This week on Question Time we introduce a regular ‘guest spot’ to the panel as a sixth panelist.
Every week, we will have a special guest sit in with the regular boys and answer the questions, and to chat Elite League Hockey. This week, I am delighted to welcome Cardiff Devils Co-Owner and General Manager Todd Kelman to the forum to share his thoughts and opinion.
It is the week that Devin Didiomete returns to the Elite League with the Manchester Storm, Coventry return from Poland losing by a single goal in the final game but with heads held high, 5 teams prepare for midweek fixtures, David Ling scores on his Nottingham return, Braehead get shut out in Fife, the Ryan Hayes Edinburgh Capitals ‘bandwagon’ continues its impressive run, and ‘OneDirectionGate’ comes to an end…we think….
The panel answering the questions this week, consists of…
Kelman, 40, born in Calgary, is the current GM (and co owner) of the Cardiff Devils. Arriving in the UK back in 1997 to join the Bracknell Bees, Todd quickly made his mark on British Ice Hockey. Following three succesful seasons in Bracknell, he joined the Belfast Giants where he went on to etch his name into the clubs history books. He quickly became a cult hero, and went on to play well over 300 games for the club, in the process becoming the all time leader in appearances for the club. Kelman announced his retirement from playing in 2007 (despite playing after this, covering for an injured team-mate) and took up the position of Giants General Manager for the following 7 seasons, before taking up the huge challenge of being a part owner, and GM of the Cardiff Devils in June 2014.
On accepting the new role Kelman was typically bullish regarding the Devils chances of winning silverware, telling reporters “I will be shocked if we don’t win the league within the next five years,” and with Cardiff currently riding high at the top of the Elite League, who would argue with him?
I asked our panel to give use one word to describe our special guest this week, this is what I got back. They can be a mischievous bunch!
David Simms “Funny”
Craig Summerton “Homeless”
Marc Lefebvre “Politician”
Seth Bennett “Smooth”
Neil Russell “Faaaaaabbbbbbuuuuulllouus”
Seth Bennett, is an award-winning freelance journalist and broadcaster. After working for Radio Sheffield for 12 years, Seth turned ‘freelance’ in 2011. Seth has commentated on a rich, variety of sports, and also worked at the London Olympic games for the BBC, and has appeared regularly on BBC 5 Live and the World Service. Seth is an avid sports fan, and as well as hockey, regularly enjoys, Football, Cricket and Rugby”
Marc LeFebvre is the head coach of the Dundee Stars.
As a player LeFebvre, played in North American, UK (Sheffield, Coventry and Edinburgh), France and Holland, playing well in excess of 500 professional games.In 2011 Marc took his first GM/Head Coaches position with the 1000 Island Privateers before moving on to the Dayton Demons where he won the League Coach of the Year award. In 2013 LeFebvre moved back to the UK, accepting an assistant coach’s job with the Sheffield Steelers this soon led to him accepting the Head Coach position in Coventry in 2014, which didn’t work out as well as he hoped. Marc accepted a short-term assistant coaching position in Eastern Europe (MOL Liga) before heading back to the Elite League and the Dundee Stars”
David Simms will not need an introduction to many of you. From Team Manager of the Solihull Barons, in the late 80s and very early 90s, David accepted the challenge to help set up the Sheffield Steelers in 1991, and has rarely looked back. Often a controversial figure, David is a speak it as you find it kind of guy, but whose knowledge of British Ice Hockey is second to none. As well as being the long time front man for Sky Sports Ice Hockey coverage, Dave also appeared in the BBC documentary “The Estate Agent” which captured him in his day-to-day professional life”
Neil Russell is the General Manager of the newly reformed Manchester Storm. Before landing the job with ‘The Storm’ Neil was the voice of the Belfast Giants for three seasons, commentating on the excellent “Giants Live TV” as well as also hosting and co-presenting Premier Sports excellent Hockey coverage for 3 years. Neil is a keen, and very gifted cricketer, and led the Northern Irish side Instonians to the league title last season”
Craig Summerton may be better known to some of you by his Twitter handle @block15blaze. Craig is the author of the very popular blog nothingbutgoodthings (nothingbutgoodthings.wordpress.com). A very respected authority and voice on British Ice Hockey, Craig is an avid Coventry Blaze fan since the clubs inception in 2000, and now travels regularly from London to watch the Blaze”
Stuck In the Box: Another week has passed us by, so lets kick off with the regular question, what do we know now, that we didn’t know last week?
Todd Kelman (TK) That Ryan Hayes (Edinburgh) is legit. The guy scored 4 against us (Devils) and won them the game. Players have scored 4 goals in games but it’s not usually against the first place team. So far this season he is the most dominating player in the league and one of the biggest reasons for their success. The other thing we didn’t really know was that this Edinburgh team is going to cause havoc this year. They are going to beat every team in the league at some point and their style of play is efficient and exciting.
Seth Bennett (SB) Fife are better than they have shown so far with a four point weekend.
Craig Summerton (CS) That our GB coach is self-interested meaning the Blaze/MK two-way deal is as pointless as all those previous. That certain teams will go out of their way to undermine DOPS and that Sheffield will never miss a PR opportunity!
Marc LeFebvre (ML) That One Direction has more say within the league than Simmsey does.
David Simms (DS) Very funny Marc. What have we learned? Nothing at all, we already knew that Edinburgh could win games, that Fife can beat anyone at home, that Manchester are close but just not quite there and that Coventry could throw a great opportunity away, therefore we learned nothing new this past week.
Neil Russell (NR) That David Ling can still play!
Stuck In the Box: Big current signing news in the EIHL is Devin DiDiomete returning to Elite League with Manchester. The Storm are his 17th club, since 2011/12, surely this isn’t a good sign?
CS Suspensions from various leagues and teams he’s been on, drama follows this guy around. Recently released by HC Banska Bystrica of Slovakia following an overly aggressive on ice incident, 7 games, 0 points, 54 PIMS. He though brings the Storm something different. Where he has settled for example in Italy 2013/14 and last year in Idaho the reports of his performances have been good.
DS Manchester aren’t in the market for big money, high-end marquee signings, that will come down the line. They needed a presence – they need some emotion and size and Deeds brings them that. I think it’s a pretty good signing for them. I just hope that the club and the fans think they signed the messiah, they haven’t, they’ve signed a decent player and a good bloke.
Devin Didiomete, back in the Elite League, with his third club, the Manchester Storm. Neil Russell tells us “There won’t be a dull moment with him around”
TK I can’t comment much more on him except of what I know from watching him play and he is exciting to watch and you notice him every time he is on the ice. I know the fans loved him when he was in Cardiff and I am sure they will in Manchester.
ML Obviously Neil and Omar believe he will make them a better team just like when any team brings a player in during the season. As for the number of clubs he’s played on, maybe he’s just a big fan of collecting jerseys.
SB I think Marc is pretty much right. On paper it looks like he is a player who struggles to make it stick. On the other hand he needs to find a home and Manchester is crying out for a player with attitude and a bit of brashness. It is a City where everyone walks with a swagger. So far this season the Storm haven’t done that, if Deeds can give them a bit of that then he will be a hit.
NR Listen guys, Deeds has moved around the past few years, often up and down from the AHL-ECHL, but having spoken at length to him over the past couple of weeks, he is very keen to come in here to Manchester and settle for the season. He will provide a spark for this Storm team, he’ll back down to nobody, AND, the thing that people often forget too, is that he can play. Deeds is motivated to come here & get back to the EIHL, one thing’s for sure, there will never be a dull minute with him around!
Stuck In the Box: Cardiff lead the way in the Elite League but suffered a heavy defeat in Edinburgh on Saturday night, it’s a cliché, but does this prove how tough the league is now becoming?
SB Yes and no, last season there were no guaranteed away wins, this year though it seems some of the smaller budget teams have recruited players who make them competitive on home and away ice.
NR No question. You hear coaches year in year out saying “you can’t afford to take a night off in this league”, well, this season, that is a FACT.
ML You can’t take any nights off anymore and in actuality no one wants an easy night. Every club has done a good job with their recruiting this season and the parity makes the league exciting night in and night out.
DS It’s getting boring saying it every week Rob – so can we stop? We all know that any team can beat any team on any night – last week just reiterated that once again.
CS The weekend as a whole proved the better parity of the league. I’d say the biggest factor this season is that every team has a handful of players who on their night can be difference makers, whether it be a star forward or two or a goalie who can be lights out.
TK Definitely. Edinburgh are a good team and Ryan Hayes is proving to be the best scorer in the league right now. He buried us – scored 4 goals against us and their netminder Carson Chubak played great as well. Edinburgh’s coach Riley Emerson has them playing exciting hockey and he deserves all the credit. He has recruited well and made the most out of a budget that is smaller than most of the teams have to work with. I think fans need to be aware that Edinburgh coming into their rink is going to be an exciting brand of hockey and a competitive game. I think the early days of the EIHL when teams were beating Edinburgh every weekend hurt everyone’s home crowds against them and it is hard to shake that stigma even years later. Fans need to get out and see this team play, at home and away – they are very good and exciting to watch.
Ryan Hayes has caught the imagination of the Edinburgh Capitals faithful and guest panelist Todd Kelman is certainly a fan.
Stuck in the Box: I asked the question last week about David Ling, to a mixed response from you guys, 1+1 from his first game, I guess the jury is still out?
DS Not with me it isn’t. He is a good player, I don’t think we will see the same Ling as we did before but we will see a good player that on any night can hurt you.
ML He’s definitely skilled and gives Nottingham another weapon up front. He’s another player that makes the league better and exciting overall.
SB He still has the capability to win you a game, the question for me is can he play at a higher level every night to be that impact player. No shock to me he scored on his return.
TK David Ling is 40 years old and probably hadn’t skated much prior to joining the Panthers this season. But, he is a point scoring machine so I would say he will be just fine, and his style of game has always relied on his hockey sense and play making ability, which you don’t lose as you get older. You slow down but speed was never his game, it was making that perfect pass and controlling the play, which he can still do. He is a great player, one of the best to ever play in the EIHL and will be great for them this season, it might just take a couple of games to get back on form.
NR Said it last week and I will say it again, David Ling is one of the best imports I’ve ever seen across here. I expect him to do well for the Panthers. Class is permanent.
CS A good contribution in a 7-1 game, what I will say is that he’s been given every opportunity to make a big impact playing with Bohmbach and Schultz who I think are excellent.
Stuck in the Box: With the likes of Ling, Ashley Tait, Walser in Belfast, Jackman up in Braehead, all going strong this season, I guess it shows that if you look after your body and work hard, you can still do your bit in the Elite League despite your age?
DS Modern days sportsmen all look after themselves, I guess in future the players will play longer than they used to. Take this the right way, but it’s an inditement to a lot of the younger players that they don’t take a leaf out of Tait’s book – he shouldn’t be the Blaze’s best British player at his age. Why hasn’t some young pup come and knocked him off his perch? Good on Ash for sticking around and fighting them off, the young guns could and should learn a lot from Ash.
ML Age is just a number. These guys obviously love the game and put the time in to keep playing and make a good contribution at this level.
TK With the exception of Tait, the other three you mentioned have all come to this league later in their career and without ripping on our own league, the EIHL is a lower standard than where they have been playing most of their careers. If you want to play into your late 30s these days, you need to be take care of yourself and the majority of hockey players these days are eating better and working out more than they did a decade ago. These guys know that in order to keep playing they have to ensure they keep in great shape and eat right.
NR Ashley Tait is an incredible role model for all young Brits looking to make their way in the game. The consummate pro, on and off the ice. Haven’t seen enough of Jackman as yet, but Walser is a treat to watch. Top professionals the lot of them.
“But he shouldn’t be Blaze’s best Brit” argues David Simms
CS The brain, knowhow, stick handling ability etc isn’t necessarily what slows down, it’s the legs and so whilst the EIHL is of a good standard, I would suggest the general skating ability is not as high as in some other league’s around North America and Europe hence why in part older players are still able to be top end players in the EIHL.
SB All of those guys love playing the game and that has been the main thing. I looked at Gord Baldwin last year in Sheffield and he looked like he had fallen out of love with it. It is a great game and if you don’t still love it then walk away.
Stuck in the Box: Coventry bowed out of the Continental Cup after giving up a 2-0 lead, they went down 3-2 to hosts Tychy. They did the Elite League proud with their performance didn’t they?
TK Awkward question because you’re a fan of the Blaze Rob! My opinion is they should have won that qualifying group and I think they will be disappointed that they didn’t advance. There was only one real team that was going to be any competition for them, which was Tychy and I am sure they thought they could beat them.
DS No, they screwed up – they should have sailed through that group. We have all been away and bitched and moaned about refereeing in those events, we have all witnessed it before – but in much tougher groups. By not making it the Blaze will have done themselves a huge favour domestically. They won’t have lost two more weekend dates, they won’t have such a fixture congestion and won’t have to overplay their players – losing wasn’t the worst thing to happen to them, saying that I said last week they should walk home if they lost, and they should have done.
ML I wasn’t paying much attention but it seems they gave a good account of themselves but I think it’s disappointing not to see a team from our league not advance beyond that stage
NR Personally, I think the Blaze will be disappointed they didn’t progress from the group they were in.
CS Yes I agree with the guys, Blaze should have progressed. They are better than Tychy but the hosts benefited from a hostile home support and many would argue a questionable refereeing performance. Blaze will no doubt look back and rue in discipline, particularly in regards the numerous misconduct penalties but without wanting to use it as an excuse, the tens were seemingly given out far more readily to those in blue than their opponents. The Blaze players gave it their all and as a fan I was delighted with the compete level, some though who are paid to be difference makers in big games failed to get it done offensively. Once Tychy got back into the game, momentum was all theirs, the misconduct’s caught up with Coventry and the hosts greater depth paid dividends.
Craig Summerton tells the guys, Tychy were spurred on by their “hostile home support” against Coventry on Sunday night. Blaze went down 3-2 after taking a 2-0 lead.
SB I thought they should have gone through, although there were reasons beyond the teams control in the final game. Can we say any more than that?
Stuck in the Box: There have been relatively few comings and goings in the Elite League so far, Manchester and the Blaze have made a couple of changes, do you expect to say many more changes in the next few weeks?
CS Blaze need more work. Fife’s struggles aren’t behind them despite a good weekend. Braehead aren’t where they need to be. Are their question marks over the goalie in Sheffield? I think so. They too have injuries. Belfast need a body on D, Panthers too probably need to strengthen in that area so yes I anticipate plenty of movement in the coming weeks.
ML I think every team is looking to upgrade in different areas but won’t make a move for the sake of making one. There’s a lot of variables that come into play when wanting to make a move like housing, flights, visas, ITC’s, etc..
NR Yup, I expect to see a few changes across the league. Every coach & GM are always on the hunt to try & improve their hockey club, budgets permitting.
SB Yes injuries and the pressure is beginning to take it’s toll on all the teams in the league and I have no doubts that there will be a fair few changes in the coming weeks. I am still looking at Braehead to see what Ryan Finnerty is going to do.
TK Over the next few weeks, there are going to be teams that settle into positions in the standings that they are not happy with and when that happens you will start to see changes. I would keep an eye on Coventry, Braehead and Manchester to make some changes.
DS A couple but nothing drastic, there will be changes before deadline date though for most if not all clubs.
Stuck in the Box: I always finish, with a stick your neck out question. This week is no different. Who is your favourite all time Elite League player, and why?
TK Dan Carlson (Coventry Blaze) – I thought he was awesome for the Blaze and a huge part of the championship teams he played on. He played with an edge, but was so skilled. I would have loved to have him on my team.
CS Adam Calder (Coventry Blaze). I like players who when they are on the ice you expect something to happen. It wasn’t just the amount of goals he scored but also when he scored them. Never has there been a better clutch scorer in the EIHL. Not only was he dynamite offensively but also ultra competitive, played with an edge, killed penalties, captained the team. Quite simply, he was a winner.
ML Mike Peron (Sheffield Steelers). I was fortunate enough to play with him for 2 seasons in Sheffield and win two trophies together. He was a pit bull on the ice and always put his body on the line. He was an incredible teammate and we still get together every summer to catch up.
DS The past David Longstaff (Newcastle Vipers) – just loved the way he played and him at his best was the best there was in the homegrown department. The present, I love Robert Dowd (Sheffield Steelers), he excites me and hockey players should excite you when they get on the puck.
NR Paxton Schulte (Belfast Giants). A man who “got it” right from the get go in Belfast. He knew his role, and did it night in, night out for the Giants. Even now in Belfast, if you talk about the Giants to someone who has never been to a game before, the one name/comment they come back with is, “Is that guy Paxton Schulte still playing there”? The total package, the ultimate franchise player. And there’s now one man rivalling him for that title, and it’s Adam Keefe (Belfast Giants). Every coach in this league would have him. Energy. Passion. Tough. Commitment. Team first. HEARTBEAT.
SB If I could sign anyone today it would be Dion Darling (Sheffield Steelers, Nottingham Panthers and Cardiff Devils), a big tough stay at home defenceman that just doesn’t exist in today’s game. He is a huge character and a born winner. I would love to see him snarling again in another Nottingham v Sheffield game.
ML Yeah thats a good shout Seth, Dion was the best captain I ever played for, no doubt about that.
SB The Daddy!
DS The Daddy indeed Seth, your quite right. Dion was a warrior, a leader. He was so miserable though. So miserable he made Scott Allison look like a stand up comedian. He hated losing. Loved winning. He loved his team mates, but hated those who didnt give their all. He caused an argument in a phone box, one of those types of guys. Some loved him. Some hated him. I loved him. He would be on my all time Steelers side every day of the week and twice on a Sunday.
Dion Darling is Seth Bennett’s pick as his favourite ever EIHL player, and its fair to say ‘Simmsey’ likes that choice! Darling boasted 196 EIHL regulation season games, 26 goals, 65 assists and 368 penalty minutes.
Who would you have picked, Tweet us using #EIHLQT
So, that bring us to the end of this weeks Question Time, thanks to the boys for their time again this week and big thanks to Todd Kelman for being the first special guest on QT!
If you wish to comment on QT on Twitter, please use #EIHLQT
Don’t forget, If you would like to be considered in future monthly editions just let me know, or if you ever want to put a question in for consideration, just DM @DRPLogistics
As usual, hope you enjoyed this edition of QT, and good luck to your teams, whoever you’re playing this weekend.
Goodbye for now
Rob, and the boys!