Week Commencing: 9th November

lt’s certainly been a strange week so far at Question Time Towers. 

First the special guest we had lined up had to bail out, then the 1-2-1 with Marc LeFebvre was pulled at the last minute.  So its back to the normal guys I am afraid!

We hope you enjoy tonight’s edition, some interesting points of view tonight, that’s for sure.

It’s the week that the Elite League announce that Belfast will pay Steelers fans £100 compensation following the late fixture postponement, Blaze get shut out for the 5th this time to Ryan Finnerty’s Braehead, Edinburgh with their 6th home game in succession this time dismantling Sheffield, DOPS suspend David Ling for one game, Cardiff’s player coach is named league player of the week and Belfast led the league by a point over Nottingham Panthers…

The panel answering the questions this week, consists of…

Seth2

Seth Bennett, is an award-winning freelance journalist and broadcaster, and has recently taken on the role of Media Consultant to the EIHL.  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”

marc4Marc 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 ).  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 BoxTony Smith seemingly walked straight out of the EIHL Boardroom meeting and straight on to the phone to the local Sheffield newspaper to complain about his club not getting 2 points from the One Direction Fiasco. That was a daft thing to do wasn’t it?

Seth Bennett (SB)  Tony is a passionate man and he is obviously upset by what happened. It is also important to point out though that the Elite League is a democracy and despite what some will have you believe, the Board made a decision and Sheffield have accepted it. Forfeiting the game was one of several avenues open to the League as they try to make sure this doesn’t happen again in the future.

David Simms (DS)  I don’t think it was like that at all Rob. People are criticising Tony without knowing the full facts. Against great opposition from many sides Tony and the Steelers won their fans the very minimum compensation that their fans deserved. To get that he had to ask for things he and the club knew they would never get. It’s called negotiations. The papers and the press have followed this story from Day 1. Maybe asking for 2 points got the fans the £100 – ever thought of that.

Marc LeFebvre (ML)   Are we sure it was Tony and not the 50/50 seller whose a member of this panel?  Either way if the details of the “case” were not to be made public then whoever spoke to Bob Westerdale should be fined. Players and coaches are held accountable for their actions and so should anyone else involved in the league. 

Smith

This week Tony Smith has been nicknamed “2 point Tony” our panelists have their say…

Neil Russell (NR)  Firstly, Tony is a good man, who cares passionately about our great sport. Anyone that tries to tell you differently, don’t listen to them, because they’re wrong. Tony is obviously upset at not getting the full extent of what he believes the Sheffield Steelers and their fans deserve from this, however as a business man I’m sure Tony is well aware of the business decisions that affected Belfast’s actions. Should he be saying what he said to Bob Westerdale et al? That’s Tony’s prerogative how he employs the press of his own club, personally if it had been the Storm I’d have done my best for the fans and kept my council on my opinions of the outcome. At the end of the day we all have to work together in the EIHL for the good of the sport and the good of the fans. Also, social media exacerbates things, that’s for sure. I saw a lot of negative reaction last night to the article, but I suppose if you’re willing to speak to the press about certain matters, then you’ve got to have the broad shoulders to take any flack you receive back.

Craig Summerton (CS)  I have a lot of respect for Tony Smith personally. He isn’t afraid to make a big decision, he owns and runs a successful club who strive to be the best they can be every day. Yes there are faults though and this is one of them. As per when Adams was fired, far too much gets said and reported in the media. Notice though that the article you refer to did not contain any direct quotes from Smith in regards the request for Belfast to forfeit the game. Was it Smith who fed the information to the Star or someone else? Whoever it was, I find it crazy that such detail which is bound to cause a social media storm has been leaked to Bob Westerdale to put a spin on in a local paper. It hasn’t done anything to help the image of Sheffield or the league at all. Some things debated at board level should remain confidential. This was one of them.

 

Stuck In the Box: Was £100 per fan plus the other bits and pieces, sufficient compensation for the Steeler’s fans?

DS  I think the minimum yes. There is more to this than a few quid, a ticket and a free piece of pizza though. The league has rules that were broken, the rule that a club has to seek and gain Board approval before cancelling a game within 4 weeks notice. That rule was broken. What we had here was club owners, not a third part like it would be at your building Rob, or ours in Sheffield, club owners cancelling a game for financial gain. I think the league as well as and should have been compensated. So the fans should be pleased but I think the league was let down.

CS  Yes absolutely and I credit the Steelers here. The game wasn’t postponed due to a faulty ice plant, a broken bus or an arena kicking out a club per se. The sole argument from Sheffield as I’m sure David will outline again is that this was a decision made by the owners of the Giants. Anyone asking why X team of the past didn’t receive compensation should recognise that point. I think everybody outside of Sheffield agree that it was a sensible business decision but equally Steelers were right to be bullish about it. The spat didn’t need be played out so much in public but why shouldn’t Sheffield fight for compensation for themselves and their fans given that the Giants had a choice and chose the financially beneficial option to them? Belfast don’t freely offer out £100 to each of the Sheffield fans who travelled. Steelers fought for that and I’m sure the fans picking up the compensation will be thanking the club, thinking they have their back. I find some of the criticism crazy. The majority of other clubs would have just rolled over and taken it. Well done Sheffield I say.

ML  I think £100 is fair. I’m surprised they received anything so I’ll give credit to the Giants and the SSE for stepping up to try to make things right in some form. 

SB   I don’t think i have ever been to Belfast for less than £150 with hotels, flights, transfers etc. That said, if I had paid to go, and I received that now, I think I would probably be quite happy with it.

NR  More than enough. No doubt the Steelers fans who travelled were put out by the unfortunate position they were left in. But from my perspective the Belfast Giants did their very best in a bad situation to mitigate for that. It’s not just a case of “free burgers” and the likes, the free entry and £100 compensation on the travel is certainly fair recompense. Speaking to a few of the Steelers fans who I know well, and who travelled to Belfast for the double-header, they were looked after very well by the Giants and indeed by numerous sponsors too from around the city. Would every other club have gone to the lengths Belfast did, and in such a short space of time, for away fans? Possibly, but I’m really not sure they would.

Stuck In the Box:  I pulled a few strings, and now QT’s own regular panelist Seth Bennett joined the league officially as its Media Consultant, what would you say should be his number 1 priority.

SB  My number 1 priority is to work with the 10 clubs to improve the content on the league website and then share that with the wider media world. In short it is about giving the Elite League and more proactive feel with how it does things on the media front. Some of those battles are easier than others. 

NR  Firstly, I think having Seth on board is superb. Him & Elly will work very well together. He’s a bright guy, who knows his hockey & understands the content that fans want to see. Seth has in roads to many large media outlets. He has the contacts, his job will be to drive good content to these outlets regularly and to drive more prominent exposure for our great sport. Also, I think Seth is already producing superb content, for example, Todd Kelman speaking post our recent EIHL Board Meeting on Tuesday. Fans love that content. Seth will get around every club and try to aid them in promoting their team to local media outlets. A shrewd appointment all round.

CS  Sort the website out. It’s a disaster.

DS   Visibility. Making more information on the web site is nice and good and already we have seen that. Top job, however making us visible in areas we aren’t at present. Breaking int area’s we aren’t at like Sky Sports news, Like the BBC Website. Helping clubs with assistance, advice on how they can feed their local media better, getting their highlights on news programmes. The job is never-ending. I wouldn’t want him spending all day typing web articles though, that isn’t his job. More to develop the sport in the media.

ML  I believe the main priority should be to try to get one game on national television each week to showcase our league. It’s great that Premier shows a game every few weeks or so but we should be striving to be on TV on a weekly basis.

Seth BennettBeing on the QT Panel is certainly a lead into the big time!  Regular panelist Seth Bennett is the new EIHL Media Consultant…

Stuck in the Box:  Edinburgh announced a crowd of just 633 for their game with Sheffield and it was a real humdinger. That man Hayes again with 2+3, with the side they have this season and their style of hockey the barn should be packed shouldn’t it? What are they doing wrong?

ML   You would have to ask Scotty Neil. I don’t know what their budget is in terms of advertising and marketing but I think he would be first to admit that they would love to have more fans in Murrayfield each week. 

NR  I’ve said it nearly every week since starting Question Time. Edinburgh are a very good team to watch. That’s a club long in existence, with a strong tradition of hockey. Should there be more in there watching their product? 100% there should. What local community programmes do Caps runs to engage the community? I don’t know the answer to that, but 100% the key to bums on seats is engaging potential fans, getting them in the door, and ensuring that the on AND off ice product is good, to help flick that switch that we all got at one stage to make us hockey fanatics. Do Manchester have the best rink in the league? NO! Do we provide an “on ice” product that is good, and an off ice match night product that in my opinion is already up there with the best in the league? 100% yes. All very important factors in driving bums on seats.

SB  Right now Edinburgh is the good news story of the league. It is vital the Capitals organisation get out into the community and scream from the rooftops that this is not like any other year. 

DS  Keeping the ‘Caps’ a secret in Edinburgh. We just talked about Seth and visibility. I know Seth will try to help Scottie on this but then when he moves onto his next project there has to be man power there to continue the work.

CS  Riley Emmerson has done a fabulous job with the on-ice product. However I don’t think the club work anywhere near hard enough off the ice to bring in the crowds which that team deserve. And they aren’t the only club.

Stuck in the Box:  New Steelers netminder Marek Pinc shipped 6 goals in 22 shots on Sunday, and 2 in 22 on Saturday – a tough start for the new guy?

DS  Too right it was. We will find out more about Marek this weekend I guess with Braehead and Nottingham the opponents. Hard for any player to come in when they haven’t played a lot, especially a goalie.

ML  I can only speak from the game we played them on Saturday. The two goals we scored we’re not on his shoulders. He made the saves he needed to make. I think every player has an adjustment period especially if they have never played in the league before and he’s going through that right now. 

NR   He comes in with a good rep, but those aren’t great stats to start off with, that’s for sure. He’ll undoubtedly improve as he gets settled, and comfortable with his surroundings. 

PincA tough induction to the Elite League for Marek Pinc, but Craig Summerton tells us, “He’ll be fine”

CS  He’s of course going to take time to settle but he’s been around the block. He’ll be fine. Without having seen either game reports suggest he was left out to dry somewhat by those in front trying to force plays leading to a host of breakaway and 2-on-1’s. I’m sure Sheffield’s players will have learn’t some valuable lessons in recent weeks. Twice bitten now by Riley’s Caps.

SB  I didn’t see either game live at the weekend so tough to comment. Everything I have heard about him is very good and that he should transition to the league. What I will say is it highlights that as a unit, both forwards and defence, there are still issues defensively with the Steelers. 8 goals conceded on the weekend will see that bald patch on the top of Paul Thompson’s head getting bigger by the week.

Stuck in the Box: Its going to be a cracker in Andrew Lords ‘big blue tent’ on Saturday night, with the Devils taking on high-flying Belfast – who wins this one?

CS  Cardiff because that’s what they do at home. In the ‘BBT’ you need your goalie to be the best player on the ice and I don’t think Murphy has been anywhere near his past levels this season and I don’t expect him to be able to suddenly turn it on and carry them to victory on Saturday either.

ML  I see Cardiff keeping their home record in tact but it won’t be easy. I see the game going to overtime. Total guess: 5-4 score line 

NR  Heart says Belfast, head says Cardiff. The Devils are so deep now. They never take a shift off. They are crazy good in their building, and no matter what any player tells you, no away team fancies going in there. You always know you’re going to be in a 60 minute battle from the get go. Can Belfast beat the Devils? Of course. Belfast are deep too, and have many exceptional players at their disposal too.

DS  Cardiff. Didn’t you see those stats from Jonathan Fernley, which I think were the most interesting stats in an age to come out about home win records. 78% this season compared to 62, 62 and 61% in the last three years. The Devils have the biggest advantage playing in our league playing 50% of their games in that building. I take them to win again. We are all interested to see what happens when they move mid-season.

DerrickBelfast Giants Coach and D Man Derrick Walser takes his side into the Big Blue Tent on Saturday night.  David Simms expects them to leave empty-handed

SB  Hard to bet against Cardiff on home ice. Belfast have found ways to win though and are dangerous. I am going Devils in overtime. 

Stuck in the Box:  And on Sunday, Coventry get the chance to get revenge for their 6-0 drubbing in Glasgow last weekend, when Braehead come to town. They were lucky to get ‘nil’ on Saturday, It’s surely time for Chuck Weber’s men to stand up and be counted?

CS  For the first time this past weekend we saw Weber ‘call out’ his players publicly. There are a number of players in Coventry who have spent the past few years basically doing what they want. Question the recruitment all you want but Blaze have what they have. There’s no more room for complaining or finger-pointing. Chuck Weber is rightfully the Blaze’s guy. He knows what it takes to win. He’s proved that. He doesn’t need to change or be flexible. It’s time for guys to either buy in or find employment elsewhere.

NR  You would think so, yes. I’m sure Chuck & the players are feeling the pressure, but those situations need managed properly too. If you come down on the players too hard, sticks get gripped that bit harder & there’s a tension in the room. Same for every team/player that is going through a bad trot. Happens us all.

SB  There are so many questions at the moment as to Coventry. A third of the way through the season I think the one thing that we can all see is that the recruitment in the summer was not right. Too many similar players, a lack of cutting edge, a lack of disciplined players in the Stevie G {Goertzen} mould and a great goalie who hasn’t hit play-off form. It feels like the Blaze is a team in need over major emergency surgery, I don’t see Braehead losing I am afraid. 

ML  Obviously they are not off to the start they wanted to have and are looking to get off the mat sooner rather than later. In saying that, the league is a marathon and not a sprint and a good run over a few weekends can change any teams fortunes. 

DS  No, that time was several weeks ago.

Stuck in the Box:  Neck on the line time please. The greatest EIHL netminder of all time please, and why

NR  Craig Kowalski. Stole games night in, night out for Nottingham, and often when they’d no right to be even close!! An absolute stud.

ML  Christian Bronsard. 7 shutouts in 23 games after we brought him in from Russia in January that season. .941 and .958 save % in the regular season and playoffs respectively. I don’t know if we win 2 trophies that season without him. He was a true pro on and off the ice. 

DS   Kowalski or Lehman. Of course I go with Lehman, why because he was a winner, a driver of men. On his day Kowalski was spectacular but was he that driven winner that Jody was? He was great in Sheffield but I think he was even better in Coventry before that. To be considered great you have to win, he won them all and won them all repeatedly. Jody Lehman.

CS  Easy. Trevor Koenig. The definition of consistency whether it be a cup final, a league defining game or a cold Wednesday night in Edinburgh. Led Newcastle Vipers to the playoff title in their first season. Then went on to win the EIHL championship back-to-back with Coventry, the only netminder to ever manage it, adding a Challenge Cup too. To this day I say he’d have won a Grand slam with Blaze in 2006/07 had he not been rushed home to the bed side of his seriously sick Father the week running up the playoff finals weekend.

SB  Jody Lehman – winner, winner, winner. 

CKCraig Kowalski is Neil Russell’s choice as the best ever Elite League netminder.

So, that bring us to the end of this weeks Question Time, thanks to the boys for their time again this week.

If you wish to comment on QT on Twitter, please use #EIHLQT

Also 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!

QT

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