Leeds Chiefs boss Sam Zajac hoping hockey is the winner if new single governing body formed

SAM ZAJAC hopes a unified governing body for ice hockey in the UK will herald a brighter future for all levels of the sport

Saturday, 12th December 2020, 8:18 am
Updated Saturday, 12th December 2020, 9:38 am
Leeds Chiefs' coach Sam Zajac, pictured in his team's first-ever home game at Elland Road against Sheffield Steeldogs. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Members of the English Ice Hockey Association (EIHA) are set to vote today on whether the sport should have one, unified NGB for the whole of the UK.

It will come at the end of a week billed by one leading figure as the “most important” in the sport’s history in the UK.

If EIHA members vote ‘yes’ to unification it will further pave the way for a single governing body that will oversee the sport, ending years of division and conflicts of interest.

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Action from the recent Streaming series encounter between Sheffield and Swindon, the only competitive hockey games seen this season so far because of the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Cerys Molloy.

On Monday, Ice Hockey UK (IHUK), which also incorporates Scottish Ice Hockey and is responsible for the GB international programme, gave its backing to the proposal.

Sport England also supports the move, while Rene Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), has written to the head of IHUK, Richard Grieveson, stating: “The current model is broken. It does not allow for clarity of role, with everyone working together to achieve an over-arching vision and objective.”

Even the top-flight Elite League this week threw its support behind the proposal, even though it is self-governed.

The recent collaborative effort to secure government funding to help cover costs incurred by the coronavirus pandemic seemingly showed the EIHL team owners that working together may be the best way forward.

It is hoped that by having one governing body, hockey at all levels, including juniors, will benefit.

Leeds Chiefs’ player-coach Zajac hopes having just the one NGB – should it eventually be given the green light – could finally see the sport he so loves realising its full potential.

“I don’t know all the ins and outs but, from the outside looking in, if you can get everybody under the same umbrella and pulling in the same direction with the same objectives, it has got to be a good thing for our sport,” said Zajac.

“The key thing is getting the right people in the right positions, working where they are best at and where they can offer the most.

“It is a minority sport over here but I don’t think it can help having such a fractured leadership.

“If this is something that can lead to the game being ran better then great.

“It seems like all the different sides are in agreement now and that they realise this is the best way forward.”

IHUK chief Grieveson insisted earlier this week that the move – criticised by some within the sport because of its timing – was not a merger or a takeover of the game but simply a “new start”.

“It’s a new separate body with new people at the helm, driving the sport forward and that’s incredibly important,” said Grieveson.

“For me, it’s a last meaningful chance for a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a fit-for-purpose structure for our sport.

“It has always been the aim to have one new neutral unified governing body for our sport to deliver on the potential that ice hockey has in the UK.

“I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say this week is one of the most important in the history of the sport.”

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