WHITLEY Warriors will play four extra English League games when they begin the defence of the title they have won for the past two seasons.
But the decision of Fife Flyers to join the Elite League has seen the collapse of the Northern League.
Solihull Barons will be new visitors to Hillheads after winning promotion last season, while Billingham are back in the fold now that the refurbishment of the Forum is complete and the Teesside outfit merged with the Northern Stars.
However, Trafford Metros have earned a reprieve after being relegated in March and have been re-instated into division one after Fylde Flyers and Solway Sharks were elected to division two.
Meanwhile, new Warriors coach Garry Dowd has added three more players to his 2011-12 squad, announcing the signings of defensive duo Ally Brummitt and David Barrett along with forward Shaun Kippin.
Kippin had his best season ever for the Warriors last season, racking up 46 points (16+30) as he helped Whitley clinch a league and play-off double for a second consecutive campaign.
And Dowd is looking for similar from the player in the coming months.
“Shaun is a very hard working player who isn’t afraid to go into the corners and dig the puck out,” said the coach, “and those players are vital to any team.
“But ‘Skippy’ also comes up with some important goals and we will need players like him to be on their game if we are to have a successful season,” Dowd added.
Barrett and Brummitt will be equally vital as the coach rebuilds his defence for the new campaign and he believes both players have a huge role to play.
“Ally came back into the squad last October and made a big impact,” he said, “and I will be looking for David to do the same this time round after spending 12 months away from the game.
“David especially is a ‘stay at home’ defender,” Dowd added, “which was something we maybe lacked at times last season; and I’m sure both will prove to be important players for us over the course of the campaign.”
The league fixtures should be out around the end of the month, while there may also be a cup competition involving division one and two sides.