Blueliner Guide to the Manchester Phoenix

League: EPL

Colours: Red, Black, White

Formed: 2003

Arena: Altrincham Ice Dome, Altrincham, Manchester

The Manchester Phoenix are a relatively new club on the ice hockey scene in the UK. Formed in 2003 the Manchester Phoenix brought ice sports back to Manchester following a 12 month period in which the city’s professional club folded and the city’s only ice rink also closed taking with it the development system and the local amateur club.

However, ice hockey in Manchester dates back well beyond the past 10 years. In 1910 the Cheetham Hill Ice Palace opened as the UK’s biggest arena and over the next 20 years Manchester IHC and was one a successful team even founding the British Ice Hockey Association. In the 1960’s the Devonshire Road ice rink opened and ice hockey returned with the Altrincham Aces and in 1995 arena hockey returned to the city centre as the Manchester Storm hit the ice.

The Storm quickly became the most popular team in the UK and one of the biggest Europe winning the Superleague title in 1999. However the money soon ran out and at the start of the 2002/ 03 season the team folded.

The following summer the Superleague folded and out of these ashes rose the Elite League and a new Manchester club; the Manchester Phoenix.

The Phoenix originally played in the Manchester Arena during their first season and finished 6th in the league and reached the playoff finals loosing 6 -1 to the Nottingham Panthers in the semi-final. Despite this the financial burden of playing in the arena was too much and the club was put on hiatus for two seasons whilst a permanent ice rink could be built.

That ice rink is yet to materialise but a semi-permanent rink was constructed in Altrincham and remains to this day. The ice dome opened in 2007 and the Phoenix returned to Manchester that February having played most of the season on the road.

The next two seasons saw the Phoenix settle into their new home and made the playoffs both season losing out on the playoff finals by a single goal on both occasions. The 2008/9 season was a highlight of the Phoenix’s stay in the top flight. The side finished sixth in the league but made the final of the Knockout Cup and the Challenge Cup, losing on both occasions to the Belfast Giants.

That was to be the end of the Phoenix’s stay in the top flight as off ice disputes over salary caps and rising costs led the Phoenix to drop into the EPL.

The lower league seemed to suit the team as they lead the standings at Christmas in their first season. However a poor second half of the season meant the Manchester team finished third but did make the playoff finals losing in the semi final to Slough Jets.

The following season the Manchester Phoenix returned with a strengthened side and took the league title with a 5 – 2 victory over Swindon on the final day of the season. The team again made the playoff finals but again lost in the semi final.

The start of the 2011/ 12 season was not great as the side was hampered by injuries. But a strong run over Christmas pulled them back into contention for a the title again but this time they just missed out and finished second to the Guildford Flames who also knocked the Phoenix out of the cup in the semi-final.

The future looks bright for the Phoenix who have seen season ticket sales rise every year. They also hope to move out the temporary rink in Altrincham across the car park to a new permanent home in the next few years. There has also been talk of the team returning to the Elite League in the future possibly as early as 2015 but this is more a case of speculation. One thing is sure though the Phoenix ownership has steadied a turbulent ship that was ice hockey in Manchester and continue to work hard to grow the sport in an already sport mad city.

Honours

English Premier League Winners – 2011

Links

Website – www.manchesterphoenix.co.uk

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