The EIHL have announced the names for the two conferences for next season. In May the Elite League split the teams into 2 conferences. The ‘southern’ conference containing Belfast, Cardiff, Coventry, Nottingham and Sheffield will be named the Erhardt Conference. The ‘northern’ conference comprising Braehead, Dundee, Edinburgh, Fife and Hull will be called the Gardiner Conference.
The Erhardt Conference is named after Carl Erhardt who captained the Great Britain team to European and World Championships as well as the 1936 Olympic gold medal. Erhardt is also the oldest man to win Olympic gold for ice hockey aged 39. Carl’s son Philip said “It is a great honour that my dad will be remembered in this way. I know he would have been delighted, although he was a very modest man.”
The Gardiner Conference is named after Chicago Blackhawks’ Edinburgh born netminder Charlie Gardiner. Gardiner had a seven-year long career and led the Blackhawks to Stanley Cup glory in 1934 becoming the last netminder to captain a Stanley Cup side. Gardiner sadly died shortly after that victory of a brain haemorrhage but was posthumously entered into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1945.
Gardiner’s nephew said; “Charlie achieved so much in his short career and it is fantastic that his legacy will live on for years to come.”
The teams that finish top of the conferences will also win trophies named after Erhardt and Gardiner.
Whilst the decision to switch to a conference structure will always be controversial the decision to name the conferences after two great players with strong ties to British hockey will be most popular.