A handful of second-tier teams have taken part in two separate behind-closed-doors competitions in recent months – the Streaming Series held last October and the recently-completed Spring Cup.
The Steeldogs finished top of the three-team Streaming Series group comprising themselves, Swindon Wildcats and Milton Keynes Lightning, before going on to win the slightly-expanded Spring Cup with a perfect 12-0 record under head coach Greg Wood.
Leeds Chiefs were not involved in either event due to owners Planet Ice believing it wasn’t right “logistically or time-wise” to take part, but they remained open to the possibility of a short season which had been touted by owners earlier this year to follow on from the Spring Cup. Hull Pirates are believed to have opted out for similar reasons, plus they were hampered by the fact that their rink is undergoing a major rebuild and is currently closed.
But the proposed mini-league season – which is likely to have only featured the same five teams involved in the Spring Cup – will not now go ahead, according to a statement released by the NIHL National owners on Wednesday.
“The five clubs who played in the Spring Cup looked carefully at the options to continue playing into April and May, but have decided that this is not possible,” said the team owners’ statement. “The NIHL Owners Group has been working together and has agreed that we are now preparing and planning for the 2021-22 season.
“This is a great moment as we start to move on from survival mode into taking the steps back towards more normality in our game. It feels like co-operation and communication between us has never been higher, and this has allowed us to make meaningful progress on the key activities not only to bring our game back, but also to look at sustainability and the long term future of our sport.”
The owners have agreed in principle to implement a wage cap for next season which they believe “will set the foundations for our long-term future.”
They added: “It helps clubs with budgeting and forecasting, which is particularly difficult given the COVID impact on the entertainment industry and uncertainty of how people will want to watch the game when it returns.”