Teams: Basingstoke Bison
Milton Keynes Lightning
The English Premier League is in ice hockey, the regarded as the second tier of the sport in the UK. Its teams are still on the whole professional however the arenas are a lot smaller than those of the EIHL and the teams are limited to 4 non-British trained (referred to as import) players although teams do carry a spare from time to time.
The EPL was founded in 1997 to provide a lower but still professional level for clubs to compete in below the British National League and the then Superleague and later Elite League. However following the collapse of the BNL in 2005 the EPL gained around half of those sides changing the dynamic of the league and introducing a greater level of professionalism as the new teams had more money. This is did lead to teams dropping out of the league though and the EPL is rather unique in that none of the current teams were founder members of the league.
The league format in the EPL is very similar to that of the EIHL. The ten teams play each other 3 times at home and 3 times away for a 54 game season. The league champion is then taken as the league leader after the 54 games. At the end of the season the top 8 teams compete for the playoff title with a home and away quarter final in seeded order followed by a semi final and final weekend at the Skydome Arena in Coventry.
The EPL also runs a cup competition. This is built into the season with the first two meetings home and away between clubs counting towards the cup. The top four then meet in a two-legged semi final and final.
Due to an almost constantly changing roster of teams with varying levels of finaincial backing it has been hard to for one team to dominate. However in 2009 the Peterborough Phantoms were EPL Grand Slam winners, winning the league, cup and playoff titles. Milton Keynes Lightning has also enjoyed plenty of success winning the league title 3 teams and playoff title for 4 consecutive years between 2003 and 2006. The Guildford Flames have also enjoyed many successful seasons however have only won the league title twice but have been runners up twice as well.
The EPL does create some exciting rivalries with most of its teams now based on the outskirts of London. Guildford, Bracknell and Slough enjoy a derby between each other whilst Manchester and Sheffield face each other in what is known as the roses games.
The future for the EPL is as uncertain as ever with speculation around clubs like Manchester and Guildford joining the EIHL and money woes in Telford, Peterborough and Slough. What is certain though is that the EPL will carry on as it always as but perhaps with the inclusion of some Scottish clubs such as Solway who have been admitted to the lower English National League which is also ran by English Ice Hockey Association.
www.eplupdates.co.uk – scores