English National Ice Hockey League
|No. of teams||32|
|Official website||EIHA Leagues|
The National Ice Hockey League (NIHL) (formerly the English National Ice Hockey League or ENIHL) is a set of amateur ice hockey leagues below the English Premier Ice Hockey League which is administered by the English Ice Hockey Association. It was announced on 17 May 2012, that as the league now includes several teams from Scotland and Wales as well as England, it will be renamed the National Ice Hockey League from season 2012/13.
The league is split into two regions, North and South, meaning teams aren't travelling the length of the country for away games. Each region has 2 divisions, with promotion and relegation between the divisions in each region. South Division 2 is further split into western and eastern conferences, with an end of season playoff to find an overall division champion. The North have named their divisions; Moralee Conference (Division 1) and Laidler Conference (Division 2).
The league is now the third tier in ice hockey after the demise of the British National League.
The ENIHL was formed in 1996.
In April 2007, the EIHA lowered the upper age limit within the junior leagues, abolishing the under 19 age limit to become under 18. Due to the large gap from junior level to the EPIHL, many teams were forced to enter a reserve team into the ENIHL. This increased the size of the league from 22 teams through to 30 teams for the 2007/2008 season.
Later in the 2007 off-season, the EIHA suggested introducing an under 25 age limit across the league. However, this age limit was removed within weeks in favour of a drive towards developing players.
Following the 2012/2013 the league was renamed the National Ice Hockey League, removing the words English due to non-English teams participating.
In 2013, it was agreed at the EIHA AGM to restructure the Northern league into two conferences; Moralee and Laidler. The split was done primarily on regions and neither conference was regarded as being higher than the other. However, at the following year's AGM, it was agreed to return to a tiered Division 1 and Division 2 format. However, the conference names remained in place with Division 1 taking the Moralee Conference title and Division 2 the Laidler Conference title.
In 2014, it was agreed at the EIHA AGM to restructure the Southern Division 2 league to have Western and Eastern Conferences. Due to the odd-number of teams in the league, the Eastern Conference had six teams while the Western Conference had five teams. Both conferences were run completely separately and each winner was only regarded as being the conference winner, with no implication of one conference winner being regarded as the league winner. A two-round playoff format was introduced at the end of the season to determine a league-wide winner. The winner of the playoffs would then be the team promoted to Division 1.
Follows International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) rules, as used by countries in all major European leagues. There are significant differences between the National Hockey League rules and IIHF rules, including rink dimension, netminder puck handling, and icing.
The ENIHL also operates under additional EIHA regulations.
Additional discipline rules are also enforced by the EIHA, which include;
- Team fines of up to £5,000 for failure to complete a fixture
- A points system for misconduct and match penalties
- Player suspensions based upon accumulation of points
- 10 points - 2 game suspension
- 15 points - 3 game suspension
- 20 points - 4 game suspension
- 25 points - 5 game suspension
- Penalty Points for coach/managers and bench officials
- For every 20 penalty points accumulated against the team (players, coaches,managers and bench official) - £25 fine
- 50 team penalty points - £100 fine
- 75 team penalty points - £250 fine plus suspension
- 100 team penalty points - £250 plus the £250 suspended fine awarded at 75 points = £500 total fine
Each team plays each of the other teams in their league a total of four times; twice home, twice away.
At the end of the regular season, the top 4 teams in the division take part in the Playoff weekend, replacing the previous home/away format. 1st play 4th and 2nd play 3rd in one off semi-finals, the winners of which face each other the following day to decide the Playoff Champions, there is not usually a third placed Playoff. This is the format in both divisions (Moralee and Laidler). Blackburn Hawks currently hold the record of most consecutive final appearances with four from 2011/12 to the present season, winning in 2012/13 and 2014/15.
The rules regarding promotion and relegation between the Moralee and Laidler regularly change. Due to a league restructure in 2015 one club was relegated to the Moralee (Manchester Minotaurs) and the top three teams in the Laidler (Solihull Barons, Sheffield Senators and Teford Tigers) replacing them. A two legged Playoff was also played between the second bottom team in the Moralee (Whitley Warriors) and the fourth placed team in the Laidler (Widnes Wild) facing each other, the winner of two legs taking a place in the Moralee in the following season. Whitley won comfortably over two legs.
At the time of writing there is no clear indication of the promotion/relegation structure for the 2015/16, making it likely that there will be no system in place for the current season.
There are occasional cup competitions, but the format changes in most seasons but usually takes part in a league format. In 2014/15 a trial format of a group that included four teams from the Moralee Conference (Step 3 in English hockey) (Blackburn Hawks, Solway Sharks, Billingham Stars and Whitley Warriors) and three English Premier League (Step 2) (Telford Tigers, Sheffield Steeldogs and Peterborough Phantoms) teams facing each other. The format was widely panned by fans due to the obvious class difference between the two sets of teams, although Solway and Blackburn both secured wins over the Peterborough Phantoms.
Each team plays each of the other teams in their league a total of four times; twice home, twice away. In the case of Division 2, teams only play those teams in their own conference.
Unlike the North, the South keep a two-legged home-and-away format throughout the playoffs. In Division 1, this is a three-rounded format, involving the teams who finished in the top 8 of the regular season. In Division 2, this is a two-rounded format, involving the teams who finished in the top 2 of their conference. In the semi-finals, the conference winners play the runners-up from the other conference with the final involving the winners of the two semi-finals.
Division 1 has a Cup competition involving six of the teams. These are initially split into two groups of three, with the top two from each group going on to a knock-out, two-legged semi-final and final.
Division 2 has a Cup competition involving eight teams. These are initially split into two groups of four, with each group containing two teams from each conference. The top two teams from each group go onto a single Cup Final Weekend held in a single venue, with semi-finals on the Saturday determining the two teams to play the final on the Sunday.
The league itself is considered to be a development league, and as such the players are normally amateur. Many teams have affiliate teams in higher leagues. Other teams are aligned with junior ice hockey clubs, and exist to ensure that when players hit 18 there is still a possibility for them to play competitive hockey if they have not joined a professional team. Examples of this include the Bracknell Hornets and the Lancashire Raptors.
Teams correct for 2015-16 season.
|Moralee Conference||Billingham Stars||Billingham, Cleveland||Billingham Forum||900|
|Blackburn Hawks||Blackburn, Lancashire||Blackburn Arena||3200|
|Sheffield Spartans||Sheffield, South Yorkshire||iceSheffield, Sheffield||1500|
|Solihull Barons||Solihull, West Midlands||Blue Ice Plaza||800|
|Solway Sharks||Dumfries, Dumfries and Galloway||Dumfries Ice Bowl||1000|
|Sutton Sting||Sheffield, South Yorkshire||iceSheffield, Sheffield||1500|
|Telford NIHL Tigers||Telford, Shropshire||Telford Ice Rink||2250|
|Whitley Warriors||Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear||Whitley Bay Ice Rink||3200|
|Laidler Conference||Altrincham Aces||Altrincham, Greater Manchester||Altrincham Ice Dome||2150|
|Blackburn Eagles||Blackburn, Lancashire||Blackburn Arena||3200|
|Coventry NIHL Blaze||Coventry, West Midlands||SkyDome Arena, Coventry||3000|
|Deeside Dragons||Queensferry, Flintshire, Wales||Deeside Ice Rink||1500|
|Hull Stingrays||Kingston upon Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire||Hull Arena, Kingston upon Hull||2000|
|Nottingham Lions||Nottingham, Nottinghamshire||National Ice Centre, Nottingham||1000|
|Sheffield Senators||Sheffield, South Yorkshire||iceSheffield, Sheffield||1500|
|Widnes Wild||Widnes, Halton||Silver Blades, Widnes||800|
|Division 1||Bracknell Hornets||Bracknell, Berkshire||John Nike Leisuresport Complex||2400|
|Cardiff NIHL Devils 1||Cardiff, South Wales||Cardiff Arena||2500|
|Chelmsford Chieftains||Chelmsford, Essex||Riverside Ice & Leisure Centre||1200|
|Invicta Dynamos||Gillingham, Kent||Silver Blades, Gillingham||1200|
|London Raiders||Leyton, London||Lee Valley Ice Centre, Waltham Forest||1000|
|Milton Keynes Thunder||Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire||Planet Ice Thunderdome, Milton Keynes||2200|
|Solent Devils||Gosport, Hampshire||Gosport Ice Rink, Gosport||N/A|
|Streatham Redskins||Streatham, London||High Street Ice Rink, Streatham||1200|
|Wightlink Raiders||Ryde, Isle of Wight||Ryde Arena||1000|
|Division 2||Basingstoke Buffalo||Basingstoke, Hampshire||Planet Ice Silverdome, Basingstoke||2000|
|Bristol Pitbulls||Bristol||Oxford Ice Rink||650|
|Cardiff NIHL Devils 2||Cardiff, South Wales||Cardiff Arena||2500|
|Chelmsford Warriors||Chelmsford, Essex||Riverside Ice & Leisure Centre||1200|
|Haringey Racers||Haringey, London||Alexandra Palace Ice Rink||1250|
|Invicta Mustangs||Gillingham, Kent||Silver Blades, Gillingham||1200|
|Lee Valley Lions||Leyton, London||Lee Valley Ice Centre, Waltham Forest||1000|
|Oxford City Stars||Oxford, Oxfordshire||Oxford Ice Rink||1025|
|Peterborough Islanders||Peterborough, Cambridgeshire||Planet Ice, Peterborough||1250|
|Slough NIHL Jets||Slough, Berkshire||Slough Ice Rink, Slough||1000|
|Swindon NIHL Wildcats||Swindon, Wiltshire||Link Centre, Swindon||1250|
|Wightlink Tigers||Ryde, Isle of Wight||Ryde Arena||1000|
- History, Vectis Tigers (last accessed 13 April 2009)
- ENGLISH ICE HOCKEY ASSOCIATION COMPANY LIMITED MEETING OF DIRECTORS 8TH JUNE 2007 (last accessed 13 April 2009)
- News from the ENIHL AGM - Under 25's Age Limit Removed, Invicta Dynamos (last accessed 13 April 2009)
- Rulebook 2006-2010 International Ice Hockey Federation
- Rules and Regulations, EIHA
- Disciplinary Document, EIHA, Revised 7 June 2008
- BIHC ENIHL, Bracknell Ice Hockey Club (last accessed 13 April 2009)
- Lancashire Raptors (last accessed 13 April 2009)