It’s an interesting question, “What is British Ice Hockey?”. I’m well aware that almost everyone who supports the game on this sceptred isle has a different opinion about this. Well, with everything that has been going on here in Manchester, it is something that i have given a fair bit of thought to of late. Now remember folks, this is my own personal opinion. Feel free to disagree, but try to keep it polite, ok? So, onwards….
Now, I would argue that there is a distinct difference between “British Ice Hockey” and what I shall refer to as “Ice Hockey played in Britain”. To summarise it succinctly, I view it as thus: the EPIHL/NIHL/SIHL are British Ice Hockey, whereas the EIHL is Ice Hockey played in Britain. And my criteria is pretty simple and straightforward:
For me, to class as British Ice Hockey, the game must be played by teams who are comprised of mostly British players. Therefore, the EPIHL (only 4 non Brits allowed) and NIHL (often just 1 non Brit) clearly fall into this category. Ice Hockey played in Britain, therefore, is the sport played within the Uk, but by predominantly non British players, ie the EIHL (14 non Brits allowed this coming season). And it really is that simple to me. I consider it a fairly clear dividing line, and one which is relatively easy to understand.
Now, I know some folks will claim the EIHL is British Ice Hockey, because there are a few Brits in the league, but think about this: would you consider, say Superleague Rugby to be British is 75-80% of all the players were Australians or New Zealanders? Or County Cricket if the majority of players were Australian/Indian/South African, etc? Chances are you wouldn’t. Yet in the British Ice Hockey world, many do consider a game played by mostly foreign players to be “British”. Which is their choice.
Personally, I do long for a day when the top level of the sport in this country is a sustainable league populated by mostly British players. Like the EPIHL, but bigger and better run. Hell, I’d love us to reach a point where British ice Hockey reaches a similar point to other European leagues, where our best players get drafted to the NHL on a regular basis, yet there are enough left behind to provide an excellent quality league (see the Czech Republic, Finland, Seeded, Germany for examples of this). As it is, I honestly believe that the real power brokers see more future in Ice Hockey played in Britain, rather than true British ice Hockey. And it is for this reason I truly hope that no matter what happens to the Phoenix with our proposed new rink, we never rejoin the EIHL until it makes active, and real progress to becoming a truly British league.