be a success it would have to be well-funded and meticulously planned. With a huge multicultural population, Elite Ice Hockey would surely be a welcome addition to the sporting landscape in London. 

When the London Racers spectacularly folded midway through the 2005-06 season, citing lack of a safe venue to host Elite level matches. It sent a strong message for any future Elite ice hockey teams in the capital. In terms of venues, there are plenty of viable options to host a London team. There are arenas aplenty, from the O2 Arena to one of the Racer’s former homes, the Alexandra Palace. Agreeing on a permanent home for a few seasons would be necessary for any new expansion team in the capital, as it would certainly provide heavy stability for the new team in its first few years.

4 - Newcastle

The most recent Newcastle team folded in 2011, after low crowd numbers had forced them to move out of the Newcastle Arena and into the home of its rival Whitley Bay. Although completely necessary, this move only exacerbated the money troubles that the Newcastle Vipers were facing.

Despite this, many would argue that the Elite League is in a different place from where it was over 10 years ago. 

There is now a healthier interest in ice hockey in the North East with both Billingham Stars and Whitley Bay receiving healthy attendances, surely the pull of an Elite team in the North East for the first time in over 10 years would surely pull fans through the doors. 

Another benefit is The Utilita Arena is a ready-made home for such a team and a long-term deal could surely be struck to keep an EIHL team in the North East for the foreseeable future.   

5 - Aberdeen

Ice hockey in Scotland has a really strong following and despite poor performance in the EIHL, Scottish fans still turn up to watch their teams in good numbers. Surely another Scottish team would be popular in the EIHL. With that, the mind turns to the Scottish cities that would be able to support such a team.

Aberdeen already has a thriving hockey team that plays in the Scottish National League, the Aberdeen Lynx, a team that has already declared an interest in joining the Elite league. 

Surely these fans would also enjoy the prospect of seeing a local team face off against some of the best teams in the country? Also, Aberdeen has a population of just under 200,000 people, surely the concept of an EIHL team in town would tempt new people to come and watch hockey.

6 - Edinburgh

As mentioned in the point above, Scotland has a hugely vibrant hockey scene. It seems bizarre that the Scottish Capital doesn’t have a team in the Elite League. Sadly, the Edinburgh Capitals folded from the EIHL in 2018. And despite various attempts to bring another Edinburgh team to the league, nothing has yet materialised. 

Without a doubt, an Edinburgh-based team in the EIHL is just around the corner. 

The Murrayfield Ice Rink with a capacity for just under 4000 spectators, is a ready-made home for such a team, removing the need to find another venue.      

7 - Bristol

Bristol is a city with huge amounts of potential when it comes to hosting an EIHL team. Bristol is currently represented in the NIHL by the Bristol Pitbulls and despite a difficult history, having moved to Oxford for a few years, the fan base hasn’t been deterred from returning. Perhaps this is good news for the potential of hosting an Elite team in the city.

A city with a young population, ice hockey could have a growing appeal. This would therefore be a good time to start an Elite League team, with an expectation for the following to grow.

Combine this with news that the YTL Bristol Arena is due to be completed in the next few years, and the issues surrounding a venue should easily be fixed. 

Combine that with the idea of a River Severn Derby with the Cardiff Devils and you have quite an exciting prospect.

8 - Swindon

Despite the lack of city status, Swindon is an exciting, if not surprising potential location for an Elite team. Having been host to an ice hockey team since the 1980’s, Swindon is clearly a place that loves its ice hockey. Surely it would be a good place for an Elite team to grow, with a better calibre of teams encouraging more fans to enjoy the sport.

While the town doesn’t have an arena to rival that of the Steelers, the Link Centre that plays host to the Swindon Wildcats could be a perfect location for an elite team to base itself. Shared facilities would certainly provide more stability for both a potential new EIHL team and the existing teams that already play out of the venue.    

With a rich ice hockey history, an EIHL team in Swindon could be seen as a fantastic place to nurture local talent. With players going through various local teams before reaching the Elite League.

9 - Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes has previously had a team competing in the EIHL. Milton Keynes Lightning withdrew in 2019, citing financial issues. While this event has caused issues behind the scenes, ice hockey is proving to be popular as ever in Milton Keynes. Would a second try at the EIHL prove to be more successful? Particularly with the newly found fan ownership model proving to be more successful. 

Another location with an increasing population, with many people leaving London. This could be the perfect time for the Milton Keynes Lightning to step up the leagues.

Not forgetting that the Planet Ice Milton Keynes Arena would be a good location for the team to continue to play, with a capacity of nearly 3000, this would certainly remove the need to find another venue for the team. 

10 - Leeds

It comes as a surprise to many that Leeds has never had a team in the Elite Ice Hockey League. Leeds Knights are performing extremely well in the NIHL, sitting pretty at the top of the standings, clear by 3 points (as of 8th January 2023). The city’s appetite for ice hockey seems to be growing by the day. 

While seemingly the only venue for the team appears to be Planet Ice, this could be seen as a positive way to improve the facilities, as the increased revenues from gate receipts and merchandise sales could be reinvested in the rink. 

As mentioned previously, Leeds Knights are performing extremely well this season, could the Knights administration be tempted to jump up a league? It would certainly be interesting to see a rivalry be created between the Sheffield Steelers and the Leeds Knights.

So there you have it! Our top 10 cities that could potentially host Elite Ice Hockey League teams. What do you think about this? Have we missed any locations out? Let us know in the comments! 😀

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