May 21 2013 Latest news:
HOMELESS Haringey Greyhounds have been forced to disband this summer – but owner Nick Rothwell insists the club will return stronger than ever with a new identity in 2011. The Greyhounds' 20-year existence came to an end...
By Ian Cooper
HOMELESS Haringey Greyhounds have been forced to disband this summer - but owner Nick Rothwell insists the club will return stronger than ever with a new identity in 2011.
The Greyhounds' 20-year existence came to an end after their Alexandra Palace rink was closed for refurbishment, leaving the side with no home venue and prompting Rothwell to take the opportunity to rebuild and re-brand the side he inherited from previous owner Jan Bestic in 2009.
The Haringey squad has been disbanded, leaving Rothwell 12 months to find players, management and sponsors in time for the start of the 2011 season, when the club will re-emerge as the North London Hounds and return to the Ally Pally ice.
Rothwell hopes the move will bring an end to a painful few years for the Haringey side, who have struggled against relegation from ENHL Division One South in each of the past two seasons, and he believes the move can herald a fresh start.
"Everyone involved with this club went through a hell of a hard time last season and my heart goes out to them," said Rothwell, who played professional ice hockey for more than a decade.
"There will always be a place for them at the Hounds. As an ex-pro, I was champing at the bit to get on the ice this season.
"We even had a team ready, but the rink were honest with us and it just wasn't viable. We now have a year to take some time out, look at sponsors and marketing aspects, and try to get some stability at the club.
"I think that's where the club have suffered for a while; there's always been somebody coming in and somebody going out. At least now we can stop chasing our tails."
The Greyhounds were formed in 1990, with the pinnacle of their success coming in the 2006-07 season when they were crowned ENL South play-off champions, losing out to Sheffield in the national finals.
That success came under Bestic, who owned the Hounds from 2004-2009, and he believes the good times could be on their way back with Rothwell at the helm.
"Nick has injected new life into the club, he has raised morale and it's a chance for a fresh start. This is a chance for the club to take a year out, hype it up a bit, recruit the right players, and hopefully they will come back stronger.
"The Greyhounds are a historic club, but Nick has freshened them up and I think the rebranding will work. It keeps them a Haringey club but broadens their appeal."
The Hounds' return will see Rothwell start from scratch. His side will play next season in the English National Ice Hockey League Division Two South - the lowest semi-professional league in the country, where they will act as a 'feeder' club for teams in the newly-professional ENL 1.
That in itself will present a problem, and one which plagued the Greyhounds under previous owner Bestic, who saw promising players jump ship into the elite league and further widen the gap in quality between the professional and non-pro ice hockey leagues.
But Rothwell still believes the answer lies in targeting youth, and developing players from within the club rather than from outside. He plans to scour north London for young players to begin a gradual building process and lay a firm foundation for the future.
"When I took over at the Hounds last season I envisaged a new programme of ice hockey, but we have to be realistic and acknowledge that this is a 10 to 15 year plan," he said.
"What we don't want to do is sign older players who couldn't quite cut it in ENL1, that can't be allowed to happen. It's about attracting players from all across north London into the sport, and then we can take it from there.