So that was The Streaming Series that was.  Three weekends of the first live hockey the UK has seen since March, and we have to say we’ve had a great time.  Managing to grab the win away in Sheffield on Sunday night gave us a boost in what was a learning experience on and off the ice, and we’re so glad that we were a part of this experiment with the Cats and the Dogs.

The series came about after an ongoing set of conversations that the NIHL National owners group has been having over the past few months.  Over the course of these discussions, we eventually emerged with the three Streaming Series teams deciding to take the plunge and get back on the ice.  We committed to work together, and also to share the experience and learnings we gained back with the other owners so that we could all together focus on bringing back the game we love in a way which is great quality, but above all is sustainable.

To get back on the ice took a lot of coordination and effort and we wanted to take this opportunity to say our thanks to those who have made it possible.  In the rink on game nights was a small selection of people to run the game, from goal judges to penalty box people to a cleaning team who mopped the benches and fogged the locker rooms, your timekeepers, scorers, DJ, announcers and official photographer.  Our stream was delivered by the LightningTV teams with additional content pulled together by our marketing and sponsorship teams (who also worked hard to secure rink board advertisements).

Our amazing sponsors supported us through the provision of security (All In Black), medical (Acute Ambulance and Medical Services) and creative services (123 Internet Group), as well as the support given by Smith Construction Group, Brioche Pasquier and all our other partners who are with us.

Our off-ice team produced over 400 pieces of social media interaction and reached over 700k people over the last few weeks, which is an incredible feat of engagement.  They also worked out how this could operate financially, how the club could always meet its obligations, and how we could understand whether this would work longer term.

Getting to put matches on took a lot of behind the scenes work.  We worked hard to become the first team to be accredited as an ‘Elite Sport’ club which was critical in our ability to train and play.  We also worked extensively with Planet Ice, MK Council, the EIHA and our wider teams to develop stringent COVID plans which governed everything from arrival times at the rink, through to the cleaning and emergency management regimes that needed to be in place.  We’re grateful to Planet Ice for donating the ice time for our first home game – a key contribution in the spirit of partnering to bring back hockey which really helped.  And to the EIHA who made things happen around player registration, insurance and match officials.

Our players were open and honest through the entire process and we worked with them to understand what part they would want to play.  Although some players weren’t on the ice, they are still part of our team, and we welcomed some additions to bolster the squad for the fixtures.  The commitment and passion shown on the ice was a real treat to see after such a long absence and it’s only with the players that we could do this.  Supporting them, our coaching, equipment and physio teams were there every step of the way.

And you, the fans.  Thank you for believing in us.  Together you bought over 2000 live streams from us, giving us the largest online audience that MKL has ever seen.  You also built a (possibly) record breaking 50/50 draw, strong shirt of the back raffles and a successful return of Golden Goal, all run brilliantly by the Supporters Club.  We missed you all in the arena, and can’t wait to have you back in person – but online was the next best thing for now.

So what happens next?  We’re working with the other NIHL National owners to figure out what we can do.  The collaboration and support between the teams has never been stronger and we’re working hard to bring back hockey with fans, when the time is right and conditions are safe.  Realistically, the next hockey will now be in the New Year, so until then, take care, stay safe, grab your MKL Christmas merch, and we’ll let you know as plans develop.

Thank you all.  Let’s Go Lightning!