The 2003–04 Elite Ice Hockey League season was the inaugrual season of the Elite League. The season ran from September 12, 2003 until April 4, 2004.

During the 2002–03 season, the financial collapse of the Manchester Storm and the Scottish Eagles, the resignation of the Bracknell Bees and the uncertainty surrounding the London Knights and their London Arena home left the Ice Hockey Superleague with little option but to fold.

The three remaining Superleague clubs, the Belfast Giants, Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers were joined by three British National League clubs, the Basingstoke Bison, Cardiff Devils and Coventry Blaze and two new clubs, the London Racers and Manchester Phoenix in establishing the Elite Ice Hockey League. The clubs hoped to provide a more financially sustainable league than its predecessor with a greater number of British trained players taking part.

The league was met with considerable opposition from the governing body, Ice Hockey UK who initially refused to affiliate itself with the new league, instead desiring that the remaining Superleague clubs integrate themselves into the British National League. This led to a bitter summer of uncertainty which only the intervention of the International Ice Hockey Federation ended. The IIHF ruled that the Elite League be granted a single season's affiliation with IHUK while discussions between IHUK, the EIHL and the BNL took place on the future of the sport in the United Kingdom.

The season began on September 12, 2003 with a game between the newly formed London Racers and the previous season's league champions, Sheffield Steelers. London began the season at Alexandra Palace but within a few weeks had relocated to the Lee Valley Ice Centre. The Racers went much of the season without winning, before finally claiming a 3-0 victory over Cardiff as the season drew to its close.

Challenge Cup[edit | edit source]

During the early part of the season, the results from league games also counted towards a separate Challenge Cup table. After each team had played each other once at home and once away, the top four teams in the table qualified for the semi finals.

Challenge Cup GP W T L OTL GF GA Pts
Belfast Giants 14 9 3 2 0 58 40 21
Sheffield Steelers 14 8 3 3 0 54 38 19
Cardiff Devils 14 8 1 5 0 39 38 17
Nottingham Panthers 14 6 4 4 0 37 32 16
Coventry Blaze 14 6 2 5 0 44 35 15
Basingstoke Bison 14 5 2 6 1 32 40 13
Manchester Phoenix 14 4 3 6 1 31 33 12
London Racers 14 0 1 13 0 23 60 1

Semi Finals[edit | edit source]

1st (Belfast) vs 4th (Nottingham)

  • Belfast Giants 2-4 Nottingham Panthers
  • Nottingham Panthers 7-3 Belfast Giants (Nottingham win 11-5 on aggregate)

2nd (Sheffield) vs 3rd (Cardiff)

  • Cardiff Devils 1-3 Sheffield Steelers
  • Sheffield Steelers 1-1 Cardiff Devils (Sheffield win 4-2 on aggreagate)

Final[edit | edit source]

The final brought Nottingham and Sheffield head-to-head in a major final for the seventh time. The Steelers had won each of the last six finals in a run stretching back to 1995 and were clear favourites to win a seventh straight final against their bitter rivals after convincingly winning the Elite League title.

After a tight 1-1 draw at the National Ice Centre, the two clubs met in the second leg at Sheffield Arena on March 17. The Panthers stormed into an early 2-0 lead before the Steelers fought back to tie the game at 2-2. Regulation time ended level and so the game went into overtime. After 53 seconds, Kim Ahlroos won the game for Nottingham, ending an eight year wait for the club to defeat their rivals in a showpiece event.

First Leg

  • Nottingham Panthers 1-1 Sheffield Steelers

Second Leg

  • Sheffield Steelers 2-3 Nottingham Panthers (after overtime, Nottingham win 4-3 on aggregate)

League[edit | edit source]

Each team played four home games and four away games against each of their opponents. Sheffield and Nottingham fought it out for the inaugrual Elite League title before the Steelers pulled away to become comfortable champions thanks to twenty consecutive wins including 7-3, 5-0, 3-0 and 7-4 victories over the Panthers.

Nottingham finished runner-up while Coventry were the most successful former BNL side, finishing third. Belfast began the season strongly before a poor run of results in the second half of the season saw them slip to fourth place. Struggling London were always destined to finish last, doing so by thirty-eight points, while Basingstoke also missed out on a place in the playoffs.

Elite League GP W T L OTL GF GA Pts
Sheffield Steelers 56 44 3 8 1 214 109 92
Nottingham Panthers 56 34 6 14 2 209 158 76
Coventry Blaze 56 29 7 20 0 185 156 65
Belfast Giants 56 27 7 21 1 218 185 62
Cardiff Devils 56 23 6 24 3 155 162 55
Manchester Phoenix 56 22 8 25 1 140 155 53
Basingstoke Bison 56 20 5 28 3 146 195 48
London Racers 56 3 2 49 2 106 253 10

Playoffs[edit | edit source]

The top six teams qualified for the playoffs. Group A consisted of Sheffield, Belfast and Manchester while Group B consisted of Nottingham, Coventry and Cardiff. The Phoenix chose to stage one of its home games, against the Steelers at the 1,500 capacity IceSheffield rather than play the substantial costs involved in hiring the MEN Arena.

Group A[edit | edit source]

Group A GP W T L OTL GF GA Pts
Sheffield Steelers 4 2 2 0 0 11 5 6
Manchester Phoenix 4 2 1 1 0 5 6 5
Belfast Giants 4 0 2 2 0 5 8 2

Group B[edit | edit source]

Group B GP W T L OTL GF GA Pts
Nottingham Panthers 4 3 0 1 0 12 6 6
Cardiff Devils 4 3 0 1 0 12 8 6
Coventry Blaze 4 0 0 4 0 10 20 0

Semi Finals[edit | edit source]

The finals weekend took place over the weekend of 3 April-4 April at the National Ice Centre in Nottingham.

Winner A vs Runner-Up B

  • Sheffield Steelers 2-0 Cardiff Devils

Winner B vs Runner-Up A

  • Nottingham Panthers 6-1 Manchester Phoenix

Final[edit | edit source]

Winner A vs Winner B

  • Sheffield Steelers 2-1 Nottingham Panthers

The final saw the two main protagonists of the season come head-to-head in a repeat of the title race and Challenge Cup final. The Steelers avenged their overtime loss in the Cup a few weeks earlier by beating the Panthers 2-1 before a capacity crowd at the NIC. Sheffield marched into a 2-0 lead before Nottingham pulled a goal back on a 5 on 3 powerplay. The Panthers never seriously threatened Sheffield's goal and in the end the Steelers were comfortable winners.

Awards[edit | edit source]

All Star teams[edit | edit source]

First Team Position Second Team
Curtis Cruickshank, Basingstoke Bison G Jayme Platt, Manchester Phoenix
Dion Darling, Sheffield Steelers D Jeff Burgoyne, Cardiff Devils
Kevin Bolibruck, Sheffield Steelers D Steve O'Brien, Coventry Blaze
Jason Ruff, Belfast Giants F Steve Gallace, Coventry Blaze
John Craighead, Nottingham Panthers F Mark Cadotte, Nottingham Panthers
Mark Dutiaume, Sheffield Steelers F Erik Anderson, Sheffield Steelers

Scoring leaders[edit | edit source]

The scoring leaders are taken from all league games.

References[edit | edit source]

EIHL seasons Flag of United Kingdom
2003–04 · 2004–05 · 2005–06 · 2006–07 · 2007–08 · 2008–09 · 2009–10

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