English National Ice Hockey League

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"National Ice Hockey League" redirects here. For other uses, see National Ice Hockey League (disambiguation).
English National Ice Hockey League
ENL Logo.png
Sport Ice hockey
Founded 1996
No. of teams 37
Country  United Kingdom
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.[1]

The league is currently 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 Conference have named their divisions; Moralee Conference (Division 1) and Laidler Conference (Division 2).

History[edit]

The ENIHL was formed in 1996; following the dissolution of the British Hockey League, and the creation of the Ice Hockey Superleague and the British National League as the top two tiers of British hockey. The ENIHL served as the third tier of hockey; operating below the BNL. Following its inaugural season an upper tier within the ENIHL was founded, so as to serve as a league for the members of the BNL who couldn't afford to remain in that league due to the increased operating costs; but at the same time played ice hockey to a higher standard that of the other ENIHL teams. This division was originally known as the "national division", and during the 1997–98 season the teams in this division played duel schedules; a series of games solely amongst themselves, and another amongst all of the teams which fell under the jurisdiction of the ENIHL at this time. Solihull Blaze won the league and play-off trophies of both formats during this inaugural season. At the start of the 1998–99 season the divisions, whilst still both under the ENIHL umbrella, performed in their own separate competitions; and the national division adopted the name "premier division", and later on became known as the "premier league". By the end of the season the league had established itself outside of the ENIHL as the English Premier Ice Hockey League; reducing the ENIHL to the fourth level of Britain's ice hockey pyramid. However, in 2005 the BNL disbanded; leaving the EPIHL to take its place as the second tier of the national game and, consequently, re-establishing the ENIHL as the third tier of British ice hockey.[2]

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 2007–08 season.[3]

Later in the 2007 off-season, the EIHA suggested introducing an under 25 age limit across the league.[4] However, this age limit was removed within weeks in favour of a drive towards developing players.[5] The ENIHL was restructured for the 2008/2009 season into two regional divisions North and South, with two leagues in each regional division. Following the 2012–13 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.

Rules[edit]

Follows International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) rules,[6] 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.[7]

Additional discipline rules are also enforced by the EIHA,[8] 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

Season Structure[edit]

North[edit]

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 failed trial format of a group that included three teams from the Moralee Conference (Step 3 in English hockey) (Blackburn Hawks, Solway Sharks and Billingham Stars) and three English Premier League (Step 2) (Telford Tigers, Sheffield Steeldogs, Peterborough Phantoms and Manchester Phoenix) teams facing each other. The format was widely panned by fans due to the obvious class difference between the two sets of teams, although Soway and Blackburn secured an 8-4 home win over the Peterborough Phantoms.

South[edit]

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.

Players[edit]

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[9] and the Lancashire Raptors.[10]

Current Teams[edit]

Teams correct for 2015-16 season. [11] [12] [13] [14] [15]

League Champions[edit]

Season Northern Champions Southern Champions Playoff Champions English National Cup Champions North 2 Champions South 2 Champions
1996/97 Kingston Jets London Raiders Wightlink Raiders N/A N/A N/A
1997/98 Solihull Blaze Invicta Dynamos Solihull Blaze N/A N/A N/A
1998/99 Billingham Stars Cardiff Devils Billingham Stars N/A N/A N/A
1999/00 Billingham Stars Harringay Greyhounds Whitley Warriors N/A N/A N/A
2000/01 Billingham Stars Basingstoke Buffalo Whitley Warriors Whitley Warriors N/A N/A
2001/02 Whitley Warriors Basingstoke Buffalo Whitley Warriors Whitley Warriors N/A N/A
2002/03 Sheffield Scimitars Basingstoke Buffalo Basingstoke Buffalo N/A N/A N/A
2003/04 Flintshire Freeze Invicta Dynamos Sheffield Scimitars Sheffield Scimitars N/A N/A
2004/05 Sheffield Scimitars Invicta Dynamos Sheffield Scimitars Sheffield Scimitars N/A N/A
2005/06 Billingham Stars Invicta Dynamos Invicta Dynamos Invicta Dynamos N/A N/A
2006/07 TDC Northern Stars Invicta Dynamos Sheffield Scimitars Sheffield Scimitars N/A N/A
2007/08 Nottingham Lions Peterborough Islanders Whitley Warriors Sheffield Scimitars N/A Invicta Dynamos
2008/09 Sheffield Scimitars Invicta Dynamos Nottingham Lions Sheffield Scimitars Telford Titans Chelmsford Chieftains
2009/10 Whitley Warriors Invicta Dynamos N/A N/A TDC Northern Stars Bristol Pitbulls
2010/11 Whitley Warriors Wightlink Raiders N/A N/A Solihull Barons Slough Jets
2011/12 Billingham Stars London Raiders N/A N/A Solway Sharks Solent Devils
2012/13 Solway Sharks Chelmsford Chieftains N/A N/A Nottingham Lions Oxford City Stars
2013/14 Solway Sharks Chelmsford Chieftains N/A N/A Solihull Barons Oxford City Stars
2014/15 Blackburn Hawks Chelmsford Chieftains N/A N/A Solihull Barons Bristol Pitbulls
2015/16 Blackburn Hawks Chelmsford Chieftains N/A N/A Deeside Dragons In Progress

References[edit]