November 20, 2016

November 20, 2016

November 20, 2016

November 16, 2016

Ice hockey's reviews are like buses!

May 23, 2014
You wait years for one, then two come along at once.

After the English Ice Hockey Association (EIHA) recently announced that it was drawing up a new Development Plan - see my last blog - the sport's umbrella body, Ice Hockey UK (HUK), decided to call in outside help to look at the way ice hockey is run nationally and how the leagues are organised.

We all know there's a lot wrong with our sport. The fact that there are now two different reviews for two different ice hockey bodies going on at once, is proof that the game needs a shake-up, some might say a jolly good kicking!

Jim Anderson, the interim chairman of IHUK, however, insisted in their press release that: "All of [our member] organisations have come together to approve this review of the sport's structure." He went on: "This review will be all-encompassing throughout ice hockey in the UK and will be open and transparent."

Open and transparent. I do hope so, Jim. This is one of the many criticisms of the governing body over the years: their decisions are too often taken behind closed doors. As far as I know, the outcome of the last review of the sport's governance in 2007 is still locked away in the bottom drawer of someone's desk.

Despite my cheery comment at the start about buses, however, it does seem to be just coincidence that they passed by at the same moment because they're actually on separate routes and headed for different termini.

Ice Hockey UK's review, which is being conducted on behalf of UK Sport by Wharton Consulting, is about the structure of the whole sport, while the aim of the EIHA's four-year plan is simply to increase the playing standards of our youngsters.

Matt Lloyd, the man in charge of drawing up the EIHA scheme, says its ultimate aims are to (a) improve the quality of our national teams and (b) enable the sport to approach outside bodies for funding and more ice rinks.

There is plenty of overlap in the two reviews, of course. The buses' routes intersect every few miles.

There is no clear pathway for our most talented young players to reach the top level of the sport, and a stream of collapsing league clubs discourages the building of new rinks.

Jim Anderson must be frustrated at the lack of real power his governing body exercises, with the Elite League and the EIHA both running their own shows and raising their own funds, quite independent of IHUK.

He must also be frustrated at watching all our national teams floundering in the recent World Championships, despite Scotland hosting two of the groups.

The disappointing results of the GB squads are all of a piece with the Elite League's recent controversial decision to employ more foreign players at the expense of Brits - both are a damning indictment of how poorly our local players are being coached.

Bringing in expert assistance to analyse our sport shows that IHUK and EIHA have at last accepted that things cannot go on as they have been.

Matt Lloyd and Neil Tunnicliffe, the boss of Wharton Consulting, have worked together before at the National Ice Skating Association and the British Olympic Association, and both are known to agree on the one thing that ice hockey has never been able to get its head around - that it must have a successful national team programme above all else.

Along with ice hockey's many fans, I look forward to reading the reports when the reviews have been concluded and fervently hope that any recommendations will be widely embraced.

Ideally, the destination boards on my metaphorical omnibuses will soon display at least a couple of the following from the Statement of Beliefs on our Home page:
- A strong, independent, national governing body.
- A national men's senior team in the top 16 of the world rankings.
- Better coaching at all age levels.
- One national league.