All 10 EIHL clubs, including Glasgow Clan, face an uncertain future with the 2020/21 season delayed
On Tuesday 15 September, the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) board decided to further delay the start of the 2020/21 season. As the highest level of ice hockey competition in the UK, the 10 teams based throughout the United Kingdom agreed, via conference call, that it would not be possible to begin the new season on 5 December as originally proposed. In line with government guidance, the teams would have to develop and revise previous return to play plans, requiring a minimum of eight weeks to consolidate these, hence making the aforementioned date unfeasible.
Despite this disappointing announcement, the EIHL is exploring the possibility of professional top-level ice hockey taking place in some configuration in early 2021, with the potential of the season running from January/February to June depending on crowds being allowed in stadiums, with 75% stadium capacity regarded as the figure the EIHL requires to restart. The EIHL has stated that: “Government compliance along with the safety of our players, officials, staff and fans is paramount to this decision.” The impossibility of having to play ice hockey behind closed doors was highly influential in the decision made by the EIHL, as playing without the crowds would be unrealistic due to the sport’s revenues being driven by ticket sales.
Glasgow’s only professional ice hockey club, Glasgow Clan, is one of the ten teams affected by the EIHL’s announcement. The Clan play out of the 3,500-seater Clydeside Braehead Arena. Throughout the summer offseason and lockdown, the club has been finding other ways of communicating with fans after the premature end to the 2019/20 season. Behind the scenes, the club has been in contact with various agencies, sponsors and the government, as well as SportScotland, in an attempt to get grants and funding to keep teams on the ice after what has been a long and challenging off-season. It has been difficult for all the teams in the EIHL to keep the fan base and club alive and present in the community.
Whilst all the teams have been greatly affected, Glasgow Clan have been finding innovative ways to keep fans entertained. A drive-in movie night on 2 August allowed fans to gather in their cars outside Braehead shopping centre to celebrate the signings of three players and a screening of the classic ice hockey movie, The Mighty Ducks. With no fans being able to enjoy action-packed Saturday nights in Braehead Arena, keeping fans engaged is important. The fans just want to see ice hockey, whether live with the Clan or other teams or online through the live streaming of “Clan Classics” - old matches being replayed for the enjoyment of fans. The club is currently looking into organising Halloween and Christmas parties over Zoom, with the hope that restrictions are relaxed soon.
One of the next steps for Glasgow Clan is the process of appointing a new head coach following the departure of Zack Fitzgerald in April. With the Clan’s excellent reputation and fanbase, the job is highly sought after. The club is currently seeking a new head coach to allow them to progress forward into the new season, whether that will be in early 2021 or later in the year. All current signings for the team have been informed and will continue to be kept up to date about the situation.
Staying positive, sticking together and looking forward, the Clan are optimistic about the future of the club and the prospect of returning to the ice and matches. With imported players arriving shortly and season ticket sales coming soon, the team are hopeful that the fans will be as involved and supportive as ever. They are confident that the team will come back stronger and ready for the 2021/22 season. The team stated that: “With big change comes big opportunity.” Despite these unprecedented times, Glasgow Clan are doing all they can to ensure that the atmosphere, community, and legacy that they have created through ice hockey can live on for years to come.
For more information on Glasgow Clan visit https://clanihc.com/