Lightning to join ice hockey’s Elite

MK Lightning. Pic: Tony Sargent
MK Lightning. Pic: Tony Sargent
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MK Lightning will make the step up to the Elite League next year, it was announced on Tuesday.

As part of the league’s planned expansion, members voted unanimously in favour of MK making the step up for the 2017/18 season.

Elite League Chairman Tony Smith said: “We are very pleased that we are expanding the league, this is something that we all feel strongly about in the boardroom.

“Hopefully this isn’t the end of the expansion and we are looking forward to having Milton Keynes on board for the 2017/18 season.”

The rink in Milton Keynes has undergone massive redevelopment and Regional Director of Planet Ice John Neville believes that is one of the reasons why they are now ready to make the step up.

He said: “I think it is very exciting for the future and it is something, as a venue, that Milton Keynes deserves.

“This team should be playing in the top league and this is a fantastic opportunity for the club to develop.

“We are already gearing up to moving up to the Elite level a year in September and that means we will have to strengthen our off-ice team as well.

“We have seen what Manchester Storm have done this year, it has been hard work and everyone has worked very hard with the team in Manchester.

“Having looked closer we think that we can succeed at that higher level.

“We have also given an undertaking that if the English Premier League has an odd number of teams at the end of the 2016 / 17 the Planet Ice and Silverblades brands will deliver an additional team so that the EPL can continue to develop and grow.”

Lightning Head Coach Pete Russell is also positive that Elite League hockey will be a success in MK:

“I can’t wait. I think it’s great for the venue, it is a great rink here.

“The way hockey is going right now this is a really good move for a club which is growing.

“I think we have a real core of top end Brits and if we can keep them here we will have a really good base to build from.

“On top of that we have a fantastic set of supporters here and it will be great for them to be able to watch the top level of ice hockey in the UK.”