Just five teams will take part in this winter’s national Dutch ice hockey competition, including one from Belgium.
Without a last minute sponsor deal, this would have been the first year since 1964 that there was no professional ice hockey competition in the Netherlands, broadcaster Nos said on Monday.
Teams from Geleen, Tilburg, Eindhoven, Heerenveen and Herentals in Belgium will now take part in the national competition, which starts next weekend.
In the 2011/12 season there were nine clubs in the top-flight competition, but this had already fallen to seven last season. The Hague and Dordrecht were the last clubs to drop out of the professional league.
Geleen-based Laco Eaters went bankrupt last year but managed to find two new sponsors for a restart. ‘We were all wondering if it was worth continuing with so few teams,’ chairman Emile Frieser told the broadcaster.
The demise of top-level ice hockey in the Netherlands is remarkable, Nos says. At the 1980s Olympics, the Netherlands was ninth out of 12 competing countries and was an A ranked team with hundreds of thousands of television viewers.
Now the Dutch are a middle level B team and the national competition is in danger of collapse, the broadcaster said.
While the economic crisis has played a role, the lack of sponsorship has had a serious impact and sponsors are concerned about the lack of exposure, Geleen team manager Peter Knops said.
‘Their names used to be on television and in the papers, but the lack of success for the national team has had impact on this,’ Knops said.
The surviving clubs are now trying to breath new life into the sport in the Netherlands and develop a long-term vision. Loco Eaters, for example, has set up a new business and networking club for sponsors.
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