Video: Is it time to change the Elite League play-off format?
SHEFFIELD STEELERS' head coach Paul Thompson has called for changes to be made to the Elite League's play-off format to make it tougher and more 'testing' to win.
The Steelers begin their quest to end the 2016-17 season with silverware on Saturday night when they travel to arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers for the first leg of their play-off quarter-final. The second leg takes place in Sheffield 24 hours later.
At stake is a place at next weekend’s traditional Final Four Weekend where two one-off semi-finals on Saturday will again produce a one-game final between the winners the following day in front of fans from all 10 teams currently in the league.
It is a unique play-off format alien to virtually every other ice hockey playing country, including North America and European nations.
Many of those leagues, including the NHL, favour a best-of-seven play-off format which requires teams to get through, in some cases, four rounds before being crowned play-off champions.
Over in the UK, the regular season championship is seen as the more illustrious trophy to win with the play-offs essentially being a knockout competition tagged on the end. In the NHL and many other leagues, the play-offs are seen as the pinnacle.
And while Thompson would still like to see the popular Final Four Weekend somehow retained, he would love to see a best-of-series format tried in the UK at some point in the near future.
“It’s a very different kind of play-off (format) to everywhere else in the world where you have best-of-seven series and you work your way through several rounds,” said Thompson, who spent two years coaching in Sweden and Denmark before returning to take over as head coach at Sheffield in 2015.
“In ours, you can’t make any mistakes because it’s just the two games and an aggregate score and then a semi-final and then a final. So it is just four games to win a play-off trophy which means you have to be on your game.
“I’d like (the format) to be a little more testing. If the Final Four Weekend is what helps keep the league going financially, it’s obviously a big thing for the league and it is clearly something that fans love and we have to respect that.
“But from a hockey purists point of view, I’d like to see a best-of type series that maybe leads up to the Final Four Weekend. I feel it would put the play-offs on the map a little bit more and make it a tougher thing to win.
“It’s something that has been discussed but it is really up to whoever is at board level to decide what’s best. But I think the coaches and players would like to see it that way.”