The National Ice Hockey League’s (NIHL) Streaming Series has been given the green light by the government, despite the implementation of a second lockdown in England from today (5 November).
The mini-series, which is set to include National League trifecta Swindon Wildcats, Milton Keynes Lightning, and Sheffield Steeldogs, was announced last month, with the competition due to be aired to supporters via pay-per-view webcasts.
After a period of consultation with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, organisers confirmed that fixtures can take place behind closed-doors during lockdown. Last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that elite-sport would be allowed to continue in England.
All three clubs have met the ‘elite sport’ criteria
– NIHL Spokesperson
“It has been confirmed that ice rinks will close to the public from close of business on Wednesday, November 4. However, clubs classified as ‘elite sport’ under the DCMS criteria can continue behind closed doors with their respective rinks’ agreement,” an NIHL spokesperson said.
“This also means that the forthcoming NIHL test events featuring Milton Keynes Lightning, Sheffield Steeldogs, and Swindon Wildcats will go ahead as planned. All three clubs have met the ‘elite sport’ criteria and they have agreed with their venues that the games can take place behind closed doors.
“For all other clubs – whether seniors, juniors or disabled athletes – it means once again the on-ice action must pause. The dispensation for under 18s and disabled athletes to train without restriction has been removed under this new government guidance so sadly the majority of our ice hockey will come to a halt.”
The Streaming Series will be hosted in rinks in Swindon, Sheffield, and Milton Keynes between 14 and 29 November. According to a National League statement, “games will all be streamed on a high-quality platform, with a broadly consistent experience across all fixtures and venues.”
Individual match tickets will cost £12, with fans able to pay an additional £3 per view if they would “like to further support” the clubs involved.
On Tuesday, the Swindon Wildcats announced the signing of Team GB defenceman Joshua Batch. In comments providing to the Wildcats’ website, Batch said: “When the Elite League announced they were postponing the season I had a decision to make. I looked to Europe as a few other players had done, or take my chances and hope the NIHL went ahead.
“I live in Cardiff and have a job outside of hockey in Newport. I took the decision to stay in the UK in order to try and progress my off-ice career while hopefully still playing some hockey.”
Batch’s Team GB teammate, Ben O’Connor, will also participate in the Streaming Series following his switch from the Sheffield Steelers to the Sheffield Steeldogs.