There was some talk at the end of last year that the EIHL would do away with the conference structure, and all teams would play each other an equal number of times, 3 home and 3 away, giving a total of 54 games. There is a lot to be said for this – the conference structure makes sense in the NHL where there are lots of teams, and 1000s of miles between them, but in a small league like the UK, it doesn’t really work. But, there is also an argument that in such a precarious league, the conference structure helps boost crowds by making more games based on a rivalry and easier to travel to. A few hundred extra supporters at a game here and there can make the difference when budgets are this tight. So, I’m not arguing for it one way or the other, but those in the Erhardt conference often bemoan the fact that they are playing more difficult opposition more often than would be the case in the Gardiner. I thought I’d see what the league would look like, based on this year’s results, if we did opt for the 54 games in total, 6 games each formula.
My method was to calculate the average points per game for each team in both the Erhardt and Gardiner conferences (points/ 32 games). Then I calculated the average per game against teams from the other conference (total points – conference points/20 games). For each team I could then calculate the points total in the hypothetical unified league (24 games x average within conference + 30 x average across conference). Here’s an example:
Edinburgh got 32 points from 32 games in the Gardiner, giving them an average of 1 point per game in their own league.
They got 46 points in total, which means they got 14 points against Erhardt teams over 20 games: 14/20 = 0.7 per game
In the unified league they would get a total of 24 x 1 (they can’t play themselves) + (30 x 0.7) = 45 points
Now, of course there are lots of flaws with this approach. Things wouldn’t work out this way in reality, but over a season it gives a pretty good indication. If we do this for every team, the league would have looked like this:
- Sheff – 82
- Cardiff – 80
- Braehead – 79
- Notts – 68
- Belfast – 65
- Cov – 59
- Hull – 49
- Edinburgh – 45
- Fife – 44
- Dundee – 33
Cardiff and Braehead swap and so do Caps and Flyers, but actually I was surprised at how little difference it made. Sheffield still win by 2 points, Dundee are still very bottom, and most teams retain the same spot. There still might be a case for unifying the league (if that Cardiff – Braehead swap had meant the league title I might not be so sanguine), but it might not be as big a factor as we sometimes suppose.
I haven’t had my working out checked by teacher so it could be wrong, if so, let me know.