A Bird's Eye view of Elite League Champions. Cardiff Devils celebrate. Pic: William Cherry/Press Eye

Extra League Fixtures For All Elite Teams In 2018-19

Elite League ice hockey will play on with 11 teams in 2018-19 – and there will be extra fixtures for every club.

The exit of Edinburgh Capitals posed problems for League officials because, with 11 teams, they could not continue with three conferences of four teams.

The three Conferences will still remain, but all league games against Conference opponents will count towards the Conference Championship.

The Gardiner Conference will now only have three teams instead of four, following Edinburgh’s departure, but each team will have 30 home games compared to 28 last year.

Following a league meeting, the board approved a format with each team facing each other six times in the regular season, playing each other three times at home and three away.

Action from a Cardiff Devils (red) v Edinburgh Capitals match. Pic: Helen Brabon.

EIHL chairman Tony Smith said it was not a day he has enjoyed, saying: “Having to meet to decide the way forward was not one we particularly relished after the circumstances involving Edinburgh.

“We are sad to lose Capitals, but we have to move on and it’s by no means been an easy day for us in plotting the next step.

“As a league, we examined the options available to us at great depth and the most logical one to take was to go with 11 teams for the 2018-19 season.

“On behalf of the Elite League, I want to take this opportunity to thank Edinburgh Capitals for their contribution during their 13 years competing in this league and wish Scott Neil and everybody connected all the best for the future.

“It’s the next exciting step in our league and I’m looking forward to getting ready for the new campaign.”

The structure replaces the former league model that saw clubs play the teams in their own conference more times than the teams in the other Conferences.

There is no question that system increased competition among the 12 clubs and it could return in the future.

Elite League will continue to assess ways of increasing club numbers over the next few years and a team in London is a possibility.

Edinburgh Capitals don’t rule out a return at some stage and club official Scott Neill says: “We have all juggled and sacrificed time, money, resources and lifestyles to try and maintain an EIHL team in Edinburgh.

“It was heartbreaking to see the best business plan, with the best people and the highest committed funding ever being rejected from attempting to back an underdog club.

Forward Joey Martin pictured during the Devils’ awards evening.

“There is a desire to work in the background to revive the Capitals fortunes going forward.
It’s been an amazing journey and I sincerely hope this isn’t game over.”

The structure for the EIHL Challenge Cup will be confirmed in due course and will be announced following the EIHL fixtures meeting in late June.

The 2018-19 season starts in August.

Devils have been drawn in a group with Växjö Lakers (Sweden), SC Bern (Swiss), Red Bull Salzburg (Austria), Cardiff Devils (Great Britain) in the Champions League, while they have arranged a series of pre-season challenge fixtures.

Head coach Andrew Lord and his Devils have already confirmed fixtures against Nottingham Panthers on Saturday, August 11 and Sunday, August 12.

Cardiff Devils coach Andrew Lord.

The first of those will be in Nottingham with the return at Ice Arena Wales the following evening.

Devils host Slovakian team HK Poprad in games at Ice Arena Wales during August.

The challenge fixtures will be on Saturday, August 18 (7pm) and Sunday, August 19 (6pm).

HK Poprad play in the top league in Slovakia, the same league that HC Banska Bystrica play in, who the Devils hosted two years ago in pre-season action.

Cardiff host the Blaze at Ice Arena Wales on Saturday, August 25 (7pm) with the return at the Skydome, Coventry and on Sunday, August 26 (5.15pm).

Tickets for all pre-season games will go on sale soon.

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