Guildford Flames will become the 12th team in the Elite Ice Hockey League from next season, 2017-18. Their move from the English Premier League was ratified at an EIHL meeting earlier in the week and they will join EPL rivals Milton Keynes Lightning as new additions.
Since forming in 1992, they have won six league titles, five play-off competitions and seven cups and will make the step up to the top tier for the first time in their history. Guildford’s Chief Operating Officer Kirk Humphreys is delighted to see his team come on board and believes the time was right for the Flames to join the Elite League.
“To say the least, we, as a club, are exceptionally excited to have been given this opportunity by the league and its board members”, Kirk said. “There are many reasons for taking the club in this direction, but primarily we feel that the time is right to step up to a higher quality, faster on ice product.”
“We believe the jump to the Elite League level will be well received by our fans, and best suits our own objectives in promoting the most competitive, entertaining hockey we can put on the ice.”
“After a successful quarter century, we are the same club, same home building, same ties to the community, but now we have the chance to compete in the highest league available to us. We hope our fans are as thrilled as we are to begin our next steps at the very top of British ice hockey.”
Flames and Lightning will be added to the ten teams already competing in the Elite League and their head coach Paul Dixon is looking forward to the positive difference he’ll work with.
“Moving to the top flight of domestic pro hockey is unquestionably a step up to a faster game with a much deeper talent pool than we currently enjoy,” he said. “Along with currently available player sources, the Elite structure opens up some global leagues that used to be part of our recruiting grounds in the former British National League. Those leagues produced many of our former star players, but have been largely unavailable to us under EPL player eligibility guidelines.”
Guildford’s addition to the Elite League was also welcomed by chairman, Tony Smith, who believes the league will be much stronger with 12 teams next season.
“First of all, I’m delighted to welcome Guildford Flames into the Elite League ranks next season and their inclusion gives our league much strength going forward,” he said.
“With Milton Keynes Lightning also competing from next season, it’s an exciting time and our growth is a definite positive as we look to the future.”
“Guildford are an established force in the English Premier League and they have a history of success at that level, which will stand them in good stead.”
“I’m certainly looking forward to seeing them next season and it promises to be a great campaign ahead.”
At this time, no further statement will be made regarding the league structure and Conference. Tony added: “As things currently stand, we are reviewing what the structure of the league will be and the Conferences so we can’t reveal anything at this time. This is something that will be announced at a later date.”