The Elite Ice Hockey League and Premier Sports are excited to announce a new television deal for the upcoming season.
Premier Sports will once again be your home for EIHL hockey for the 2015-16 campaign.
Some great regular-season games, plus the whole of the playoff finals weekend held at the National Ice Centre on 2nd and 3rd April 2016, will be shown live on Premier Sports.
Elite League chairman, Tony Smith, said: “It is brilliant news that we will be showcased on Premier Sports again.
“They have been a great media partner for us and we are excited to be working with them again in 2015-16.
“It’s excellent to get our sport out there and for people to get a taste of live Elite League ice hockey.
“The scheduled live fixtures will showcase some of our sport’s greatest rivalries and the league’s newcomers Manchester Storm will be shown live in the first game of the season.
“All 10 teams will be shown live across the season, so there is something for everyone.”
Premier Sports is now available in HD for Sky and Premier Player customers – and the EIHL games will look magnificent on the new HD platform.
Premier are also pleased to announce 20 Champions Hockey League fixtures will be available on the network, including all Braehead Clan and Sheffield Steelers contests.
For the hockey fans in the UK and Ireland it doesn’t end there though. Premier will also showcase 40 Swedish Hockey League games, over 550 top-flight NHL games – with 15 a week once the season gets underway – including the Outdoor Classic and Stanley Cup Playoffs.
There’s also Great Britain’s games from the Division 1B of the World Championship and 15 matches from the top pool IIHF World Championship.
That’s over 600 hockey games from some of the best leagues in the world and the Elite Ice Hockey League will be front and centre for a third season with on-site coverage from Aaron Murphy and the Premier Sports team, with all the intermission analysis, and special guests that have made coverage a success the first two seasons.
Richard Webb, operations manager at Premier Sports, said: “We take a lot of pride in providing plenty of hockey for our loyal viewers.
“Hockey is better in HD and this season we’ll have almost 600 games for viewers to enjoy in this new viewing experience.
“The EIHL has been a great partner for the past two seasons and we really wanted to show the league in HD.
“With our coverage of the EIHL and the guaranteed eight CHL games featuring the Clan and Steelers, customers will have 20 games featuring their favourite EIHL teams.
“The playoff finals weekend will once again be live entirely, with over 12 hours of coverage from the NIC – and that was a highlight last year having the semi-finals on TV for the first time in history.
“We can’t wait to get the season going September 13th, with the new Manchester Storm club being showcased for the first time too. There’s an exciting season ahead on Premier Sports.”
Premier Sports Elite League 2015-16 schedule
Sunday 13th September 2015 – Manchester Storm v Dundee Stars
Friday 16th October 2015 – Belfast Giants v Cardiff Devils
Saturday 7th November 2015 – Fife Flyers v Edinburgh Capitals
Saturday 12th December 2015 – Coventry Blaze v Cardiff Devils
Sunday 27th December 2015 – Nottingham Panthers v Sheffield Steelers
Friday 15th January 2016 – Braehead Clan v Manchester Storm
Neil Russell has been appointed as GM and Commercial Manager of the Manchester Storm.
Russell has an extensive background in sales, marketing and business development.
He has worked in the medical sector for much of his career, but also has experience in live sports broadcasting with Premier Sports.
Russell covered the CHL and EIHL last season and has also been lead commentator on GiantsLive TV.
He said: “This is a majorly exciting move for me and to be involved within ice hockey full time is a dream come true.
“I met with the ownership group last week and I was very impressed with everything that they had to say about their plans and ambitions for the club moving forwards.
“This is a very exciting time to be joining the Storm and all the fans can be assured that there’ll be nobody that will work harder than me in ensuring we make a success of this venture.
“Omar (Pacha) is working 24-7, along with Pete Russell – to ensure we have a competitive team on the ice this coming season and also one that you, the fans connect with.
“I have seen first hand in Belfast the benefits of hiring the right guys are to the success of a franchise, players who ‘get it’ are vitally important.
“I think it’s important that a team is active in the community on a regular basis but also engages with you, the fans.
“I can’t wait to get over to Manchester and get started in the GM role. I’ll be organising a fan event mid-August time and I look forward to meeting all of our fans at that.”
Director of hockey for Silverblades and Planet Ice brands, Pete Russell, said: “We are delighted to announce the appointment of Neil Russell. Structure is vital to any team or business to create the foundation to build upon.
“The appointment of Neil is key to this structure and moving the whole brand and commercial side forward.
“Neil has a wealth of experience in various roles and is a real team guy.
“He is an upbeat, hard working and a driven individual who has always had an ambition of getting into the day-to-day running of a hockey club.
“He has had many years of experience in Belfast assisting in various roles on a matchnight – and this will be crucial and important to the Storm brand.
“We are building a good team of people here, who all want to succeed as a business and it’s a very exciting period. We want to build a successful business and a strong ice hockey club.”
Storm fans will learn their 2015-16 fixtures on Monday morning July 13th with the full list to be revealed at 9am.
As a Canadian living abroad – I get a little homesick every July 1st! I have had the pleasure of living in Europe for 10 years now – in both London, England and Dublin, Ireland. These are two great cites in two fantastic countries – no doubt about it – world class. But on July 1st I always day-dream about my favourite haunts, and pass times back home, and of course family and friends.
Don’t get me wrong – I am very fortunate living permanently abroad, I make a living working in hockey, covering the game and commentating on domestic UK, and international hockey. I also live in a city with a great musical and sporting culture – and as a ‘Murphy’, Ireland is a great fit. So, in honour of my homeland today I thought I’d share these classics:
Happy Canada Day wherever you’re celebrating. And if you are in Ireland, remember Molson Canadian, Moosehead and Tim Hortons are readily available to all of us who miss home!
Great to have one of the toughest and hardest working guys in the EIHL on the website this off-season! Adam Keefe is the Captain of the Belfast Giants, and a fan favourite to all who follow the club. But he’s also respected amongst his peers, and rival fans throughout the league. He’s a guy that all the other nine teams would have on their roster in a second! Murph caught up with Keefe back in Canada, as number 47 prepares for another campaign in Belfast…
Murph On Ice: Firstly, the off-season always means change to rosters, especially in the EIHL! Tell us about some of the Giants new additions thus far, Chris Higgins, Matt Nickerson, Jonathan Boxill, James Desmerais and Mike Forney really have Belfast fans excited for next season. Are you happy to have Nickerson on your team?!
Adam Keefe: Like the fans, I am excited as well about all the new signings and the ones still to come. Higgy was a big reason for our success on our run to the Elite League Title in 2014! His hands are “Magic” like the magic man Pavel Datsyuk himself. Just ask the guys at AVFTB. Great to have the “Belfast Datsyuk” back in town.
Boxill is a guy that has impressed me with his compete level the last couple of years. He has a bright future ahead of him in this league. He will be loved by the Belfast faithful when he pulls on the Giants sweater.
Forney’s numbers are impressive. He’s a dangerous player all over the ice and I think we lacked that last season. He will be a welcome addition to the team.
Nickerson obviously isn’t a very fun man to play against, and I thought we also lacked that D-man who made it difficult to get to the front of our net. He will punish players who try to get to the crease. He’s also a solid two way D-man and can contribute on the ice as well as with his fists. Obviously I am thrilled to no longer have to play against that monster of a man, and look forward to doing some damage this season with him.
Desmarais is a guy unfamiliar to our league, but has put up some big numbers in the Swiss league, and is another guy who will be a threat all over the ice. Nick Kuiper couldn’t say enough good things about him as a player and a person, and Nick is a guy that gets what it means to play in Belfast.
MOI: It has also been a neat time for your family this off-season. Your brother Sheldon Keefe has been named as the new Head Coach of the Toronto Marlies in the AHL. A fantastic opportunity for him, tell us a bit about how hard he has worked the past few years on the coaching craft. Also, do you guys discuss your on-ice play and does he have guidance for you throughout a season?
AK: My brother Sheldon has always been a hard worker. Both as a player and now as a coach. I think it was something instilled in us from a young age from our father who works very hard himself. Sheldon has transformed and rebuilt a career in the hockey world through his character and dedication to the game. I don’t think I know a man who has worked as hard as he has to get back to hockey’s mainstream. He deserves all the credit he’s gotten this summer. I’ve obviously followed his coaching career very closely since he took over as a Coach in Pembroke Junior A, once his playing career came to an end. Since then he has won five straight titles and one national title, before moving on to the Soo Greyhounds in the OHL, and turning around a struggling team and returning them to the playoffs. His recent promotion to the Toronto Marlies I believe is but a stepping stone on his march back to the NHL. We don’t really discuss my play very much, I don’t think I’m the kind of player he’d want on his team. (Laughs). My corsi isn’t great. However, I do like to pick his brain from time to time and try to learn as much as I can from him.
MOI: The EIHL and the quality of imports keeps getting better every year. Have you noticed big changes in your time in the EIHL? Any that really stick out for you?
AK: I believe the EIHL as a whole has continued to grow from year to year. A lot of it has to do with the depth of every hockey team improving. The biggest thing I’ve noticed from my first season is, there are no more “easy games” anymore. Every game is competitive, and anyone can win on any given night. I can only speak of the Belfast Giants professionalism on and off the ice. It was a great organisation to play for when I arrived here four years ago, and it only continues to get better and better each year that passes.
MOI: A few years back the Giants won the League with almost two months still to go. Last year with several off ice, and roster changes, it’s safe to say it was a tougher year. What can Giants and EIHL fans expect this upcoming campaign from the men in teal?
AK: Last season was definitely a disappointing year for fans and players alike. I can make one thing clear – we don’t like losing anymore then our loyal fans who come to support us every night. Win or lose they support us. The fire is still burning from last season’s let down, and we cannot wait to get back on the ice at the end of August and get back to our winning ways that we have become so accustomed to.
MOI: I mentioned Nickerson earlier, and Kevin Westgarth was with you last year, there’s some big tough guys in the EIHL – but fighting certainly was down last season. You’ve always been an honest tough player, willing to drop the gloves, but can you tell us a bit about the change in the EIHL in that regard?
AK: I think the lack of fighting may be a result of the league becoming much more competitive. In a league where the League Title is the top prize, every game is so important, and nobody wants to help the other team gain momentum and get back into a game when the other team may be trailing. That being said, I think the league has again gained some more characters from team to team, and I think we are in for a war to win a title this season. Should be fun!
MOI: How’s the training going back in Canada? Are you doing anything different this off-season to prepare?
AK: I’m not really doing much different than I have before. Over the years I have learned how to get my body ready to play, to keep myself healthy over the long gruelling season. I have a specific program that consists of gym workouts, swimming, boxing, hot yoga, and I try to stay as active as possible on the ice.
MOI: Competitions like the Champions Hockey League and the Continental Cup have been popular with fans over the past few seasons. As a player, and team that has been to the Continental Cup – give us a players and team perspective on things like the CHL, and Conti Cup that happen in an already busy season.
AK: There is no question it definitely hinders your chances of winning titles in the Elite League as it adds games to your already long and tough fixtures list, which can lead to key injuries or fatigue. But with that being said, we enjoy the challenge of competing on the European stage, and representing the EIHL well. I’m not a big believer in excuses, and I think it is possible to be successful in the Continental Cup, or Champions League as well as at home in the UK Elite League.
MOI: What are your goals both personally and team-wise for 2015/16?
AK: These days I only have one goal going into each season, and it’s to win Trophies. Anything less than that isn’t a successful season.
MOI: Your cousin Jordan Knox played in the EIHL last season with Hull, any chance you’d like to have him in Belfast with you at some point in the future? Also, sad to hear about the Stingrays?
AK: Yeah not great for the league when stuff like that happens, sorry for the Hull fans, you never like to see that. With my cousin – I was real excited to have the opportunity to play against him in the Continental Cup second leg in France, and it was even better when I heard he was coming to the Elite League. He is a good player with a strong work ethic, and a great head of hair. (Laughs). Obviously I would love the opportunity to play with Jordan. I am sure the situation would have to be right for both Jordan and the Giants organisation. He is the Captain of his own fishing boat back in Skinners Pond, PEI, working alongside his brother and father fishing lobster. I’ll be visiting him and the rest of my family in a few weeks’ time.
MOI: Your brother has made a successful career out of coaching after his playing days as we mentioned earlier, as a captain and a leader currently, is coaching or management within the game something you’d be interested in pursuing after your playing days?
AK: I’m starting to realise that there will be a life after playing hockey. I think as players we lose sight of that when we are in the thick of it all. We feel invincible. But in reality it will come to an end at some point. I have started to think about life after my playing career, and coaching/management is definitely something I am interested in, and have started to take some necessary steps to help prepare me for when the time comes. I’m hoping it’s in my blood.
MOI: Well Keefer, thanks for taking some time to chat – always a pleasure – and we’ll see you back on this side of the pond soon.
AK: Cheers Murph, thanks for having me on, see you in a few months.
Further to my post this morning…the Manchester Storm have been announced as the team that will replace the Hull Stingrays this upcoming season…keeping the league at ten teams.
From the EIHL:
Ice hockey’s Manchester Storm are back and when the puck drops in September, they will be playing in the top flight of British ice hockey – the Elite Ice Hockey League.
The Storm will be owned and operated by The Ice Rink Company Ltd, spearheaded by Mark Johnson, and will play out of Silverblades Ice Rink Altrincham.
The rebirth of the Storm keeps the EIHL at 10 strong teams for the upcoming campaign, as Manchester effectively replace Hull Stingrays in all competitions.
The Elite Ice Hockey League approached the new bosses of the Storm a week ago when it emerged that new circumstances meant that the participation of the Hull Stingrays in season 2015-16 was in jeopardy.
Earlier today it was confirmed that Hull would not be taking part in the upcoming campaign.
Manchester Storm were represented at an EIHL board meeting today and were unanimously welcomed into the league.
Mark Johnson, director of the Storm, said: “These are exciting times for ice hockey in the Manchester area and when we were approached by the EIHL to join the league, we pulled out all the stops to make it happen.
“This has become part of an even bigger picture for ice hockey in the region and we are looking forward to growing the fanbase and the grassroots of the sport in the area, alongside the re-birth of one of the iconic names in British sport.”
Elite League chairman Tony Smith said: “We would like to officially welcome Manchester Storm to the Elite Ice Hockey League.
“The name Manchester Storm is steeped in hockey tradition and it is great that it will once again be in the top flight of the sport.
“On behalf of the league I would like to place on record the important contribution made by the Hull Stingrays Ice Hockey Club, both on and off the ice, to the growth and development of the EIHL.
“Owner Bobby McEwan has worked so hard for the Stingrays and has been very passionate about the organisation. We are sad to see them go.”
You can follow the Manchester Storm on twitter: @Mcr_Storm
Never nice to hear about a team folding – no matter the level, league or sport. For the fans it’s devastating – no doubt about it. For the clubs staff, both on and off the ice – it’s stressful and career changing.
The Hull Stingrays this morning through owner Bobby McEwan, announced that the club was going into liquidation.
“It is with great sadness I have to inform you that this is the end for Hull Stingrays.”
The rumblings had been out there for a few weeks…the rumours were known to many close to the situation. This is a team that had struggled with the conference system, and the lack of bodies through the door, sponsor issues, plus rising costs to the owner:
“The loss of a major sponsor, increased operational costs, the introduction of ice-time charges as well as the shortage of fans attending our matches have left me with no other choice but to liquidate the club.” McEwan stated this morning on the teams website.
So of course on social media there were well wishes, and expressions of sadness for the club and its fans and staff. This is the good part of EIHL social media – at the end of the day – no matter who you support – everyone knows that this loss of a club is bad for the league as a whole, and the sport in this part of the world.
The negative on social media would be people placing blame and surmising of how this all went wrong etc. I’m not going to dwell on the negatives on social media too much – or even in the perceived facts of it all.
The reality is, that at this current moment on June 24th, the EIHL has gone from 10 to nine clubs (4 hours after this post the EIHL has announced that the Manchester Storm will replace Hull). A team that made some noise getting to the Playoff Final Weekend last year, and within a bounce of getting to the Grand Final, is no more in Hull. Players and off ice staff are left to look for new jobs – some will be successful – others will struggle. This is not the time to place blame or bring out the folks that like to say “I told you so” or those that will say they could do better, or even those that claim that McEwan didn’t do enough to save the team.
Now is the time for us all to realize how hard it is for our sport to survive and thrive in this part of the world. It’s time to support the remaining clubs old and new, by buying a ticket, by buying a webcast or by supporting the EIHL and it’s partners as a whole.
Negativity and finger pointing are a part of our social media world unfortunately – but today lets all just try and send good vibes to those that have lost their jobs – good vibes hoping that this won’t ruin their lives in the short term – good vibes that they all land on their feet, or skates as it were.
I enjoyed my visits to Hull over the past few years – I was always made to feel welcome as a fan, and as a television broadcaster. To the folks that made me feel that way – thanks to you all, and good luck. Hopefully our hockey paths will cross again soon.
Bobby McEwan’s full statement:
“It is with great sadness I have to inform you that this is the end for Hull Stingrays.
“The loss of a major sponsor, increased operational costs, the introduction of ice-time charges as well as the shortage of fans attending our matches have left me with no other choice but to liquidate the club.
“There had been interest from parties willing to take control of the club but once that failed to materialise there simply was no other alternative.
“Reaching the play-off finals weekend and coming within a whisker of progressing to the final last season filled me with immense pride.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my three years in charge of the Stingrays – it was a dream come true for me. Sadly, that dream has now come to an end.
“It has been an extremely stressful time for my wife Debbie and I and this is the toughest decision I have had to make in my life.
“I would like to apologise to [player-coach], Omar Pacha, [assistant-player coach] Carl Lauzon and [captain] Matty Davies for not being able to build on last season’s success.
“Finally, I must thank our loyal supporters for all their backing over the years – I am just sorry it has had to end this way.”
It seems like a long time until September 5th – the date the Elite Ice Hockey League starts back up! To help curb your EIHL withdrawals this summer folks…here’s a look back at two incredible SF’s from the Play-Off Final Weekend in Nottingham. Neil Russell and Paul Adey joined me in the commentary booth:
It’s been a while – I miss writing on here for sure, but it’s been a crazy hockey season! With commentary duty spanning the Elite Ice Hockey League, Swedish Hockey League, Champions Hockey League, Team GB and IIHF top pool World Championships – there’s been little web time sadly. So, hopefully I can still string a few paragraphs together.
First off, to touch on all the above hockey, it was an honour to be a part of each and every league and competition as a play-by play guy!
Top Flight Action
The Swedish Hockey League and the Champions Hockey League were on a level that was so good – I had to pinch myself at times behind the mic. The creativity and speed at which hockey happens in the SHL and CHL is a joy to witness. I look forward to being a part of both those leagues, calling games again this coming season. The CHL will be especially neat with two EIHL teams competing next year. The Sheffield Steelers and Braehead Clan will both be in very tough make no mistake, but Paul Thompson of the Steelers, and Ryan Finnerty of the Clan will be ready behind their respective benches. Those games will be on TV – so stay tuned for all the info.
Speaking of the EIHL, last season saw a bit of history, as both the semi-finals from the Play-off Final weekend were live on TV for the first time. I was a part of over 12 hours of live coverage from Nottingham. A magical weekend which saw Chuck Weber lead the Coventry Blaze to glory in the seasons final competition. Not many people believed the Blaze had a chance – but Weber has made the entire EIHL sit up and take notice on how coaching, systems, and attention to professional detail really can make a huge difference.
Weirdly I see some comments on-line from people saying that perhaps hockey is not a TV sport. I am shocked in 2015 that such a view could exist. Everyone is entitled to their opinion – and mine is that in 2015 any professional sports league has to live in that space. In my opinion – it’s good for the game to see a network try and be the home of the sport and give people a place to view it at all levels. Maybe we all should sit back, relax and enjoy the fact anyone covers any hockey in this part of the world. To those of you that enjoyed the EIHL on TV the past few years, thanks for the feedback, support and overall positivity – I appreciate it tremendously. I also know my co-commentators Neil Russell, and Paul Adey would second that appreciation.
The IIHF was fantastic this past season as well. Canada were the class of the top pool – scoring 66 goals in ten games on their way to a first Gold Medal since 2007. Sidney Crosby and Jason Spezza seemed to be on a different level throughout, and Russia had little answer in the final, even with Alex Ovechkin jetting to Prague to be a part of the last few games. Canada were on a mission throughout and were a perfect 10-0 in the Czech Republic in a long overdue Golden performance.
For Team GB – what a tournament in Eindhoven. A silver medal, and coming within a bounce here and there of Gold and promotion. Paul Adey and I called those games on TV – and enjoyed the first go around for coach Pete Russell at the helm of Team GB. Undefeated right up until the final day, they just couldn’t find one last win to finish the job – but all involved should still be holding their heads high. The future appears bright with Russell behind the bench. And Ben O’Connor was the talk of the week, with a goal so good it went viral on-line, and left Adey and I scratching our heads!
Magic Man O’Connor:
Again an honour to call another World Championship campaign, both at the top pool, and Division 1 levels.
Lord Stanley, break out the Brandy
Hopefully you’re enjoying the Stanley Cup as your last hockey fix before summer well and truly begins! Blackhawks in six was my prediction…but either way, what speed and skill from both Chicago and Tampa Bay so far – a true joy to witness. I have been lucky enough to cover three Stanley Cups in my career, 2011, 2012 and 2013. Those were special trips – and to see a Stanley Cup game in person should be on every hockey fans bucket list.
Enjoy your summer folks, hopefully my blogging/writing here isn’t as rusty as it feels – but thanks for reading. I look forward to more writing next season – but even more-so – I can’t wait to get back calling lots of live hockey on TV in 2015/16! Until then cheers, and thanks for following, reading and watching!
There’s some great EIHL action coming for all UK/Ireland viewers on Premier Sportsas we try and capture a title winning game!
Don’t forget to tune in for all the broadcasts – as I’m joined by Paul Adey and Neil Russell in commentary. Next up February 8th – as the TV cameras head to Cardiff Bay as the Devils host the Sheffield Steelers! See below for the rest of our upcoming games:
Don’t forget to tune in for all the broadcasts – as I’m joined by Paul Adey and Neil Russell in commentary. Next up December 14th – the Coventry Blaze host the Sheffield Steelers. See below for the rest of our upcoming games: