ICE HOCKEY: Manchester Storm back to top flight

Ken Priestlay stopped from scoring by Kevin Hoffman and netminder Jim Hrivnak as Sheffield Steelers took on Manchester Storm in 1997
Ken Priestlay stopped from scoring by Kevin Hoffman and netminder Jim Hrivnak as Sheffield Steelers took on Manchester Storm in 1997
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Sheffield Steelers will be reacquainted with one of their oldest rivals in the new season as Manchester Storm were welcomed back to British Ice Hockey’s top league.

The Storm, who will play at Silverblades Ice Rink Altrincham, were approached last week with a view towards taking up the slot in the Elite Ice Hockey League due to fears over Hull Stingrays’ future.

Steelers Andre Malo with Storm's Stefan Ketola in '97

Steelers Andre Malo with Storm's Stefan Ketola in '97

It was confirmed today that Hull have been forced into liquidation and therefore Manchester have replaced them in all competitions.

Steelers fans will be delighted to see the reemergence of the Manchester side, and will have fond memories of clashes in the late 90s at the then Nymex Arena which would draw crowds of up to 18,000.

That Roses rivalry has never really been fully replicated, with Nottingham, Panthers picking up the mantle as Steelers biggest foes.

Mark Johnson, director of the Storm, said: “These are exciting times for ice hockey in the Manchester area and when we were approached by the EIHL to join the league, we pulled out all the stops to make it happen.

Elite Ice Hockey League chairman Tony Smith alongside Mark Johnson, director of the Manchester Storm, at today's board meeting.

Elite Ice Hockey League chairman Tony Smith alongside Mark Johnson, director of the Manchester Storm, at today's board meeting.

“This has become part of an even bigger picture for ice hockey in the region and we are looking forward to growing the fanbase and the grassroots of the sport in the area, alongside the re-birth of one of the iconic names in British sport.”

Steelers Owner Tony Smith is looking forward to renewing rivalries with Storm, but speaking with his EIHL chairman’s hat on, he added: “We would like to officially welcome Manchester Storm to the Elite Ice Hockey League.

“The name Manchester Storm is steeped in hockey tradition and it is great that it will once again be in the top flight of the sport.

“On behalf of the league I would like to place on record the important contribution made by the Hull Stingrays Ice Hockey Club, both on and off the ice, to the growth and development of the EIHL.

“Owner Bobby McEwan has worked so hard for the Stingrays and has been very passionate about the organisation. We are sad to see them go.”

It remains to be seen where Manchester will take their players from however they are likely to have their pick of those being made redundant by the folding of the Stingrays.