The Elite Ice Hockey League is a professional league in the United Kingdom. Formed in 2003, it is the highest level of ice hockey competition in the UK.
Eleven teams from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland currently compete in the Elite League, which is split into three Conferences.
Professional ice hockey has been played in the UK since the 1930s and the Great Britain team won the Olympic gold medal in 1936.
Ice hockey is now the number-one attended indoor professional sport in the UK and overall it is the third largest winter spectator sport in the UK after football and rugby union.
Elite League and Conference Setup
The 2018/19 Elite League Regular Season Championship is a straight 11-team league with each team facing each other six times – three home and three away for a total of 60 Regular Season games.
The League Champion is the team with the highest number of points over the 60-game regular season.
The Elite League comprises of three individual conferences:
1. Erhardt Conference
2. Gardiner Conference
3. Patton Conference
The champion of each individual conference is the team within the conference with the highest number of points. With all league games against conference opponents counting towards the Conference Championship.
Belfast Giants, Cardiff Devils, Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers compete in the Erhardt Conference. This is named after Carl Erhardt who captained Great Britain to their Olympic gold in 1936. The winners are awarded the Erhardt Trophy.
Dundee Stars, Fife Flyers and Glasgow Clan currently make up the Gardiner Conference. This is named after Charlie Gardiner – the Edinburgh-born netminder who captained Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup in 1934. The winners are awarded the Gardiner Trophy.
Coventry Blaze, Guildford Flames, Manchester Storm and Milton Keynes Lightning compete in the Patton Conference. This is named after IIHF and British Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Major Bethune Minet “Peter” Patton, who is credited with bringing ice hockey to the United Kingdom and helping it spread across Europe. The winners are awarded the Patton Trophy.
For the 2018/19 EIHL Season, the Challenge Cup competition sees the 11 clubs split into three groups.
The three groups for the 2018/19 Challenge Cup are as follows:
Group A – Manchester Storm, Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers.
Group B – Belfast Giants, Dundee Stars, Fife Flyers and Glasgow Clan.
Group C – Cardiff Devils, Coventry Blaze, Guildford Flames and Milton Keynes Lightning.
The Challenge Cup Competition is comprised of the following phases:
1. Qualification Round
a. Teams play a round robin group of games, one home and one away against each team within their group.
b. The lowest ranked team in group B and C is automatically knocked out of the tournament.
c. In the event of teams being equal on points the final group ranking will be decided using the defined criteria HERE.
d. In groups B and C where we have 4 teams compared to the 3 teams in group A, in both group B and C, the results and all statistics from the games teams played against the bottom placed team are removed and the group adjusted accordingly (to give comparable parity to group A)
e. The top seeded team from group A, B and C automatically move on to the Knockout stage seeded 1 – 3 according to their total points.
f. The remaining six teams are ranked 4 – 9, with the 9th placed team not progressing to the Knockout stage of the competition.
g. The seedings for the knockout stages of the competition are finalized based on the defined criteria HERE.
2. Knockout Stages
a. The teams placed 1-8 after the qualification stage of the Challenge Cup Competition play in the Quarter-Finals of the Challenge Cup in a two-legged aggregate score series of games with the overall winner of each series progressing further in the competition.
b. By finishing ranked first after the qualification stage of the competition, the highest seeded team has earned the right to choose its opposition from the teams placed fifth to eight. The second placed team picks next from the team left in the 5-to-8-group, then the third placed team picks from the teams left and finally, the team placed fourth after the qualification stage plays the team that has not been picked yet. Home Ice option remains with the first to fourth placed team.
c. The Semi-Finals also will feature the four Quarter-Final Winners and is also played a two-legged aggregate score series of games with the overall winner of each series progressing further in the competition. The best-placed team after the last qualification round still left in the competition plays the lowest seeded team after the last qualification round and the second best-placed team plays the lower seated team. Home Ice option remains with the highest seeded teams remaining.
d. Both winning Semi-Finalist will play in the Challenge Cup Final. The Challenge Cup Final is a standalone final game played at Ice Arena Wales, Cardiff on March 10th 2019.
The Elite League Playoff Competition – sponsored by PredictorBet – is comprised of the following phases:
1. Knockout Stages
a. The teams placed 1-8 at the end of the Regular Season Championship take part in the Quarter-Finals of the PredictorBet Playoffs in a two-legged aggregate score series of games with the overall winner of each series progressing further in the competition. The two legs and must be completed by Sunday 7th April 2019.
b. Seedings for the 2019 PredictorBet Playoffs will be based on final league standings at the conclusion of the 2018/19 regular season. The Elite League winners will be seeded #1 for the playoffs, the league runners-up #2 and so on down to #8.
c. The 1st seed will play the 8th seed, 2nd vs 7th, 3rd vs 6th and 4th vs 5th. The higher seed in each quarter-final will get the choice of when they play their home leg – those clubs who opt to play their home leg on (or before) Saturday 6th April must assume that it will be playing the first leg at home and not the second leg. This is to ensure all ties are completed by Sunday 7th April.
2. Playoff Finals Weekend – POFW
a. Playoff Finals Weekend takes place at the Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham over the weekend of 13th and 14th April 2019, with the semi-finals taking place on the Saturday and the third v fourth-placed match and Grand Final on the Sunday.
b. All games played at POFW are standalone games with the two winning teams progressing to the Grand Final on the Sunday and the two losing teams the third v fourth-placed match.
c. Seedings for the semi-final and final will be determined by the original quarter-final ranking, so the highest-placed team left in the playoffs will be ranked as the highest seed.
i. The highest seed will play the lowest seed in the first semi-final, with the remaining seeds playing in the second semi-final.
ii. The highest seeded team in each game will have the home advantage.
For the 2018/19 season, the EIHL league winners will represent the EIHL in the Champions Hockey League, while the playoff winners will represent the EIHL in the IIHF Continental Cup.
If a team cannot participate in the Continental Cup, then the order of teams’ choice for participation in each tournament is as follows:
a. IIHF Continental Cup – Playoff Winners;
b. Next open spot if not taken by one of the teams above – Challenge Cup Winner;
c. Next open spot if not taken by one of the teams above – League Runners Up.
d. Next open spot if not taken by one of the teams above – League Third Placed.