After six years, Vipers withdraw from league

NO ELITE league ice hockey will be played in the region after the Newcastle Vipers withdrew from the league.

Following last week’s Elite League board meeting, Vipers general manager Jaimie Longmuir confirmed the club will not participate in the league during 2011/12.

The decision ends the club’s six year participation in the UK’s top league, which last season saw the Vipers set up home at Whitley Bay’s Hillheads rink.

“It’s incredibly sad to confirm that the Vipers will no longer participate in the Elite League,” said Longmuir.

“Before the end of the season and up until now significant time and studies have been undertake to try and find a way of keeping the Vipers franchise operational in the Elite League but unfortunately haven’t been successful.

“Every option to keep the club operational was investigated including the first option of trying to secure new investment or ownership but unfortunately this did not materialise so the only other option was to try and devise a plan that would enable the club to sustain itself but unfortunately again proved to be unsuccessful.

“Given everything that has been invested in the club in terms of money, time, energy, effort and sacrifice it’s an incredibly sad day for everyone especially the loyal hard core of fans who stuck by the club to the very end.”

He added: “Some will say the last few years have been disappointing and I cannot argue with that but the fact we were able to keep the club alive over the past few years is a remarkable achievement in itself.

“The fact that we have basically operated without the support of a home venue in an unstable environment has been devastating and unfortunately we were unable to realise our long term goal of playing in a permanent home venue that would have ensured the clubs long term sustainability.

“Every effort to try and make this a reality was made by our previous ownership groups but unfortunately it wasn’t to be.

“Whitley Bay Ice Rink have been extremely accommodating and done their best to welcome the club but unfortunately too many fans could not support the club in the venue.

“It is small consolation that we managed to honour our fixture commitments for 2010/11 as quite honestly the club could easily have ceased operation in January which would have been devastating for the supporters, sponsors, players etc but we managed to pull through the toughest of situations thanks to our loyal hard core of fans, our players and coach and the support mechanisms put in place by the Elite League Club and I am very grateful to everyone who played their part in keeping the club alive.

“I would like to thank the hard core of loyal supporters who have given their all to the club – it is massively appreciated and I am very grateful.

“I don’t know what the future holds for sport in the region but I hope lessons can be learnt from the past six seasons.”