Sheffield Steelers say expansion of Elite League will ‘raise the bar’ of ice hockey

Sheffield Steelers have said that the addition of the Guildford Flames and the MK Lightning ice hockey teams to the Elite League next season will raise the bar and expand the reach of the sport.

“The additions of Guildford Flames and Milton Keynes Lightning from next season can only be a good thing for the Elite League,” a spokesman said.

“Both clubs have a fantastic track record of success within British ice hockey, as well as incredibly passionate followings, and their inclusion can only help us to further build on the foundations that the Elite League has established since its formation in 2003.”

The expansion of the League from ten to twelve teams was ratified at a league meeting earlier this week.

MK Lightning sit second and the Guildford Flames sit sixth in the English Premier Ice Hockey League, the tier below the Elite League in which the Steelers currently play.

The Steelers added: “We are in the midst of another fantastic title race involving Belfast, Cardiff and Sheffield and we have seen increasing attendances and levels of competition across the league.

“Adding two first class organisations like the Flames and Lightning to that mix will only help to further boost the competitive nature of the league, to the benefit of all.”

Ian Robbins said on Twitter, “very pleased to see Guildford added to the Elite Ice Hockey league for next season, may try to get to the odd game when possible.”

While Pete Smith said on Facebook, “the more the merrier”.

However, some ice hockey fans have criticised the move. Life-long Nottingham Panthers fan, Jeremy Galtress, 56, said that the potential increase in the number of league games could make the already congested schedule worse.

“One of the cup competitions might have to go, the bottom two teams this year are already struggling to compete”, he said.

Steve Gordon also responded to the news on Facebook by questioning whether the lower tier can be sustained with the growth of the Elite league.