Friday, 13 April 2012

Hockey in the UK - An Explanation

So I'm from and live in the UK, (apart from a couple of years in Germany and Washington DC.) My name is Cam, I'm 16 and live just north of London. There's more about me in the first post on this blog, anyway.

So, hockey in the UK. We won the won the Olympic Gold in 1936, and since then have been spectacularly awful. We're currently ranked 21st in the world and play in the Division 1 of the World Championship, and have had two players drafted to the NHL - Tony Hand (Edmonton 252nd, 1986) and Colin Shields (Philadelphia 195th 2000). As you can see, it's not a popular game here. In my town of 20,000 people, there are just two hockey players. My team plays over 30 miles away. The league I'm in (Under 19 South Divison 1) is actually the highest someone can get at junior hockey. But that's not much considering there's only two leagues in the south. We have a total of 37 Under 19 teams in the country. Not great.
Here's half of my team... I'm second to the right on the front if you're wondering!

Professionally, our top league is the ELITE League. The standard is slightly worse than the ECHL and has a total salary cap of around £8,000 a week. The best player in this league ever was Theo Fluery, after he left the NHL.The highest attendance we get is around 10,000 people. However, the majority of players in this league are actually foreign.

                                      The 2012 Champions - Nottingham Panthers

Below this, we have three leagues of lower standard than this, where foreign players are limited to maintain the British game. Of these leagues, only players in the EPL are paid.  

There's talk of the KHL expanding into Western Europe, and I hope we could get at least one team here. I find when people are exposed to the sport they love it, but it just hardly gets any media coverage here. British hockey is on satellite and NHL is pay per view.

The key to making the sport popular is simply exposing it more to the general public. If we put it on TV more, and taught kids it as part of PE (this is starting in some parts of the country) it would be far more watched and played. The government needs to subsidise more rinks - the Olympics is coming to London this summer, so lots are being invested in British sport, so why not hockey? We need more than the current 30 or so rinks in the entire country if we want to make it popular. Bringing the KHL to the UK would make it be a great way of promoting the sport, and maybe someday we'll have a player in the big show.

We may not have the level of support other countries have, but the British hockey fan base is one of the most dedicated in all of sport. If you're ever here, catch a game for a great atmosphere!

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