The National League Management Group (NLMG) are excited to announce the major dates for the forthcoming season, including the return of the NIHL Championship Series featuring no fewer than five Playoff Weekends.
League bosses have been working on the calendar for the last couple of weeks following input from clubs at the section meetings and the outcome is the schedule outlined below.
The regular season in NIHL 1 and NIHL 2 begins on Saturday September 7, while NIHL National faces off for their inaugural campaign on Saturday September 21.
In NIHL National the teams will wear light colours at home until December 21 when they will swap and wear their dark colours at home. As usual teams will be able to vary from this, by agreement, for specific games.
The group phase of all Cup competitions (all one home and one away in a round robin format) should be completed by Sunday December 22 when they will move to their respective knockout stages.
In NIHL North 1, dates have been set aside for the Cup semi finals on January 18/19 and Cup Finals on February 15/16. Cups in South 1 & 2 are still to be confirmed though it is likely the South 1 Cup will move straight to a final after the group stage.
The NIHL National Cup qualifying phase is made up of the first league match between each team, and the knockout stages will likely see midweek semi finals in January and Final in February.
As the calendar clicks round to March 2020 then the focus moves to the post-season and the NIHL Championship Series. Each respective division will have its own format for playoff qualification but each division will conclude with a Finals Weekend with two semi finals and a final.
The NIHL National division will have their top eight clubs from the regular season split into two groups – 1st, 4th, 5th, 8th in one group and 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 7th in the other. These group games will be played over the weekends of March 28/29, April 4/5 and April 11/12.
The top two sides from each playoff group will qualify for the NIHL Final Four at Coventry’s Skydome Arena over the weekend of April 18/19. That weekend will also feature the NIHL 1 Championship game on the Sunday between league champions from North 1 (Moralee) and South 1 (Britton) divisions.
For clubs in NIHL South 1 (Britton) the top eight sides from their league season will compete in two-legged quarter finals over April 4/5 with the respective winners meeting in the first South 1 Finals Weekend on April 11/12.
In NIHL North 1 (Moralee) the top six sides after the regular season qualify for playoffs, split into two three-team groups (1st, 4th, 6th and 2nd, 3rd, 5th) playing over weekends March 21/22, 28/29 and April 4/5. The top two sides from each group will qualify for NIHL 1 Finals Weekend on April 11/12.
It is hoped that one of the Division 1 Finals Weekends will also include the NIHL2 Championship game featuring the league winners of Wilkinson and Laidler going head to head.
The teams in NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) will send their top eight to playoffs with format similar to South 1. There will be two-legged quarter finals over March 28/29 with the winners taking their place in South 2 Finals Weekend on April 4/5.
Finally in NIHL North 2 (Laidler) the top four sides from the regular season will go straight to their North 2 Finals Weekend on April 4/5.
Clubs are invited to put their venues forward to host Finals Weekends with submissions to NLMG as soon as possible. The league management in conjunction with clubs in each division will make the final decision on suitability of venues before confirming the respective event will take place. Some expressions of interest have already been received to host.
There will also be a change to the definition of British-trained players for the new NIHL season following input from IHUK. Clubs were advised of the details at their section meeting and in a follow up clarification. The final wording will be published with the 19/20 Rules of Competition.