Teams from the English Premier League and National Ice Hockey League will face each other next season, in a revamped English Challenge Cup competition.
A series of matches, to be drawn from regional groups, will see clubs play sides in their own league, as well as those from another division. Chosen teams from the top of their respective Conferences, North and the South of the NIHL, will compete at full strength against a north and South Conference made up of all the EPIHL clubs.
To aid development under 21 British players will be drafted in to the EPIHL teams to bring Parity to the Contest. The cross league games will be played under the current configuration of the NIHL.
NIHL sides will have the opportunity to test their line-ups against teams from the higher level, while also improving links between the two leagues.
The Two Conferences for the New English Challenge Cup will be:
Isle of Wight
Ken Taggart, Chairman of the EIHA, expects the English Challenge Cup to offer teams a highly competitive set of matches.
He said: “This is a very exciting competition that has been put together and to have clubs from different leagues play each other is fantastic.
“For the supporters, it means they will have the chance to see teams that they wouldn’t normally see.
“I expect that teams from the NIHL will want to take a scalp when they come up against the EPL sides. Of course, the EPL players won’t want to lose face, so the matches will be very well-fought.”
The matches played by teams in the same league, meanwhile, will come under normal rules.
Mr. Taggart added: “I have wanted the challenge cup to be a major part of the season for some time and now, we have a format that will do that.”
The English Challenge Cup has a number of sponsors that will be announced in the coming weeks. One of those sponsors is Red Touch Media, the company that owns Telford Tigers.
Wayne Scholes, CEO of Red Touch Media, said: “It is one of the ambitions of the league owners to improve links between the two leagues, and see great collaboration between all involved in ice hockey in the UK.
“This competition will foster those links, while also giving British players the chance to show what they’re capable of. This is ultimately about growing British talent and the competition is a great chance to showcase that talent.
“When we first looked at doing this, we immediately saw the potential of a quality challenge cup competition.
“The EIHA have been supportive in developing the competition and I believe that it will become a major part of the ice hockey calendar.
“Red Touch Media since their inception have always sought to do things in a different way, so we are happy to support the competition. This is part of that process and the fans will enjoy a really great competition.”