Planet Ice threatens Elite League withdrawal after MK franchise refusal

Elite Ice Hockey League
Elite Ice Hockey League

Top flight ice hockey will not be returning to Milton Keynes next season after plans for a new franchise were turned away by Elite Ice Hockey League and it may send ripples through the league.

After finishing bottom of the table last season, Lightning withdrew from the league and will play in the National Ice Hockey League from next season.

Plans were afoot though for a new franchise to take their place in the top flight, still from Milton Keynes and would be playing their games at Planet Ice. But after meeting with the proponents, League chairman Tony Smith put paid to the plans.

Planet Ice, who also provide home rinks for Manchester Storm and Coventry Blaze, have since threatened to withdraw from the Elite League following the decision.

Following Tuesday's meeting with the new consortium, Mr Smith ruled out the chance of Elite League hockey returning to Milton Keynes, saying: "We would like to thank the new consortium who made every endeavour to keep Elite League Ice Hockey in Milton Keynes alive within a very short time frame,” he said.

“Unfortunately, on this occasion the timing was not right and after thorough examination of the business plan, the league’s board was unable to approve the new franchise at this stage. This is however not the end of the road.

“We will be accepting applications from any interested parties to join the Elite League for the 2020/21 season from the beginning of August, and hope that we will have further opportunity to discuss EIHL hockey in Milton Keynes.”

Following the decision though, Heath Rhodes, Chief Operations Officer for Planet Ice, said: "Planet Ice would like to take this opportunity to express its disappointment with the Elite League and their decision to refuse the granting of a licence to the new Milton Keynes consortium for next season onwards.

"As a result, Planet Ice will be reviewing its future relationship with all Elite League teams operating from it’s buildings and an official statement on their decision will be released after 5pm on Friday."