Elite League Info
The Elite League
The Elite Ice Hockey League is a professional league in the United Kingdom. Formed in 2003, it is the highest level of ice hockey competition in the UK. Ten teams from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland currently compete in the Elite League, which is split into two Conferences.
Professional ice hockey has been played in the UK since the 1930s and the GB team won the Olympic gold medal in 1936. Ice hockey is now the number-one attended indoor professional sport in the UK and overall it is the third largest winter spectator sport in the UK after football and rugby union.
Belfast Giants, Cardiff Devils, Coventry Blaze, Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers compete in the Erhardt Conference. This is named after Carl Erhardt who captained Great Britain to their Olympic gold in 1936. The winners are awarded the Erhardt Trophy.
Braehead Clan, Edinburgh Capitals, Dundee Stars, Fife Flyers and Hull Stingrays make up the Gardiner Conference. This is named after Charlie Gardiner - the Edinburgh-born netminder who captained Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup in 1934. The winners are awarded the Gardiner Trophy.
Each side plays teams in their own Conference eight times (four at home and four away) and face sides in the other Conference four times (twice at home and twice away). The winner of the League title is the side with the most points from their full 52-game season.
Teams also compete for the Challenge Cup. This competition sees the 10 clubs split into two groups of five, following by two-legged quarter-final, two-legged semi-final and a two-legged final.
The season ends with the play-offs, which culminates in a final-four weekend at the National Ice Centre in Nottingham in April.
Season Review 2011/12
The 2011-12 Elite League title was won by Belfast Giants for their second league championship in the tournament's nine-year history.
Along the way they broke numerous records, including a league-high and franchise-record 95 points with 46 wins in 54 regular-season games.
Going into the new year it was realistically a three-horse race with Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers playing catch-up to the Giants.
The Panthers fell out of contention when they lost twice at home to the Giants in mid-February, but Sheffield's challenge lasted until the penultimate weekend of the regular season.
With games in hand, the Steelers knew they had to win them all if they were to take the title for a second year in a row, including back-to-back matches in Northern Ireland.
And the Elite League championship was won by the Giants on Friday 16th March 2012 as they skated to a 5-1 victory over their nearest challengers.
Panthers became the first side in Elite League history to win a trophy three years in a row with their Challenge Cup final victory over Belfast.
It was a repeat of the 2011 final but this time the two-legged encounter was much more one sided. The Panthers won the first leg in Northern Ireland 5-1 and followed that up with a 5-3 victory at the National Ice Centre for a 10-4 aggregate success.
The 2012 play-offs provided one of the biggest shocks in the history of the League as Hull Stingrays beat Sheffield over two legs in the quarter-finals to reach the final-four weekend.
But they were no match for the Panthers in the semi-final losing 10-3 to Corey Neilson's side - the heaviest defeat in Elite League play-off history.
Just like in 2011 Cardiff Devils beat the Giants for a place in the play-off final, but this time the game went to a penalty shoot-out.
The game ended 3-3 and Cardiff, who had not won a shoot-out all season, went through thanks to Kenton Smith's winning shot.
It meant a repeat of the 2011 final and this was a more cagey affair. David-Alexandre Beauregard's third-period strike put Panthers ahead and David Clarke wrapped the game up with a empty netter to seal a 2-0 victory over the Devils and a second successive play-off final win for Nottingham.