I feel like I should have some well-considered deep thoughts about the change in the EIHL rules concerning import numbers. But I don’t.
In case you missed the announcement yesterday:
The Rapid Solicitors Elite League have made some changes to the playing rules, beginning from season 2014-15.
The EIHL clubs met this week in Hull and the following changes have been unanimously agreed by all present.
As from the upcoming season (2014-15), the number of non British-trained players will rise from 11 to 12, but the amount of work-permit players will remain at 11.
The number of non British-trained players will rise to 13 in season 2015-16 and 14 in season 2016-17, with the amount of work-permit players again remaining at 11.
Elite League chairman, Tony Smith, said: “The league agreed that there is a shortage of top-level British players, which keeps the Elite League from being outstanding across the 10 teams.
“With the demand of the indigenous British player higher than ever in all leagues, and with the potential for EU/dual-national players to develop into national-team players, it was felt this gradual increase would be beneficial to all.
“As with all things, the Elite League will monitor its development as we look forward to another successful season.”
So, to summarise, the EIHL are changing the rules on the number of imports a team can have, although they are keeping the number of players requiring work permits the same. This means that as of next season, each team can have an additional player from the EU (as opposed to Canada/US), increasing to a total of 14 in the 2016-17 season.
Part of me can understand the reasons for the EIHL making the change. After all, to them, hockey is a business and they want the fans to have the best possible experience at the games. And in their minds, best possible experience clearly equates to getting “better” players, which they believe are the imports.
But the most important part of that statement, in my mind, is the line that says “The league agreed that there is a shortage of top-level British players, which keeps the Elite League from being outstanding across the 10 teams“.
I’m firmly of the opinion that if there aren’t enough British players of the levels that the EIHL want to see, the obvious answer is to provide better development opportunities, not to turn their backs on the hundreds of kids who dream of becoming professional hockey players. There is a distinct lack of training and development camps for young people in this country, with some professional hockey players taking it upon themselves to arrange camps (BOBIHC and BBIGC being the two that spring to mind instantly). Why are these not being organised by the Ice Hockey UK, or even the EIHL?
All I can see this change of rule doing is causing younger players to give up. Why fight for something when there are fewer and fewer places open for them? And the more experienced players who are struggling to break into the pro leagues will head abroad where they’ll find more opportunities.
I know that there is debate on top of debate across various social media sites, and I know that I’m completely unqualified, and have no insider knowledge about the decision that was made, but I wanted to get my thoughts down while they were fresh in my mind.
Whether you agree or disagree, please come and chat to me about it. Especially if you are one of the younger people who are feeling let down by this new change. Feel free to leave a comment here, or come chat to me on Twitter @CarolinaKaniac