The Elite British Ice Hockey League have announced the indefinite suspension of the 2020-21 season.
The League were hoping that some form of hockey may have been able to take place before the end of the year, but alas not. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic it means that unfortunately British hockey fans will be deprived of watching their favourite sport.
However, there may be some light at the end of the tunnel as the League are hoping to run a short competition next year.
Not financially possible to play next season
The ten-team league has said it is not financially viable for venues to operate at around 75% capacity.
This is a massive blow for the British ice hockey community, but one that was inevitable with the current situation. The difficult decision to postpone the season seems the only sensible option at the present time.
The main worry and concern will be what will British hockey going to look like when it eventually returns.
Record figures for fans watching ice hockey
Last season alone more than a million fans watched the Elite League. The highest single game attendance was just short of 10,000 fans.
At the Spectrum where I regularly cover Guildford Flames, every weekend over 1,500 fans watch the sport they love.
To lose a whole season means that fans of hockey will have to look elsewhere for their weekend entertainment. The other big worry is they may never come back.
Taken a long time to get hockey successful
It has taken a lot of years to gradually build hockey up to a sport that attracts big crowds. Something that minority sports always find difficult to do is to attract fans. When you have a solid fan base- which applies to all ten clubs in the league- you have to hold on to them.
It would be a sin if these devoted fans started following other sports at the weekend and never came back. The sport cannot lose the support of fans. Ice Hockey like so many other minority sports has to rely on paying spectators who come back regularly.
Will fans come back next year?
If hockey fans have to wait for another year to watch their heroes perform on the ice, how patient will they be?
This also causes a big problem for many Great Britain players who feature for their clubs. It will now mean they will have to try and get one of the very few jobs in Europe.
It’s not just the fans who will suffer
Not an easy task for any British player to pick up a slot in one of the European leagues. The only other option open to players is to play in the second tier of hockey, but that would mean a big pay cut.
Really difficult times for all involved with the sport. Whether a fan or player it is indeed disturbing times for the wonderful sport of ice hockey.