UK Sport has certainly been going through a tumultuous time at present and when it comes to the discipline of Ice Hockey, it has been unable to find immunity from the stark threat that COVID-19 is continuing to pose.
That threat has already put paid to any hopes of finishing the 2019/20 season and with the news that the EIHL board have voted on no activity for the 2020/21 as well, it means an extended period of inactivity for Cardiff Devils and their league counterparts.
Looking back at last season, the schedule was set for each of the ten teams to play 54 league matches (each outfit playing the other nine on six different occasions – three at their home venue and three away) and with the race for the title heating up, a pandemic placed the brake on matters.
A brake that saw the Devils not only top of the table, but also with three games in hand over nearest rivals Sheffield Steelers and this scenario meant that if the season could be completed, the title would be very much theirs to lose.
Unfortunately for the Devils, with the pause button being pressed, Ice Hockey in the UK is still looking for the proverbial remote control and with play not going ahead, a rightful conclusion and maybe even a league title has eluded the Cardiff outfit.
While if that was a bitter pill to swallow for all involved with the club, the taste gets no easier for the Devils and with no Ice Hockey scheduled for next season, a question regarding long-term viability has to be asked.
Because with no fixtures on the calendar anytime soon, it means the ability to accrue all-important matchday revenue has been nullified and with no streams of finance trickling down, it will put an almighty strain on the Devils’ balance sheet.
Not only that, but it means continued disappointment for their supporters and without any EIHL action to look forward to, they will have to make do with lending their fandom to the North American NHL for the foreseeable future.
The next season of the NHL will be the 104th in their operation and although the play has been delayed until December, the feeling is that the show must go on and it is a show, that will now have an increased interest from these shores.
Which also means that if you are based in South Wales and need a team to temporarily support, you may want to opt for a franchise which has the best chance for success and If you want to check the odds for the 2020/21 Stanley Cup, there are plenty of online resources available.
Of course, fans of the Devils will only be lending their support stateside for a short time and they will hope that the EIHL does eventually get back on the ice. With that said, the prospect of this will not be until the start of the 2021/22 season.
It must be noted that the decision to scrap the whole of 2020/21 schedule was not one that was taken lightly, and this is reflected by the recent comments that were made by the EIHL Chairman Tony Smith:
“We’ve been very open that we need to have fans back in our arenas for us to begin playing again. We operate around 75% to 100% capacity at our venues and this is the level of crowds we would need in order to go ahead at any point, which isn’t a realistic option right now.
These comments highlight just how important a full capacity crowd is to Cardiff and their nine EIHL rivals, because although they may have been able to operate within current Government restrictions and a reduced attendance, it would have seen them most likely operate at a loss at the same time.
Some will argue that some revenue is better than none and although there is a modicum of truth to that, one also needs to weigh up the additional health risk by playing in this current climate and if the risk is not financially beneficial, it does make sense to fold your cards and stay inactive.
January or February 2021 has been earmarked as the potential return date, although whether all 10 EIHL clubs can ride out the storm over the next few months remains to be seen and for the Cardiff Devils, the hope is arguably more akin to prayers. Here’s hoping all is well for the start of next year.