This week, Question Time sees the return of Cardiff Devils GM Todd Kelman to the panel.
It is the week Premier Sports announce a new weekly British Ice Hockey show, Coventry Blaze are shut out again against a very impressive Panthers side, but bounce back the next night beating Braehead at home who shock the EIHL by leaving Chris Holt on the sidelines, Dundee claim a 4 point weekend including a shoot out victory in Belfast, Cardiff also take 4 points easily enough, whilst the game of the season thus far comes in Glasgow with the Steelers winning in shots 9-8 over the Clan after the Glasgow club see a third period 8-5 lead slip through their fingers, or to be more precise, catcher…
The panel answering the questions this week, consists of…
Todd Kelman is this weeks ‘guest’ panelist.
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, Kelman 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.
Todd 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?
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 well 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: Ryan Finnerty made a massive call playing his back up net minder Gary Russell in Coventry on Sunday evening. A decision described by a Blaze official to me as something “he couldn’t have made in a home game, that’s for sure”
Did Ryan do the right thing, it arguably cost his side at least a point?
Todd Kelman (TK) Wow – that is a leading question…
RP Thats just my job Todd!
TK – I am not in Ryan’s shoes and I don’t know what message he wanted to send to the team or the starter. Did he need a response from his team to tighten up in front of the net minder? Was he looking to light a fire under his starter and let him know that everyone’s job is on the line if they don’t perform. No clue – but ‘Finner’ knows what he is doing so the only answer to this question that matters is his.
Seth Bennett (SB) Sometimes coaches need to make statements and not playing Holt was a statement and probably served as a wake up call to the rest of the team. In this league you are limited to the way you can send a message and good on Ryan for sticking to his guns and saying sorry but that was not good enough. Also a back up goalie should not be on the team, just to open the gate.
Craig Summerton (CS) No he screwed up. The “KHL All-Star” hasn’t been great this season so far but he’s been far from terrible. Keen to bounce back from a poor performance on Saturday I’d 100% have started him. After all he has shut out Coventry twice this season already. That decision gave Blaze impetus to go far more direct, something which they haven’t done recently and it brought success. To his credit Holt didn’t sulk, his body language on the bench was positive but let’s not pretend that he was happy with the decision. Something isn’t quite right there between goalie and coach.
Marc LeFebvre (ML) Every coach looks for a way to spark their team in one way or another, whether it’s to get them playing better or send a message to certain individuals. Ryan made a gutsy a call to play his backup Sunday. I think it shows the confidence had in him in starting him. If they had won he would have looked like a genius. Unfortunately, it didn’t end up that way.
Braehead Clan Netminder and former KHL all star, Chris Holt, was controversially rested / left out / dropped for the Blaze fixture on Sunday
Craig Summerton “Ryan screwed up”
David Simms “Ryan was 100% right”
So, a good way to start this weeks Question Time!
David Simms (DS) Ryan was 100% right. How could you not drop him after not only Saturday but other recent performances. This is a guy who is paid to be the Clan’s best player. He hasn’t been half way up their rankings all year. Yes it cost the Clan in the short term but just plying Holt game after game would cost the Clan more in the long run. Holt will either now up his game or if he doesn’t Clan ownership will realise they made a summer mistake not backing Finnerty in wanting to bring Jones back.
Neil Russell (NR) I love ‘Finner’. Loved (in a love hate way) him as a player. Love his passion. Love his honesty. ‘Finner’ was sending out a message to Holt, that for his resume, his performance on Saturday night wasn’t good enough. But in answer to the question, personally, I wouldn’t have done it. We all know why he did it, but was it a risk worth taking? Not sure. (Hindsight is great, isn’t it?!)
Stuck In the Box: Sheffield have seemingly have reached crisis point in the net. Plante remains out of contention, Pinc probably always a risk, and hasn’t quite worked so far, and Brad Day as good a backup as he is, isn’t the answer at the moment? Who will start Wednesday against Cardiff?
CS In contrast to Finnerty, Thompson made the right call going with Day. His goalie hadn’t just had one bad night on Saturday, the only guy to give Sheffield any goaltending for the past couple of months is Brad Day. He deserved his shot. I’m surprised the Steelers players didn’t rally a little more round him. But, it didn’t work and Thompson now has to go back to Pinc who was seemingly strong in relief of Day on Sunday night.
DS Marek Pinc will start, and on Saturday in Cardiff and on Sunday at home to Braehead.
Sheffield Steelers Head Coach Paul Thompson faces a netminding dilema tonight against the inform Cardiff Devils.
TK Sheffield have reached crisis point? No they haven’t. They had a rough weekend, which at some point every team will have. I don’t know or care who they start. They beat us in Sheffield with Brad Day playing the majority of the game earlier this season, so we aren’t focusing on who is in net, they are a very good team coached by a very good coach, so we have to beat that team not one player.
ML For me personally, I would go with Pinc. Everyone goes through an adjustment period when they come in during the season and I’m sure he will be looking for an opportunity to show that he is capable of doing the job. In saying that, if he does start, I’m sure he will be on a short leash.
SB Sheffield’s issue on Sunday I don’t think was goaltending, it was more to do with the fact they didn’t play well enough through two periods. I fully expect Pinc to start on Wednesday.
NR Pinc. Without doubt.
Stuck In the Box: Nottingham lead the Elite League, I watched them closely on Saturday night in their dismantling of Coventry, and there are not many weak points in that side Corey has put together. Do you see one?
SB Corey isn’t happy with the PP, he feels it isn’t delivering as much it could. If I was developing a strategy to beat them, it would be to be very physical and very aggressive on the forecheck. They have a good backend, but I think if there is a weakness, it is about how they move the puck in their own zone. A good team though and they will be fighting for the title come the end of the season
NR Corey has recruited well. And he’s not just recruited good hockey players, he’s recruited a team that appear to have totally bought in. That’s half the battle. They work hard for a full 60, and that’s all that fans really ask of the team they support. Re weakness, I don’t see one right now. They’re a deep team. Let’s see how they fair on their long road schedule coming up. Always an acid test for any aspiring championship team.
ML It’s still early days but they have gotten off to a very good start. I think every team has weaknesses and its up to the opposition to expose them. Think they have a stretch of road games coming up so it’ll be interesting to see how they how do.
DS They are a good team, a very good team and they have players to come back. Maybe at full strength that might cause some friction in ice time management. We can all hope. I do think they are a good but not a great team. If by the third week in December (when their road games have caught up a little with their home record) they are still a way out in front then we might all have a bigger worry.
CS Four important players down this weekend too. They’ve had the luxury of home advantage for the majority of their league games so far. 10 of their next 12 games are on the road. We’ll know by Christmas if this Panthers team is the real deal or not. For me, I still wonder if the reluctance to bring in a big tough stay at home D-man will cost them in the long run.
TK Nottingham are a great team this year, but they aren’t undefeated so they can be beat and it is up to the rest of us to find a way to do that. I don’t have a specific area to talk about that will expose their weak points, but if I did, I wouldn’t be telling “question time”.
Nottingham Panthers forward Andy Bohmbach is in fine form this season. 23 points in 20 games this season, including 2+5 this weekend.
Stuck in the Box: Neil’s Manchester Storm continue to pick up points, this weekend they went up to Fife and won 3-1. A fantastic result for them on the road, and something of a surprise, can they realistically consider achieving a playoff place in their first season?
DS 100% they can yes. Especially if your mob keep playing the way they are Rob. Manchester have good players. Staying healthy and getting good goaltending is key for every team, but especially for Manchester as they have the shortest bench. Their biggest problem might be that perennial failures Edinburgh look like their have their act together a bit and will make one of the 8 spots.
ML In one word-yes. They have a very good top 6 forward group who can skate and score. I think Kalemba has started to play better recently and that gives them an opportunity to win some more games.
SB Yes of course they can, the gap between those in the inside looking out and those on the outside looking in is small. If Storm don’t believe they will finish in the top 8 then I would be shocked.
“Pacha and Russell” not the name of an up-market department store, but the two men leading the Manchester Storm revolution
TK Playoffs have the be the goal of this team and I think they can do it. When Didi finally gets in, they have another impact player to go with some very good forwards that can put the puck in the net. They are going to play a crucial role in the league standings and playoff race, not just because they are fighting for a spot, but because they are going to take points off all the teams fighting for the league title.
NR I think the play off’s are definitely a realistic aim for us this season. Getting the away win in Fife was really important to us, and I thought the team played a superb road game. I’m writing this the day after our poor defeat at home to Cardiff, and I’m still in sour form! What we need to start doing is committing fully to 120 minutes of hard work every weekend. We’re missing a couple of key cogs in the wheel at the minute, but hopefully we’ll be back to full strength this weekend
CS A couple of weeks ago I went with Fife and Caps missing the playoffs. Sorry Neil but I think Riley’s boys are going to make it after all. It’s more than just a hot streak from them. I think Blaze will bring in a couple of missing pieces and do just enough to get in leaving the Storm on the outside. For me, they are just a little too inconsistent.
Stuck in the Box: In the 11 games since Thursday, 33,353 watched the Elite League, averaging at just over 3000 a game, that’s great news for the sport isn’t it?
DS Of course it’s good news but it isn’t a surprise either. For years the league has been moving in the right direction. Some keyboard fans think its an easy fix but it isn’t. It takes time and now we are seeing the results. Conferencing means more local games, easier travel etc. The money generated has meant that all 10 teams can afford reasonable budgets meaning more competitive games. That’s what fans want. Clubs to a whole have invested in their product on and off the ice, their show is now more polished and entertaining. Also Manchester replacing Hull helped as well. No disrespect to Hull (which of course always means you are about to disrespect them) but Manchester are working at it if not harder, then smarter than Hull did to attract and more importantly retain fans.
ML I don’t take notice to these things for the most part but if that’s the average then that’s great for our league
TK The sport needs to keep growing and every team should be finding a way to promote their game locally each week, which I think happens a lot more these days than a few years ago. We compete on the ice, but off the ice, we all should be doing what we can to help each other out with getting more people watching live and watching online. I think having Seth on board with the Elite League (along with Chris Ellis) helps the league a lot in promoting the best the league has to offer. These weekly videos like plays of the week and more online content is great and is what fans want to see more of.
NR There has never been a better time to introduce new fans to our great sport. The on ice product has never been better since the ISL days. I think clubs are now realising the importance of creating a real match night experience for fans too. Jon Hammond is not just our match night announcer, he’s the entertainer in the stands too. Engages the fans, young and old. This all adds to a fans overall experience & value for money. I’ve said it for years, Ice hockey is the best kept secret in the UK.
Crowds continue to be healthy in the EIHL.
Neil Russell “Ice Hockey is the best kept secret in the UK”
CS It’s great for certain clubs. 7,000+ in Sheffield on Sunday, 6,000+ in Nottingham on Saturday and near 4,000 each night in Belfast. On the opposite end of the scale we see 850 in Dundee and 984 in Edinburgh. So whilst some clubs appear to be thriving, others are still looking on jealously, needing to work harder off-ice in some cases.
SB It is terrific and there are so many good things going on across the board in the Elite League. I believe the entertainment value has gone up this year and that is great. I believe that figure could get close to 40K a weekend before the end of the season, which is great for the sport especially where there are some clubs not close to achieving the crowds they can. I am hearing of some exciting initiatives at some of the clubs which would be great. My view is you need to get people through door three times to get the hooked, once is never enough.
Stuck in the Box: Cardiff’s move to the new Arena is coming quick, and Todd you told me a few weeks ago you were hoping for a Boxing day opening game, which is great news. How much will the new rink, effect the Devils initially, bigger ice, I am guessing less intimadatory atmosphere, better ice etc. Will we see more parity in games in Cardiff for the first few weeks?
TK If I could somehow make the ice surface in the new arena the same size as the ice in the BBT, I would. I just need more seats to sell, but our arena is a tough place to play in for visiting teams. We had to recruit a team that we believe could make the adjustment from the smaller ice surface to an olympic size pad midway through the season, and I think we have the guys that can do that. Our home atmosphere is about our fans and we aren’t going from 2300 to 5,000, we are adding about 1000 seats, so hopefully we can find another 1,000 die hards that can make the new arena as tough to play in as the current one. We are still trying to figure our how to replicate the cold wet atmosphere of the away locker room at the BBT in the new rink, we have a team working on it day and night, we will keep you posted.
DS It won’t effect them as much as everyone else thinks. They are a good team, well coached and run. They have good players. Other teams will enjoy going to the new place more than the old one and maybe that will be the biggest difference. The new building will automatically get a new building push and sell out. The atmosphere there will be even better the the BBT. Cardiff have nothing to worry about.
ML I think going into the signing season they had a plan to build a roster with the new rink in mind. They added some skilled forwards in Doucet and Kurka that will help them transition better on the bigger ice. I think they will continue to have great home form but I can tell you 9 other coaches will be pleased not having to go to the BBT anymore.
NR I think there will be more parity, yes. The BBT is a building that the Devils have made their own, travelling teams hate going there. That all said, this Cardiff team have it all to succeed in any barn. They have size, excellent skaters, grit, but also, skill and speed. Morissette, Doucet, Martin, Walton would grace any team in this league.
CS The other nine teams are hoping it will be a leveller. I think it will somewhat, opposition players won’t dread going to Cardiff as much, there will be a more common sized pad with better ice and facilities. The Red Army will continue to be loud though and I feel the Devils have built a strong team with consideration for the move. Clarkson for example was a casualty.
In Cardiff, its nearly time for the new Arena to open…
Seth Bennett doesn’t think the change will cause the Devils too many issues
SB Cardiff are a good team and play on big or small ice. There will be a period of adjustment, but I am not sure it will be the big thing that some would have you believe.
Stuck in the Box: Premier Sports announced this week they are starting a weekly EIHL show, there are podcasts galore, there is this weekly “blog” as well as various other blogs out there, more and more media outlets being used by fans and the clubs – its all positive for the league I guess, but is there a danger of over kill, a saturated market if you like?
CS I don’t think so. There’s a major thirst for information in the EIHL and indeed a large amount of people ready and willing to give an opinion. More so than perhaps any other hockey league in Europe. As an obsessive consumer of EIHL information and opinion from Twitter, forums, blogs, podcasts etc etc I wouldn’t want it any other way. There are many people who give up much of their own time to help promote the sport, provide insight and cover their team who don’t get the credit they deserve. Granted some content is better than others and those whose opinion I place higher value on but fans quickly work out the good from the bad so no, with a good filter there isn’t a thing as ‘too much’.
ML I love hockey so there’s no such thing as overkill for me. It’s nice to have different options to listen to, watch and read about our league.
NR Possibly so, but fans in this league are more engaged & crave information more than any other league in Europe, in my opinion. The more media out there the better, they’ll all find their rightful place in the pecking order.
SB Premier Sports have listened to what the fans want, which is more hockey on the TV which is good. Hockey remains a niche sport but the fanbase craves more content. I am all for anything that offers somebody a reason to carry on connecting with the sport between games. Saturated market, no way we aren’t even close.
TK Nope- the more coverage the better. People don’t have to read or watch everything out there and will pick and choose what they think is worthwhile. The good will rise to the top and the less informed blogs and coverage will eventually fall by the wayside.
DS The Premier coverage won’t saturate any market because not enough people watch it, which is the real shame. Blogs and podcasts are for the fully committed like us all writing or reading this, so no harm there either.
Premier came in with quiet a few games to encourage subscription. Then when they had it they reduced their games because of the cost of filming. Now they are losing subscription because of the lack of games they are increasing again with a new show. At least they are reacting to what they have recently been told when calling their subscribers, or rather this who have recently left them.
Overkill, not even close Rob.
Stuck in the Box: You have an hour to spare, which podcast are you going to listen to and why? Or are you ignoring them all and putting on Desert Island Discs?
TK If I had an hour to spare, I would answer a bunch of leading questions on a blog put out by a sponsor of a rival club, but that is just me.
RP I think I sense sarcasm, but thanks Todd, that means a lot to me….
TK If I was going to listen to a podcast, I would tune into A view from the bridge. When I was still in Belfast, we actually took the decision to open the doors to them and give them more access to the team, home and away and i think it has worked out well for AVFTB and for the Giants. But you have to have the right people doing it, and I wouldn’t just open it up to anyone. I knew these guys for a long time and trusted them that they were going to do it in a professional manner that was good for the club but also good for the fans to listen to. I am sure there are other podcasts but I don’t listen to any myself. I am too busy answering all these questions anyways..
A View From The Bridge, generally considered to be one of the best EIHL podcasts available
CS Call me a cop out but it depends which day it is?! Seriously though I’ve got nothing but good things to say about a number of them and wouldn’t be prepared to pick any one in particular out. There are three or four which set the standard. The sound quality is all important and there are a couple which need to improve or they are just wasting their time. There though seems to be a misconception about podcasts here. I’ve never listened to a podcast because I had “an hour to spare”. For me, they are a source of entertainment whilst commuting and travelling. I believe the EIHL has a number of podcasts which serve as a valuable source of information, a window into the opposition, a place where in most cases fans can find reasoned debate which can help to enrich people’s understanding of pertinent issues or present them with a different view. Those who choose not to engage for whatever reason are missing out in my opinion.
ML A View From The Bridge only because they claim I’m a “good friend of the show” every time I’m on there. Hockey Central at Noon is the main one I listen to for the NHL.
SB ‘IF’ I have an hour spare there is no way I am putting on headphones and listening to anything. An hour spare for me is an hour to spend with my family. Away from hockey, I like the World Football Phone Tim Vickery is the best pundit going in any sport and I am a sucker for Test Match Special.
DS I don’t listen to many, if any to be fair. A couple of reasons
1. I think many are too long, an hour and a half plus! Come on….
2. Despite what some will tell you the people who run them don’t have the facts on many of the issues so just fish. 3. The vast majority of people who appear on them I simply don’t respect their views and experience enough. Some make half valid points but the test is keyboard waffle on a microphone. Not everyone but the vast majority.
Perhaps the once exception is the Jono Bullard pod cast, I think he seems to put the effort in to come up with some valid points and isn’t as one eyed as many others.
How to win friends hey, well I leave that to Neil as he wants to be everyone’s friend so he does, so he does.
NR I’m told its Irish charm David, but everyone knows about the Irish fire too, so don’t poke the bear, Billy.
Back to the question, Rob, I was waiting for this one. This topic led to our QT ‘whatsapp’ group blowing up with comments galore the other evening!
Biased I know, but without doubt, it’s @AVFTB for me. A must listen every week. Why? Simple. It’s 3 fans who have followed the club from day one. They know their hockey inside & out. It’s an official club podcast, so with that, comes ‘inside’ info being passed their way, which makes the content a sound one in terms of what they’re debating & supplying as a product.
They are trusted by the club with that info, but in no way is there a ‘no go’ area that the lads can’t discuss or disagree with the club on. Other podcasts are speculative because they don’t have that inside knowledge, so to speak.
The Giants knew the product existed, knew how professional the production was, how strong & passionate the debate was weekly, and decided to bring AVFTB fully on board. The content of that podcast is superb, why?
1-Knowledgable discussion about Belfast.
2-Caters for all teams, as there are weekly interviews with both home and away teams.
3-Paddy Smyth’s production of the podcast is superb.
4-Passion. People buy into passion. And AVFTB has it in abundance when discussing all things hockey.
Also, when Belfast hold a QnA session pre game in McCools, you maybe have 40 or 50 people in. When AVFTB hold a pre game QnA, McCools bar is rammed!! Never ever underestimate the power of a knowledgable, professional, fan led media. It can be one of your best promotional tools as a club.
Other mentions should be made to CWTV, The Purple Army Pod, & The Forecast. Jono Bullard & his team do a superb job on CWTV, as does Clare Freeman with the Storm podcast. Given how new the Storm podcast is, I think Clare has done a remarkable job to date.
I could keep going, but I know Rob is already cracking up with the length of this answer!!
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 this weeks special guest on QT!
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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!