The Bristol Pitbulls are pleased to announce an official affiliation with the Bespoke Guardians Swindon Wildcats, where Bristol will support a development route into the NIHL National League.
The Swindon Wildcats have played in the second tier of British ice hockey every year since 2005, winning the league title in 2019 and doing the Autumn and National Cup double in 2017-18. Recognised as one of the best player development set-ups in the country, seven of the 28 players in this year’s Great Britain World Championship squad played for Swindon at some point in their careers.
The affiliation places Bristol into that player development set-up, with their NIHL1 team acting as a bridge between the junior and lower leagues and the Wildcats NIHL National squad. Given the quality of Swindon’s alumni, Bristol Director of Hockey, Jamie Elson, was understandably excited to have the Bristol Pitbulls be involved in their set-up.
Elson said: “We are thrilled to be linking up with Aaron and the Wildcats. We’re excited by the opportunities it provides us as we build our new Division 1 team, as well as the opportunities it gives local junior players from the region.
“There is a strong line of talented junior players who have recently graduated from the OHA and Swindon Ice Hockey Academy set-ups, with more still coming through the programmes. I’ve been privileged over the last three years to have worked at OHA and see many of these players first hand and know the potential these players have.
“This link up helps provide more opportunities for these players to play and develop at multiple levels that should challenge them on a weekly basis as they have the chance to move up and down between NIHL2, NIHL1 and National level all within our partnership. It will mean a massive increase in playing and training time also for these players and will be a great environment to be in as they look to progress and make a mark on senior hockey.
“We can’t wait to see several of these guys line up as Bristol Pitbull’s when the season gets underway.”
Aaron Nell, Head Coach of the Swindon Wildcats said: “We want to provide the correct path for some of the young players in Swindon who may not be fully ready for National Level hockey at the moment. This link up with Bristol will allow them to play game situations with Bristol whilst continuing to being part of the Swindon setup as well.
“From speaking to Jamie, we want to create that pathway for young players in this country and we feel this collaboration will give the players of tomorrow the best pathway moving forward. I’m excited to work with Jamie and hopefully this can be the start of a long relationship with the Pitbulls.”