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Elite League re-schedule Magic 5 and Play-Off weekends as contingency plans come into place

 

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The Belfast Giants will have to wait until October to take on the Nottingham Panthers again (William Cherry/Presseye)

The Belfast Giants will have to wait until October to take on the Nottingham Panthers again (William Cherry/Presseye)

William Cherry/Presseye

The Belfast Giants will have to wait until October to take on the Nottingham Panthers again (William Cherry/Presseye)

The Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) have announced the re-scheduling of both their season-opening Magic 5 Weekend and season-ending Play-Off Finals Weekend as the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc across sports fixtures.

The Magic 5 Weekend had tentatively been pencilled in for September 12/13 when the EIHL first announced it, however that always looked fairly optimistic given the circumstances.

Now, the two-day festival of hockey, which will be held at Nottingham's Motorpoint Arena, has been pushed back to October 3/4 in the hope that by then fans will be able to attend the event, which is expected to attract something close to 8,000 spectators on each day.

The knock-on effect of this is that teams' post-seasons will be pushed back to September, and it will also mean that, by the time the Magic 5 Weekend rolls around, no EIHL team will have played a competitive fixture for just under seven months.

The same applies for the Play-Off Weekend, again in Nottingham, which will now move from its traditional slot on the second weekend of April to the final weekend of the month, with the semi-finals on the 24th and the Grand Final on the 25th.

It is worth noting that these dates are still only provisional, with the potential for further delays to the schedule should there be no relenting to the Covid-19 pandemic or potentially a second outbreak after the UK peaks.

However, the EIHL have been clear and up-front with their plans for fans, who will be grateful for the clarity they have been given, and they can now start cautiously planning for next season.

The same goes for coaches and general managers of EIHL teams, who are now moving into what would traditionally be the recruitment stage of the off-season but are still dealing with the uncertainty of the market and also around what roster restrictions will look like for next season.

Coaches around the league, including the Giants' own Adam Keefe, have admitted the market for players will be slow during the off-season as import players are cautious at moving to Europe amid the coronavirus, and so it has proven with only the Dundee Stars and Manchester Storm having announced any signings for next season so far.

Belfast Telegraph