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All Change For Ice Hockey Setup

Coventry Blaze will spend more time on the road and out of England next season as the British National League is to expand to 12 clubs.

Rumours have been flying around for months that various teams had applied to join the ten teams currently fighting it out in the country’s second tier of ice hockey.

It has now been confirmed by Findus British National League officials that a new team operating out of a new arena in Dundee will be taking part in next season’s campaign.

A Cardiff team are to drop down to the FBNL from the Superleague after the Devils went into liquidation, despite vociferous opposition from some of their fans, who believe they will be getting inferior ice hockey.

A new Glasgow team had been suggested as a likely entrant, but faced opposition from struggling neighbours Paisley, who feared losing some of their fan base.

With a rink the same capacity as Coventry, the Devils have not been able to pay their way in a league where wages are many times higher than the BNL. Plans to move to a larger arena have not yet come off.

Crowd numbers have been down in the physical, import-dominated ISL, and Bracknell, Newcastle and Nottingham had also been rumoured to be taking an interest in dropping down to the BNL. Whitley were also thought to be considering a move up from the lower leagues.

As well as more time on the road, travelling to these new opponents, Coventry fans can look forward to a season with a different structure when ice hockey returns to the Skydome in late August.

The autumn Benson & Hedges Cup has ended, and plans for an FA Cup-style contest featuring all ice hockey clubs fell flat when BNL teams refused to get involved with the Superleague plans.

With more league fixtures, it is currently intended to hold cup games solely in midweek, leaving the weekends free for the main competition.

Last season’s minor competitions, the Planet Ice Shield and Mission Best of British Tournament suffered as not all teams finished their fixtures.

Andy French, director of the team that will play out of the Wales National Ice Rink in Cardiff, said:

"We are pleased to announce that the Wales National Ice Rink has been able to secure this support from the FBNL who will provide a more secure platform for our well established Junior Development Programme.

“The decision to join the FBNL will also encourage local players to return to Wales and re-create the missing identity previously achieved with mostly foreign players changing year in year out".

Mike Ward, one of the directors from the successful Dundee application said:

"We would like to take this opportunity to thank the FBNL for allowing us to establish first class professional ice hockey in Dundee.

“The people of Dundee deserve the best and that is what we are aiming to give them. We will be holding a press conference at the Dundee Ice Arena before the end of this month where we will introduce our coaching staff and outline our vision for the future of the sport in the City of Discovery'“.

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CWN / Sport / Ice Hockey / Coventry Blaze / 20 May 01
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