NIHL: A survivor’s guide to Finals Weekend (or why should I go when my team won’t be there?)

March 22, 2018

The National Ice Hockey League are staging three Finals events over successive weekends in April at Coventry, Widnes and Bracknell.  For some the end of season playoff weekend is a tradition but for many, particularly around the NIHL, it’s going to be quite a new phenomenon.

With that in mind, Chris Beal from the blog “2 For Flinching” presents A Survivor’s Guide to Finals Weekend – it’s written with Coventry in mind but the general advice fits any weekend tournament.


So the season is winding down, and we are approaching the first ever NIHL Final Four weekend (a continuation of the EPIHL playoff weekend format).

For some of you among the various fan bases of the NIHL, in particular any of you who joined the hockey family this season this may be your first time experiencing such an event. You are in for a great time, some of my best hockey memories come from the time I have spent at the EPIHL and BUIHA nationals weekends. Below are a few helpful hints on Coventry that should help you survive the weekend.

The Skydome

Skydome operates a no outside food restriction, bag searches may be conducted. If you have a medical reason for needing food that isn’t deep fried or sugary, such as diabetes or are on a prescribed diet you will need something that says this is a medical requirement.

Food policy aside the Dome is a great place to watch hockey.  There are very few restricted views in the arena, though it does have a bit to make up in the way of disability access, with the only viewing for wheel chair users being at ice level or on a platform at the open end of the arena (though I would advise speaking to the stadium box office about this).  Crosby’s the stadium bar serves well on game day, and it’s also where you will find the Papa Johns.  There are also multiple concession stands through out the Dome on both sides.

What Do I Do If My Team Didn’t Make it?

With 19 teams across North and South leagues, and only 4 places up for grabs at the finals weekend there is a good chance your team may not have made the Final Four.  Some decided to cancel the whole weekend at this point and stay home.  I’d advise against this, simply chose the lesser of two evils (as we used to say at EPIHL Finals, anyone but Guildford).

In recent years at EPIHL weekends I found myself cheering for Swindon, Peterborough and Milton Keynes when the Bison had been eliminated. Some of the most fun I have had at a finals weekend, was when the pressure was off and all my friends and I had to do was drink and have fun without worrying if our team won.

Or alternatively just stay neutral, chirp everyone or even cheer for the refs. Just stay and enjoy the hockey. Take the time to meet and have fun with fans from other fan bases.  Whether it’s been by way of a friendly chirp or by mutual introduction some of the most fun I have had at play off weekend has been by forgetting the tribal rivalries and just having a laugh and talking with other fans.  My first year, though a Bison fan I spent the whole weekend away from games among friends I met from Milton Keynes and Peterborough, chanting ‘Jaffa Cakes are not a biscuit’.

Where Do I Stay?

The best choices for a hotel would be either the Ramada or the Premier Inn over the road, or the Premier next to the Belgrade theater which is 10 mins walk away, also about 10 minutes away is the Britannia.  There are other options, though the IBIS is not ideally situated as it’s on the opposite side of the city, but is actually about 15-20 minutes walk depending, but its also five by taxi.  These are of course the chain hotels, and further out there is another Premier Inn, however there are many B&B options as well as independent hotels nearby as well.

What to see and do?

As a city Coventry gets a bit of a bad reputation, as someone who lived there for three years all I can say is, yes it has it’s wrinkles – what city doesn’t?  Location wise the Skydome is perfectly situated, located near to several large hotels.  The Dome is 10/15 mins walk away from the nearest train station, and 15/20 mins walk from the local bus station.  As well as being situated right next to the city centre.

The Dome is well serviced for food and drinking options with a Harvester, and Wetherspoon’s within five mins walking distance.  On top of this there is Spon Street, home to multiple bars in which to dance the night away. Spon Street is also home to the spiritual home of the now defunct EPIHL weekend, The Windmill pub, where you can purchase pints of the local breweries best offerings.

If you would much rather stay near the Dome there is obviously Crosby’s, during game day Crosby’s is a sports bar, by night a dance club. Coventry city centre is also just a short walk away, and on the Friday and Saturday the Coventry Market is also open just across the road from the dome.  Of course I must mention if you fancy some Swedish meatballs, visit the IKEA cafeteria next door. The Nearby West Orchard Shopping center provides the closest McDonald’s, KFC and other chain outlets. And if you fancy a read but forgot to bring a book there’s also a nearby Waterstones.

If you forgot any toiletries, or any other items needed for the weekend. The city centre has you covered. With a Tesco, two Poundlands, a Boots and for those who venture further out a Sainsburys. As well a Primark, and Sports Direct for any clothing needs all again a short walk from the Dome.

The best curry house nearby as rated highly by many would be Akbars, just opposite the Ramada hotel.

For those looking to try and stay in shape, and maybe work off some of the weekend’s over-indulgence, there is of course the local Pure Gym where you can purchase a day or weekend membership. And located downstairs the Genting Casino if you want to try your luck at the tables.

Coventry also offers some great evening entertainment for when the games have ended. The Belgrade theatre could offer a welcome distraction in the evening, or alternatively the local Odeon for a cinema trip.  For those looking to take in some sights, at a leisurely pace a visit to the either the Transport Museum or the Herbert Art museum, and of course next door to the Herbert you will find both the old Coventry Cathedral and the new one. All of which are again a 20 minute walk from the Dome.

ONE LAST PIECE OF ADVICE

Overall, the best way to survive this weekend, IS HAVE FUN!  This is not just a weekend of hockey games, it’s one big party. Eat till you can eat no more, drink till you can drink no more (though hopefully so you can still walk) chirp to your heart’s content, and try to make friends among those not wearing the same jersey as you. Even indulge in fancy dress if you like. We are all hockey fans at the end of the day, yes those of us in NIHL 1 and 2 have been thrown together and no doubt the rumour mill will be in overdrive during the weekend about the future, but for 48 hours just sit back, enjoy a beer or 3, have some laughs and have fun, you’ll go home hopefully with so many happy memories, you’ll be counting the day till next year.


Thanks to Chris for allowing us to publish his article here on EIHA.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter @2_4_Flinching and read more from his blog at http://2minutesforflinching.blogspot.co.uk/

About the Author:

Media & Comms for EIHA, media support to IHUK and Team GB.

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