|National federation||Ice Hockey UK|
|IIHF since||November 19, 1908 (founding member)|
|Top league||Elite Ice Hockey League|
|Current champion||Coventry Blaze|
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is an island country in Northern Europe. London is the capital and largest city.
- British National Team
- British Junior National Team
- Women's British National Team
- English National Team
- Scottish National Team
- Ice Hockey UK
- British Ice Hockey Association (1913-1999)
- Scottish Ice Hockey
- English Ice Hockey Association
|Elite Ice Hockey League||2003||-||Top-level national competition|
|British Championship||1930||-||Currently awarded to EIHL playoff champion|
|English Premier Ice Hockey League||1998||-||Second-level national competition*|
|English National Ice Hockey League||1996||-||Third-level national competition**|
|Scottish National League||2000||-||Top-level Scottish competition; on par with ENIHL|
|Challenge Cup||2001||-||National cup competition|
|Scottish Cup||1986||-||Scottish cup competition|
|Varsity Match||1885||-||Oxford-Cambridge university competition|
|New Niagara Challenge Cup||1897||1899||Defunct tournament|
|English Club Championship||1898||1931||Defunct national championship|
|English Ice Hockey League||1903||1904||Defunct national league|
|British League||1929||1930||Defunct English competition|
|Scottish National League||1929||1954||Defunct Scottish competition|
|Mitchell Trophy||1930||1939||Defunct Scottish cup competition|
|President's Pucks||1933||1939||Defunct Scottish cup competition|
|Scottish Cup||1937||1955||Defunct Scottish cup competition|
|Scottish Canada Cup||1946||1954||Defunct Scottish cup competition|
|Scottish League Flag Competition||1946||1947||Defunct Scottish cup competition|
|English League||1931||1936||Defunct English competition|
|English National League||1934||1954||Defunct English competition|
|English National Tournament||1934||1950||Defunct English cup competition|
|Autumn Cup||1946||2000||Defunct national cup competition|
|Southern Intermediate League||1948||1955||Defunct English intermediate competition|
|Midland Intermediate League||1951||1955||Defunct English intermediate competition|
|British National League||1954||1960||Defunct British competition|
|British Home Tournaments||1960||1970||Played in lieu of league competition|
|Scottish League||1962||1965||Defunct Scottish competition|
|Coca-Cola Championship||1965||1966||Defunct multi-league competition|
|Northern League||1966||1982||Defunct regional competition|
|Icy Smith Cup||1966||1981||Served as national championship|
|Southern League||1970||1978||Defunct regional competition|
|English League North||1978||1982||Defunct regional competition|
|Inter-City League||1978||1982||Defunct regional competition|
|English National League||1981||1982||Defunct English competition|
|Scottish National League||1981||1982||Defunct Scottish competition|
|British Hockey League||1982||1996||Defunct top-level national competition|
|Scottish League||1985||2000||Defunct Scottish competition|
|English League||1987||1996||Defunct English competition|
|English Conference||1991||1994||Defunct English competition|
|Ice Hockey Superleague||1996||2003||Defunct top-level national competition|
|British National League||1996||2005||Defunct second-level national competition|
|Northern League||2005||2011||Defunct regional competition|
|British junior competitions||-||Various junior competitions|
|Women's Premier Ice Hockey League||1984||-||Top-level women's competition|
(*Formerly the third level competition until 2005. **Formerly the fourth-level competition until 2005.)
History of hockey in Great Britain
References of stick and ball games being played on the ice in Britain date back to the winter of 1607-08. These became more common in the early 1800s, with references to accidents (players drowning after falling through the ice usually), illustrated depictions of skating and hockey playing, and other reports of informal games being played. The first documented games in the Fens were played in 1813-14, and by that point legends of Bluntisham-cum-Earith (later the Bury Fen Bandy Club) having been unbeaten for a century had already become prominent. It seems highly likely that hockey was played in the Fens dating back to the early 1700s, at least. In fact, the Fens was the only place where the sport was played regularly at an organized level until the formation of the Virginia Water Hockey Club just outside of London in 1873. As they played with ash sticks and a bung (puck) until 1891, Virginia Water can rightfully be called the first "modern" ice hockey club in the world. A ball and curved sticks were the preferred playing equipment in the Fens.
The sport in the Fens and elsewhere in Britain developed in relative isolation. The National Skating Association publishedtwo different sets of rules in 1882 - one for the Fens and another for the Metropolitan District (London area). It took a game between Virginia Water and Bury Fen in 1891 to put the different styles of bandy/hockey put on display next to one another. The formation of the National Bandy Association several weeks later and the adoption of a single set of rules was the first step in distinguishing between bandy and ice hockey.
Bandy continued to develop during the 1890s and there were over 20 clubs playing the sport around England by 1894-95. The opening of three indoor ice rinks in London (Niagara Ice Rink, Hengler's Ice Rink, and Prince's Skating Club) and the Glasgow Real Ice Skating Palace in Scotland between 1895 and 1896 completely changed the complexion of the game in Britain. The first games to be played indoors were at Hengler's on February 1 and 6, 1896. A team representing England defeated the favored "Canada" in both games - 3-0 and 4-2.
Princes Ice Hockey Club was founded in late 1896 when Admiral Maxse granted Major Peter Patton, an important figure in the early years of the indoor sport, permission to form an ice hockey team based at Prince's Skating Club in Hammersmith. They won their first match against Fenwick's team, 6-3, on February 13, 1897. The first ever tournament, known as the New Niagara Challenge Cup, was played at the Niagara rink in March 1897. Virginia Water ventured indoors to claim the inaugural cup. The early indoor games were very much a hybrid of bandy and ice hockey. The first English Club Championship for the Admiral Maxse Challenge Cup in ice hockey was won by the Niagara Ice Hockey Club in April 1898.
The London Canadians, composed of expatriate Canadians, were formed at Prince's Skating Club in late 1902. According to Peter Patton, "they taught us hockey". A more modern version of the sport was slowly emerging. The English Ice Hockey League, the first league competition to be played in England and Europe as a whole, was staged in 1903-04 and won by the Canadians. Outdoor bandy in England had been all-but extinguished by this point. The influx of indoor rinks where ice hockey could be played, and a string of warm winters led to its demise.
Following the disbandment of the London Canadians in 1904, a new team composed primarily of Canadian students from Oxford University attending with a Rhodes Scholarship, known as the Oxford Canadians, was formed in 1906. A great rivalry emerged between them and Princes, with the Maxse Cup for the English Championship flip-flopping between the two sides up until World War I. In Scotland, the Crossmyloof Ice Rink opened in 1907 and the Scottish Ice Hockey Association was established two years later.
The British Ice Hockey Association (BIHA) was founded in 1913 and was the governing body of ice hockey in England during the 1913–14 season. The National Skating Association had formerly served as the governing body of ice hockey in England, in a semi-official capacity, along with Princes Ice Hockey Club. Hockey activities were interrupted by the outbreak of World War I in 1914.
After the war, much of the British hockey infrastructure had collapsed, and there were few places left which were suitable for ice hockey. The Manchester Ice Palace was the only rink in the country during the early 1920s. The nomadic London Lions were formed by Blaine Sexton in 1924. They played in various friendlies and tournaments around Europe, before moving into the newly-opened played Westminster Ice Club in 1927. The first English Club Champion since 1914 was crowned in 1928, when United Services won the first of two consecutive titles.
A league competition (the first since 1904) was played in both England (1929-30 British League season) and Scotland (Scottish National League) and the 1930 British Championship was won by Sexton's Lions. The English league competition was not staged in 1931, and the Lions were crowned club champions that year, the last time that title was ever bestowed on a team.
The English League was founded in 1931. An ice rink boom occurred during the mid-1930s, with large facilities opening in London (the Earls Court, Harringay, and Wembley arenas). Other smaller rinks opened in Brighton, Richmond and Streatham. This led to the majority of English League clubs leaving to form the English National League in 1935, leading the disbandment of the English League at the end of the 1935–36 season. There was soon an influx of imported players into both the English and Scottish leagues. British clubs had the ability to pay higher wages than Depression-hit North America and numerous talented players came over from across the Atlantic. The arenas in England were regularly jam-packed with 10,000+ spectators in the final years before World War II. These years were undoubtedly the "Golden Era" of British hockey.
After the war, the Scottish National League and English National League both resumed play in 1946. Club rosters were still largely filled by imports, but the players slowly began to demand more money. In 1954 the decision was taken to amalgamate the English and Scottish leagues into one. The new competition, known as the British National League initially fielded 12 sides in its inaugural season, four from England and eight from Scotland. The Dunfermline Vikings withdrew from the league in early 1955 and at the end of the season six of the seven remaining Scottish sides withdrew, leaving the league with five members. This fell to four following the closure of Harringay Arena in 1958 but increased again to five in 1959 following the admission of Streatham. The league was disbanded following the 1959–60 season. A combination of over-saturation and the skyrocketing cost of imported players led to the demise of the British National League.
Following the closure of the British National League, no league competition took place in the United Kingdom for the next six years. Instead clubs, some of which did not have a home rink, participated in home tournaments. A Scottish League was contested from 1962-1965 and in 1966 the Northern League was formed. This league was made up of teams from Scotland and North East England and was the country's only league for four years. The Southern League was established in 1970 and was divided into the English League North and Inter-City League in 1978.
The British Hockey League was formed in 1982 with the Premier Division being launched a season later. Heineken also began its sponsorship of the league, and the competition known colloquially as the "Heineken League" comprised 20 teams - nine in the Premier Division and 11 in Division One. The sponsorship was worth £100,000 in the first year and lasted until 1993. It is estimated that the overall deal had been worth approximately five million pounds. Some of the money went toward covering travel expenses, but it was also used for promoting the game. A good example of this was employing the use of the Wembley Arena for the Heineken Championships (the league playoffs for the British Championship). This move paid off and by the late 1980s, crowds of 9,000+ regularly appeared for the finals. BBC TV also televised the finals live on the popular Grandstand weekend sports show.
British ice hockey's structure underwent major reorganization in 1996. The British Hockey League (the highest senior competition since 1982) was disbanded and replaced by the Ice Hockey Superleague and the British National League. The Ice Hockey Superleague Ltd was established on November 1, 1995 and held its first season in 1996-1997 with eight founding clubs - Ayr Scottish Eagles, Basingstoke Bison, Bracknell Bees, Cardiff Devils, Manchester Storm, Newcastle Cobras Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers. The Superleague was governed by a board of directors who were the owners of the participating teams with Martin Weddell as Chairman. The chief executive Ian Taylor from 1996–02 was replaced by the league's former secretary, Brian Storey in what would be the league's final season of 2003.
The loss of the Cardiff Devils and the Newcastle Jesters in 2001 reduced the membership of the Superleague to seven; and when the Manchester Storm and the Scottish Eagles folded within a week of one another at the beginning of the 2002–03 season, there were just five remaining teams. In December 2002, the Bracknell Bees announced their intention to resign from the league to join the BNL at the end of the season; and uncertainty surrounded the future of the London Knights and their London Arena home; which ultimately led to the Knights folding in 2003. Owing a large debt to Ice Hockey UK and facing the prospect of having only three members, the league placed itself into liquidation on April 30, 2003.
The three remaining clubs (Belfast Giants, Nottingham Panthers, and Sheffield Steelers) began considering the formation of a new league with a lower wage cap and larger commitment to British players to attract other clubs into joining them. In the weeks that followed they were joined by Basingstoke Bison, Cardiff Devils, and Coventry Blaze of the British National League and two new organisations from London and Manchester. A team based in Glasgow was also planned, but did not come to fruition. The new league met considerable opposition from the British National League and the governing body Ice Hockey UK. IHUK wished the remaining Superleague clubs to integrate themselves into the BNL and initially refused to grant the new league affiliation. The Superleague clubs were reluctant to join the predominantly British trained league after several years of playing in an import-dominated league where British players were seldom able to step up to the standard of their North American and European counterparts. The Elite League instead preferred a twelve import limit with the rest of the team comprising British-trained players.
The refusal to grant affiliation caused a bitter row to ensue that showed little sign of being resolved. Despite not having the support of the governing body, the new league continued their plans regardless. No affiliation would have meant that the clubs would have problems attaining work permits for their signings and finding officials to referee their matches. The row also threatened the future of the Nottingham Panthers, as the National Ice Centre were reluctant to allow a team from an unaffiliated league hire their arena. The issue was resolved in August 2003 when the Panthers and the NIC announced an icetime agreement. The EIHL finally agreed affiliation in August 2003, with only weeks to go before the beginning of the new season.
The new league began on September 12, 2003 when Sheffield Steelers, who went on to become the inaugural league champions, defeated the newly formed London Racers 6–1 at Alexandra Palace. The most successful clubs in the EIHL have been Sheffield and the Nottingham Panthers.
There has been a British league competition for 37 seasons and 16 teams have won the league championship. The most successful club is the Sheffield Steelers, who have won the championship on seven occasions followed by the now-defunct Durham Wasps who won the title five times. The Belfast Giants, Cardiff Devils and the Coventry Blaze have each been champions four times. The Nottingham Panthers, the only club to have played in all 37 seasons, have won the title twice (additionally Nottingham were English champions twice before the British National League was formed). The Murrayfield Racers, a predecessor of the Edinburgh Capitals, won the championship on two occasions. The Durham Wasps, Murrayfield Racers, Cardiff Devils, Sheffield Steelers and Coventry Blaze are the only sides to have successfully defended a title.
The British Championship is the most prestigious ice hockey cup competition in the United Kingdom, and also the longest established ice hockey competition. It has been run under various formats and titles since 1930 and contested annually since 1966. It was originally known as the Patton Cup, then the Icy Smith Cup, the Heineken Championship and latterly as the Sekonda Playoff Championship. Some contests were only recognised as representing the Championship retroactively.
In its current format, the eight highest placed teams in the Elite Ice Hockey League contest quarter finals, the winners going on to semi finals and then the deciding one-leg final.
The British National Team was a force on the international scene in the early 20th century, winning the first ever European Championship contested in 1910 and the 1914 LIHG Championship, finishing as bronze medalists at the 1924 Winter Olympics in Chamonix, and becoming Olympic champions in 1936 in Germany. The gold-medal winning Olympic team, captained by Carl Erhardt, was composed primarily of dual-national British-Canadians, sought out by coach Percy Nicklin and manager Bunny Ahearne, many of whom having learned and played the game in Canada. However, since then the national team has made little impact on the sport.
The national team's performances experiences a major decline after World War II. Britain finished fifth at the 1948 Winter Olympics, which to date is their last appearance at the Olympic hockey tournament. At the World Championships, Britain fell to the B Pool in 1952. Between 1954 and 1960 they were inactive internationally. Aside from a brief return to the A Pool in 1962, Britain played chiefly in the B and C pools. After an eight year absence starting in 1982, Britain returned to play in the lowest rungs of international hockey - the D Pool - in 1989.
In 1990 they won the D Pool and began a dramatic climb upwards. After winning the D Pool they moved to the C-level tournament in 1991 and promptly claimed the gold medal in 1992 and were thus promoted to the B Pool for the 1993 tournament. Amazingly, they captured the gold medal at that tournament, and were propelled to the top-level tournament in 1994; just five years after having been mired in the D Pool. This incredible run, led by stars such as Tony Hand, brothers Stephen and Ian Cooper, and Tim Cranston, ended with a last place finish and relegation from the A Pool. Britain has played exclusively in Division I (the former B Pool) since 2000.
The women's national team debuted in 1989, participating in the IIHF European Women Championships. They first played in the IIHF World Women's Championships in 1999. Their best finish was 18th overall in 2012. The Women's U18 team has played in the IIHF World Women's U18 Championships since 2012.
- "English League". A to Z Encyclopedia of Ice Hockey. http://www.azhockey.com/En.htm#EL. Retrieved 2008-06-10.
- Chambers, Michael A. (ed.) (2007-09-01). Nottingham Panthers Factual Scrapbook 1939–2007. ISBN 0-9539398-1-2.
- "Ice Hockey History". Ice Hockey Journalists UK. Archived from the original on May 9, 2008. https://web.archive.org/20080509101309/http://www.ihjuk.co.uk/history.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-10.
- Centrum Area Match Programme (17.10.1996). Ayr Scottish Eagles v Manchester Storm, p14
- BBC News. "Change at the top for Superleague", BBC, 2002-04-30. Retrieved on 2011-11-19.
- BBC. "Eagles forced out", bbc.co.uk, 14 November 2002. Retrieved on 2 July 2006.
- BBC. "Elite League "will go ahead"", BBC News, 31 May 2003. Retrieved on 2 July 2006.
- Hand, Tony (2006). A Life in British Ice Hockey. Tempus. ISBN 0-7524-3797-6. p141
- Sport Focus (2003). "Governing Body Decline to Affiliate Elite League". sportfocus.com. http://www.sportfocus.com/newspub/story.cfm?id=2530. Retrieved 25 June 2006.
- Nottingham Panthers (2003). "GMB Panthers and National Ice Centre Reach Agreement for 2003/4 Season". panthers.co.uk. http://www.manchesterphoenix.co.uk/news/s/116_gmb_panthers_and_national_ice_centre_reach_agreement_for_20034_season. Retrieved 2 July 2006.
- BBC. "Face-off for Elite ambitions", BBC News, 10 September 2003. Retrieved on 2 July 2006.
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