Big names poised to start league with a bang

Reading celebrate winning the Men's Hockey League 2011-2012

The Men’s Hockey League is set to burst into action in thrilling style this weekend with Great Britain’s London 2012 stars returning to their clubs. Get out to your local club and cheer them on in what promises to be a hotly contested opening day.

Great Britain’s Olympic stars are not the only thing you’ll notice this season. There’s a new name – the Men’s Hockey League – removing confusion with the ‘other’ EHL, the Euro Hockey League. And, there are changes to the end of season playoff structure as our top teams do battle for those prized European places.

Adding to Heightening the anticipation ahead of the weekend, the 2012-2013 season marks 25 years since the start of the National Hockey League back in 1988, making this season the league’s silver jubilee. 

Championship Playoffs Get a New Format
A new streamlined format sees the Championship playoffs condensed into an exciting showpiece weekend of hockey. On the Saturday there will be two semi finals with teams drawn based on where they finish at the end of the regular season – 1st v 4th and 2nd v 3rd. On the Sunday there will be a 3rd/4th play-off for the losers of the semi finals preceding the grand final which will determine who wins the league Championship. 

In addition to these matches the weekends will also feature two extra matches from the Promotion Tournaments, where the three Conference winners and the ninth placed team in the Premier Division battle it out for two top flight places in the following season.

In order to focus on both the Investec Women’s Hockey League and Men’s Hockey League the calendar has been changed so the events will be held on separate weekends. The Men’s event will be held on 13-14 April and the Women’s 20-21 April.

Ashley Jackson

Premier Division

15 September 2012
Canterbury v Brooklands MU 13:00
Cannock v Beeston 13:30
Hampstead and Westminster v Reading 14:00
Loughborough Students MHC v Southgate 14:00
East Grinstead v Surbiton 18:00

Reading won the 2011-12 league title in dramatic fashion by coming from behind to beat East Grinstead in the final. This year, Charlie Seccombe takes up the reins as head coach and they’ve added to their squad with Craig Peel (Fareham), Olly Deasy & Tom Carson (Exeter University) and Darren Cheesman (East Grinstead) moving to Sonning Lane. Adrian Palmer (Hampstead & Westminster) has also joined with London Olympian midfielder Iain Mackay going in the other direction; another GB midfielder, Nick Catlin, has moved to Belgium while charismatic goalkeeper Nick Brothers has retired.  Last year’s runners-up East Grinstead have held on to a number of their GB stars including Ashley Jackson (above), Iain Lewers and Glenn Kirkham and have added Jack Marfleet, who joins from Teddington.  GB captain Barry Middleton has returned to his former club HGC in the Netherlands while Gareth Carr & Danny Hall have moved to Holcombe.

The 2011 champions Beeston have a number of new additions with the exciting prospect of GB international Harry Martin joining from Old Loughtonians and Simon Egerton from Bowdon chiefly among them. On the debit side Chris Gregg has left for Conference East side Wimbledon. Surbiton has seen their lively international Richard Alexander move to Wimbledon and have signed both Rob Schilling (from Southgate) and James Royce (from Exeter University). They also have a new coach in Todd Williams who moves from a similar role at Hampstead & Westminster.

Cannock welcome back a familiar name in ex-GB international Michael Johnson after three seasons at Olton. Dave Beckett (ex Loughborough) joins after a year overseas and Alex Edmonstone comes in from Bowdon along with Dan Coultas (Durham University).  Hampstead & Westminster’s big summer signing is GB international Iain Mackay (below) from Reading and they also have a new coach, Australian Chris Rowoholt. Former England U21 international Simon Faulkner rejoins Loughborough after a season in Germany and his brother Daniel also links up with the Students. Leaving Loughborough is Richard Smith who has moved to Belgium. Southgate have a new overseas player in South African Francois Pretorious and Joe Sterlini moves from Exeter University. The two new sides Canterbury and Brooklands look to rely on the squads who achieved promotion after a season in the Conferences.

Iain Mackay

Conference East

15 September 2012
Cambridge City v Teddington 12:00
Bromley and Beckenham v Indian Gymkhana 12:30
Wimbledon v City of Peterborough 17:00
Holcombe v Oxted 18:00

16 September 2012
Old Loughtonians v Richmond 14:30

Richard AlexanderIn Conference East, Holcombe and Wimbledon appear to have recruited the strongest during the close season.  Holcombe have signed the experienced duo of Danny Hall and Gareth Carr from East Grinstead whilst Wimbledon welcome England & GB player Richard Alexander (pictured right) from Surbiton, Tom Woods (Exeter University) Chris Gregg (Beeston) and Jonny Kinder (Team Bath Buccs). So, expect Wimbledon to be challenging from the off. Oxted have a new South African player Eugene Pelteret. Cambridge City who return to the national league of hockey after 17 seasons’ absence, welcome Scotland international and GB Beijing Olympian Stephen Dick from Reading. Richmond has been absent at this level for one season fewer than Cambridge and they will be coached by another ex GB international, Soma Singh.

Conference North

15 September 2012
Belper v Leek 13:30
Preston v Olton & West Warwicks 14:00
University of Durham v Doncaster 14:00
Wakefield v Bowdon 17:00
Sheffield Hallam v Khalsa (Warks) 18:30

In Conference North, relegated Bowdon retained a number of their squad with others returning to the club. GB forward Ali Brogdon, however, will be playing in Belgium this season. Khalsa (Warks) and Wakefield are newcomers to the division. Khalsa, from Leamington Spa, have ex-international player Scott Cordon as player-coach. They are the only one of the five promoted sides not to have previously played at this level before. A name of note in Wakefield’s ranks is international umpire Dan Barstow. For Wakefield it has been a long wait to return to the fold having been relegated from the then Pizza Express NHL in 1992.

Conference West

15 September 2012
Guildford v Havant 12:00
Cheltenham v Team Bath Buccaneers 12:30
Fareham v Whitchurch 13:30
University of Exeter v University of Birmingham 14:00
Cardiff & UWIC v Bristol Firebrands 14:30

In Conference West, relegated Exeter University has seen a number of players depart for Premier Division clubs. On the plus side, goalkeeper Todd Dudley joins from rivals University of Birmingham. Newcomers Bristol Firebrands rejoin the league after four seasons’ absence with the city name added to their well known name. Havant has lost a number of players to clubs within the division including South African Craig Mullon to Guildford and England U18 players Sam Hatherley and Ben Mackey to Team Bath Buccaneers.

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