Elite Ice Hockey League announces suspension of 2020-21 season

Darcy Murphy
Belfast Giants were the last title winners in 2018-19, with no title won last season

The Elite Ice Hockey League has announced the indefinite suspension of the 2020-21 season.

The 10-team league says it is not financially viable until venues can operate at around 75% capacity.

It hopes to run a short competition in early 2021, if UK government coronavirus restrictions are relaxed.

"We've been very open that we need to have fans back in our arenas for us to begin playing again," said league chairman Tony Smith.

"We operate around 75% to 100% capacity at our venues and this is the level of crowds we would need in order to go ahead at any point, which isn't a realistic option right now."

More than a million fans watched the Elite League in the 2019-20 season with the highest single-game attendance just short 10,000 fans.

Smith added: "We are looking into the possibility of some form of top-level ice hockey in the UK potentially taking place in early 2021. This could start in late January or early February and go through into late June, but may not include all teams and again this is dependent on crowds being allowed back inside venues."

The decision leaves the majority of Great Britain players looking for clubs in the various European Leagues which will run over the coming nine months.

Analysis

Seth Bennett, BBC World Service

This is a huge blow for the British ice hockey community, but one that was inevitable with the current coronavirus restrictions.

The difficult decision to postpone the season seems the only sensible option at this point, but it leaves a lot of questions as to what British ice hockey is going to look like when it does eventually return.

This could be a crossroads moment for the Elite League. To lose a whole season means that the fans will have to look elsewhere for that Saturday and Sunday night entertainment and the worry is they may never come back.

It is also a huge problem for many Great Britain players - it will mean they are now in a dogfight to try and get one of the very few jobs that are left in the European leagues.

The other option is potentially playing in the second league, but that would be big drop in both standard and wages. It is an extremely tricky situation for all involved.

Assuming the World Championships go ahead next year in Belarus, it is going to be even more difficult for GB to be competitive.

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