Jono Bullard: Premier Sports deal a turn on for fans

PREMIER SPORTS DEAL A TURN ON FOR FANS

A new sponsorship and broadcasting deal for the Elite League was very welcome news on Monday, as Premier Sports were announced as title sponsors and broadcast partners. 

While I understand that there will be some push-back from fans due to games being shown behind a paywall, the importance for the league of securing a well-known title sponsor after being pretty much closed down for 18 months cannot be underestimated. 

Also, with Premier Sports having worked with the EIHL for many years with sister channel FreeSports, it is a familiar name as title sponsor.

The broadcast package looks much improved as well. We have 23 live league games, which from the published schedule will work out around one per week, along with the Challenge Cup Final and Play-Off Finals Weekend will see plenty of exposure for the league. 

The first 17 games of the schedule have been released, covering games up until February 5th 2022, with some in reserve for the title run-in. 

Obviously, fans of Manchester and Guildford are not too happy due to both teams only being featured once, while Cardiff, Glasgow and Belfast are featured six and five times respectively. 

However, I understand (but could be wrong) that broadcasting from both The Spectrum in Guildford and Altrincham can be challenging, but I guess that doesn’t explain why they haven’t been featured more away from their home venues. 

Despite that, I think it’s great that the league has a well-known title sponsor that have strong ties with the game due to their hockey coverage over the past few years. 

The fact that it is a three-year deal also gives the league some stability and fans assurance that the EIHL will be broadcast live for the next three seasons. 

Is it perfect? No, but considering the chaos of the last 18 months, certainty and stability is very much what the Elite League needs.

RULEBOOK CHANGES BRING UNITY

With the IIHF releasing a new rule book, and the EIHL and EIHA mainly using this with a few exceptions, it was pleasing that both organisations put out press releases clarifying their rule differences from the IIHF version. 

The EIHA published their in-house rules on their website while the EIHL clarified a new rule from the IIHF rule book in the introduction of a trapezoid and promised to release a full casebook, where differences between the league and IIHF rules are documented, before the start of the season. 

While both leagues have been maligned by fans for some of the decisions they make, it’s also good to praise them when they are keeping fans informed such as this. 

As an aside, the IIHF rulebook is available to download for free from the IIHF website and a highly recommend doing so. 

It’s something I have been doing for the past few seasons and has helped my understanding of the rules no end. It also helps when you can look up certain rules in-game, more often than not you find that the officials get it absolutely spot-on most of the time.

NATIONAL PRIDE

After the GB Women’s Olympic Qualification tournament was moved from Gangneung, South Korea to the NIC in Nottingham, it gives Midlands based hockey supporters a fantastic opportunity to see the women’s national team live. 

To that end, Ice Hockey UK and the NIC have produced a superb ticket price of just £6.50 a game, with two under 16’s going free with a full paying adult, giving everyone the chance to sample some top-quality Women’s International hockey for not very much at all. 

With it now being a home tournament and top spot in the group securing qualification to the next phase, it is imperative that the GB team have has much support as they can. 

IHUK and the NIC have made attending very affordable, it is now up to the hockey supporting public to reward their pricing policy by turning up in large numbers, I promise you won’t regret it.

(PHOTO: Panthers Images)

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

Finally, Sunday saw me attend my first live Nottingham Panthers game in 19 months.

Despite being so long since I was last there, as soon as I walked into the Motorpoint Arena it felt like I had never been away. 

While ultimately Panthers lost the game to an excellent Cardiff Devils side, the result was in some ways immaterial. 

The triumph was allowing fans, who have been away for so long, back into the building to watch the game again. 

That meant more to me, and I would suggest to most people in attendance, than the end result. It was great to be back.