PREPARATIONS for Leeds Chiefs’ first season took a significant step forward on Monday night when the structure of the new NIHL National league was revealed.
As expected, player-coach Sam Zajac’s team, who will play out of a brand new rink on Elland Road during during the 2019-20 campaign, find themselves in a five-team ‘northern’ conference alongside Yorkshire rivals Hull Pirates and Sheffield Steeldogs, as well asTelford Tigers and MK Lightning.
The southern conference is comprised of Swindon Wildcats, Bracknell Bees, Basingstoke Bison, Peterborough Phantoms and London-based Raiders.
Leeds will face each of their conference rivals a total of eight times during the regular season – four times at home and four away – while facing teams from the other conference twice at home and twice on the road.
It all adds up to a 52-game regular season meaning the Chiefs will play host at Elland Road 26 times with the new campaign expected to get underway on the weekend of September 14-15.
Furthermore, at the end of the regular season, the top eight teams from the overall standings will qualify for the playoffs.
These will play in two groups of four, playing each other home and away, with the top two sides from each playoff group making it through to the traditional Playoff Final Four Weekend at Coventry’s SkyDome Arena.
As was the case in the NIHL One last season, teams can dress two imports players with only one being allowed on the ice at any one time.
In addition to the regular season and playoffs, there will also be a National Cup.
The first home game for each club against the nine other clubs in the regular season will count towards the cup competition’s standings with the top four teams qualifying for the semi-finals where the highest-placed qualifier gets to choose their opponent.
While work continues on the rink, with a summer opening still anticipated, Zajac continues to put together his roster for the new season.
At least one new signing is expected to be announced in the coming days.