The recent domination of Germany3/Oberliga and Netherlands top league (now defunct) by the Tilburg Trappers has lead to EIHL board members assessing the viability of the Dutch based outfit joining the league. After three successive titles in the third German division, whilst boasting an impressive 101-24-5 record over this period of time, and with promotion to the DEL2 currently off-limits, Tilburg find themselves in a peculiar situation. Does a move to the British top-flight make sense?
Where is Tilburg?
Tilburg is located in south-west Netherlands, approximately 50 miles away from the port city of Rotterdam and just 19 miles from Eindhoven Airport. The city of Tilburg is the sixth most populous, with an estimated total of 214,000, in the country.
What does Tilburg have to offer EIHL fans, besides hockey?
Tilburg is the proud location of the self-declared weirdest zoo in Netherlands, which has everything from two-headed snakes to the loose skunk (hopefully not in the sense many relate to a skunk…). For fans of a museum you are almost spoilt for choice with art, textile and history focused attractions available. For sports buffs you will be pleased to know darts player Benito van de Pas hails from this part of the world. What a place you must surely be thinking…well it even has a house that rotates on a roundabout! If you don’t believe me check out the link below.
Is Tilburg a viable option for the vacant 12th spot?
Some of EIHL big wigs appeared to think so, well at least they did at the end of last season, especially when news broke about the Edinburgh Capitals not returning for the 2018/9 season. The Trappers are by far and away the best team in their conference, Oberliga Nord, and arguably the league. At the time of writing this Tilburg are sat 12 points clear of second place ESC Wohnbau Moskitos Essen, with league record of 19-1-4.
The IJssportcentrum Tilburg arena has a capacity of 2,500 and with average attendances north of 2,200, if this fellowship continued into the EIHL they would rank 6th overall above Dundee, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Fife, Guildford and Coventry. Obviously, the geographic location of Tilburg would add additional expense to all parties within the league. Yet, with established transport links between the UK and Netherlands, Tilburg remains a viable option, especially when you consider the long-term success of the Belfast Giants.
Are Tilburg good enough for the league?
The simple answer is nobody really knows, often pre-season games between DEL2 and EIHL outfits are closely contested and Tilburg appear to be running at that level, despite (currently) not being allowed to enter the league. They have an experienced coach at the helm in Bohuslav Subr, now into his fourth season with Tilburg, and the current roster has a couple of familiar faces to EIHL supporters. The former players will be listed below:
Nardo Nagtzaam (F), the Mercyhurst alumni and former Manchester Storm player has enjoyed life in the Oberliga with 100 points (24G 76A) in just 70 appearances. After a largely unimpressive 10 appearances in the EIHL, which saw him muster only one point, Nazgtzaam has split time between ESC Wohnbau Moskitos Essen and Tilburg Trappers.
Kevin Bruijsten (F), the well-traveled Dutch forward enjoyed life in the EIHL with Dundee Stars. In the 2016/7 season, Bruijsten was able to rack-up 54 points (23G 31A) in just 47 outings as he formed a formidable partnership with Vinny Scarscella and Justin Faryna.
The remaining Tilburg roster consists of mostly of Dutch players from youngster to internationals, with just two import players: Brock Montogomery and Ryan Collier. Perhaps something the EIHL could learn from in the long-run? Hypothetically a move to the Elite League would likely increase the number of import players they would use, but with two goaltenders, seven defencemen and twelve forwards currently signed to the roster (excluding the youth contracrs), Tilburg have more depth than the vast majority of the EIHL. If Tilburg want a fresh challenge the EIHL would make a lot of sense and who wouldn’t fancy a weekend trip to Tilburg…or Amsterdam.
Where else could the EIHL 12th spot land?
The more obvious choices available are within the British Isles, as Hull apparently floated the idea of a return to the top-league this off-season and the building of a new rink in Leeds has the potential for a rivalry in one of the UK’s biggest markets, Yorkshire. Murrayfield Racers, currently in the SNL, have not given up hopes of a spectacular return to the top-flight under the tutelage of hockey legend, Tony Hand. The viability of these locations will be assessed at a later date.
Feature image: Tilburg Trappers Official Website