Since the Nottingham Panthers won their second successive playoff title the conspiracy theorist have been out in force to prove what a fix the whole playoffs are. The way some fans and coaches have reacted to a Panthers win you would be mistaken for thinking the EIHL had faked the moon landings. Here are those statements.
The EIHL does not move the Playoffs around every year to favour the Nottingham Panthers: The playoff finals have been held at the NIC for over 10 years. Even the old Superleague moved its playoff finals to the NIC. The reason is that it is a large arena with a full sized ice pad with experience of hosting ice hockey and is relatively cheap. It is also easier to book a venue for years in advance than trying to oust other concerts, conferences and Disney on Ice from other venues.
The EIHL allows the Nottingham Panthers to use their own changing rooms: The NIC has two Olympic ice pads and at least 4 changing rooms. Changing rooms that are large and modern. They are not changing rooms like the ones in Basingstoke or Manchester where the away teams have to change in two separate rooms. Panthers having their usual changing room is more about logistics it saves having to swap over equipment.
The semi final draw favours the Panthers: The EIHL does not reseed teams for the semi final there for the winners of 1 v 8 face the winners of 4 v 5 in the first semi final and the other is between the winners of 2 v 7 and 3 v 6. The winners of the first semi final then becomes the ‘home’ team for the final. This is the way it has always been and the Panthers were actually the away team for the final and as such had first line change. This actually favoured the Cardiff Devils in the final as they could see the Panthers line before they put out their players.
The Sheffield Steelers lost their quarter final to give the Panthers an easier semi final: The Steelers lost their quarter final due a poor team effort and a superb effort from the Hull Stingrays. Any team in the EIHL is capable of beating another team on any given night. The Stingrays played well in their quarter final because they can play well. The fact they don’t play that well every night is one of the reasons they are not at the top of the league.
The Finals are held in Nottingham to allow more Panthers fans to go to the Finals: Apart from the reasons already stated the Nottingham Panthers the best support club in the EIHL. Their fans travel to a lot of games and the Panthers have the highest average attendance in the EIHL. No matter where the finals are held the Nottingham Panthers will have a lot of fans in attendance.
The EIHL does not want to move to a playoff series, as this would hinder the Nottingham Panthers: The EIHL does not want to move to a playoff series like the Stanley Cup playoffs because, for one, they will loose money. The EIHL has very few chances to make any money and the finals weekend is one of those. Also there is a logistical problem. Many of the top teams already struggle to get ice time for Challenge Cup semi-finals and the playoff quarterfinals. Also the majority of clubs do not own their own arena and so would have to book the venue and possibly not play in and so cost themselves and the arena more money. There is also the issue of fixture congestion. The EIHL season already runs almost into the World Championships and the national team needs its top players to be in those championships if it is to regain its pool A status.
The announcer is biased, as it is the same announcer as for Nottingham Panthers home games: The announcer probably works for either Panthers or the arena and the music is probably the generic hockey night music. The EIHL could do better with this and get the individual teams to supply some intro music and things but it is tenuous at best to suggest that this affects the play on the ice.
At the end of day the Nottingham Panthers didn’t win the playoff title because they were playing in Nottingham. They created more chances, had more speed, were more aggressive and had more depth. The Nottingham Panthers won the playoff title because simply put they are a better team than the Cardiff Devils, Hull Stingrays and the Braehead Clan and there league position shows you that as well.
It would be nice for the EIHL playoff finals to move around but it isn’t practical to ask fans to travel to Belfast on mass or for the EIHL to pay for an arena that is too big. Nor is it practical to try to book the same weekend in different arenas every year. It would be nice for the EIHL to explore its options once the contract with the NIC expires to prevent the event from being stale but the fact is the event works as the arena is of a good standard and fans like the city of Nottingham. The Panthers win because like it or not they are good team.