Is there now a missing cog in the Sheffield wheel?

Perhaps only your immediate family, but aside from those special people, nobody  in life is indispensable. That’s something we are taught early on in our first serious forays into life.

In Sport and in Hockey the old adage should still stick. Players get old, get slow, get fat, get bored and retire. They are replaced from the plethora of available players out there and life carries on.

Testimonials come and go, players shake hands and most head off into the real world to find a real job.

However, some are harder to replace than others. A few eye brows were raised in particular this summer when Sheffield Steelers legend Jason Hewitt decided to retire. He has of course since signed for Hull in the EPL.

It could be an easy assumption to make that Hewitt’s time was served and that it was time to hang them up.


Hundreds of games for the club he loves, goals, fights, more trophies than most players came ever dream of. All this on the back of a certain amount of limited ability.  That isn’t said in a derogatory manner and it’s certainly not a dig; I have every respect for Jason Hewitt and what he has achieved in the British game.

Hewitt – 33 in a few days time, it’s been said was a policeman of the Steelers dressing room. The go to man if a team mate had a problem. The fixer perhaps. The middleman between player and coach.  The guy who knows the club inside out. From the fans to the stewards to the sponsors to the owner, Hewitt would be the player to go to if a team mate had a question or a problem.

New imports come and go, new young British guys come in and it’s Hewitt along with captain Jonathon Philips that would have been one of the first to tell them how things are.  How things operate. What to say, what not to say.

But now Hewitt is gone and it’s arguably left a missing spoke in the Sheffield wheel. This is no over reaction to the Yorkshire teams results in Europe this week. It’s something I have pondered since I heard the news.

I saw Hewitt as a Russ Cowley type in Sheffield.  The Coventry player has said to me numerous times, “I don’t need an A or a C on my shirt for me to be able to convey my thoughts to others in the dressing room” and this I feel is the same with Jason Hewitt.

In rooms all around the Elite League when certain players speak, everyone listens. Tait and Cowley at Coventry, Adam Keefe in Belfast, Matt Keith in Braehead are four that come to mind. Hewitt was certainly a guy that can be included in this list.

Aside from Hewitt’s experience in the British game, there is his character and influence in the dressing room and generally around the Arena on Match days. I have been in his presence albeit watching from a far before and after games, and seen his energy and his obvious love for all things Orange.

A kind of human zebedee at times, he is a loud, brash and a naturally funny individual – a good likeable person who has earned the respect of his peers within the game.  A player opposition perhaps fans loved to hate, but that’s a begrudging respect.

Perhaps there may be a way back in to Sheffield for Hewitt later in the season?  They say never go back, but surely that wouldn’t be an opportunity he would spurn.

Is it something coach Paul Thompson would even need to give thought to?

Maybe not. In fact, I am sure it wouldn’t happen, decisions are made from both sides for various reasons, but I do wonder whether Sheffield will keep tabs on the Manchester born forwards situation in Hull.

Budgets of course play their part in this and time has to be called on everyone’s career, I understand that, I just wonder whether Sheffield could have waited another season or two before letting this cog drop off their wheel.

Indispensable – no.

Irreplaceable – maybe?

The final four again, somehow!

Wow.  We made it again.  We made it to the final 4. Somehow!

If I had written that back in the dark days of November, you may have thought it more fitting for me to be carted off to the funny farm, as opposed to writing this.

Disaster of a start

I think back to a particular bad time of the season, as I say above, early November – we had had a disaster of a week early in that month, where we were ‘pummelled’ in Glasgow, Braehead shutting us out to the tune of 6, and then we went to Nottingham and ‘endured’ another shutout, this time losing 4-0, with big Paul Swindlehurst (who subsequently moved to Manchester Storm) scoring two of the Panthers goals.  Swindlehurst managed just one more goal in 48 games for Nottingham before being loaned to the Altrincham based club.

The Braehead game hurt me particularly.  It was the week after I formally took the Media role on for the club, and I drove home on my own from Glasgow that night shaking my head questioning my sanity?  The Nottingham game that came next, was probably the lowest we have been and the worst we have ever performed from memory under Head Coach Chuck Weber’s reign.

Changes

The side that night contained a very limited Igor Bobcek (I picked his sticks up from Manchester on the way to Braehead!) who was basically doing us a favour and helping with some injury cover, Trimm and Lukacevic (who are both now long departed) and the unfortunate Steven Chalmers who left the club following injury.

Compare that side to that one that hammered Manchester in the last game of the season.  To do that, we need to add the names Brenden Walker, Boris Valabik, Kevin Noble, David Clements and Chris Bruton.  So to summarise…

Out: Bobcek, Trimm, Lukacevic, Chalmers

In: Walker, Valabik, Noble, Bruton, Clements.

Valabik, despite his detractors is very good D man, Walker can, and has spun a game on its head, and is capable of some sublime skill (example: That pass for Fishers ‘GWG’ in Sheffield) Noble is our heart beat and has improved all season, anyone that blocks that many shots are fine by me. Clements has had a great first season with us since coming over from Milton Keynes, and it’s a shock to me and others, that he isn’t involved in the GB set up, and to finish the list Chris Bruton is up there with the best players in the league.  No doubt about that.

Anger

It’s been a turnaround of huge proportions that’s for sure.   The Nottingham defeat was the most animated I have seen Chuck post game.  Animated is maybe the wrong word, he doesn’t get animated.  He ticks.  I don’t mean, as in a nervous twitch, I mean as in, like a bomb ticks.  It’s never easy going in for the post match interview when we have lost and that night in Nottingham, well that was the toughest one of the season.  There was pure emotion there, obvious frustration. Anger, yes Anger is the word. Chuck is always the model professional and has never ever turned an interview down, despite being on the wrong end of some serious drubbings this season.

Weber called the team out that night questioning the work ethic and he was right to do so “I can’t change work ethic, you can’t change that, if you don’t work, no system is successful” followed by “I like these guys, but just not as hockey players right now” The latter being the sentence that caught people’s attention at the time

Listening back, Chuck doesn’t actually sound that angry, but that’s just not his style.  I remember listening to Paul Thompson in Cardiff, angrily labelling his team a bunch of “homers”.  As much as Weber probably wanted to castigate his team in public, he didn’t go that far, but he got his point over.  He said the right things, and made his points very clear.  There was plenty of emotion there that night in Nottingham, that’s for sure.  Despite him keeping his cool on Audio.

Chris Lawrence

And so we moved on.  And we moved players on.  Chris Lawrence was a huge disappointment.  Weber told me one day “I watched him in Cardiff (for Panthers) the season before and he terrorised them, at one point 3 of them were chasing after him”. Lawrence was the big signing of the summer, the one we felt would carry us and win us games and for whatever reason, it just didn’t materialise.  1 point (an assist) in his 9 games was as bizarre as it was surprising and disappointing.  Could or did anyone argue with the signing at the time?  No chance.

Perhaps the 14/15 (63 points in 61 games) for Nottingham was an outstanding season for him, something of a fluke maybe?  Can you have fluke seasons?  Did Chris over perform all season in Nottingham, or did we just not suit him?  Was there something that Lawrence just didn’t get?  Lots of questions, but not many answers. Lawrence is a good guy off the ice, perhaps it was just a bad fit, a round peg in a square hole? Maybe.

Ned Lukacevic

Lukacevic, was a different story I feel.  An obviously talented guy, good hands, over 100 games in the AHL, but a certain languid style resulted in just 4 goals in 21 games, and a contract in Edinburgh was the end result for the fruits of his labour. If we had seen the Lukacevic that we saw that infamous evening in Tychy, I am certain he would be still be playing in a Blaze shirt.

 

Ned Lukacevic, had the best game of a short Blaze career in Tychy, Poland.

Ned

He was a different guy in Poland that night. He played a different way, if it moved, it was getting hit. Unfortunately, he couldn’t replicate this style or form in the Elite League for us.  Again, a good guy but good guys don’t always win you games of hockey.  Should Ned get a contract somewhere else in the Elite League next season (and it won’t be with Edinburgh), it will be his fourth different Elite league club in succession.  The options may be running out.

The Masterstroke

The signing of Jordan Pietrus turned out to be a masterstroke.  A little bit lost in Poland after a successful season there, we not only signed a Hockey player, we signed a good man.  That may sound strange but good people are key to a vibrant, successful dressing room.  The types that are ready to challenge themselves and each other.  The ones that are ready to go to war for each other. Eloquent, modest and intelligent, Pietrus is everything a mother wants her daughter to meet.  But then there is the other side to him.  The side that doesn’t get pushed around by the enormity of the likes of Zach Fitzgerald or Leigh Salters.  Pietrus is the biggest 5’8 guy I have ever known.

Jordan Pietrus “a masterstroke of a signing”

JP2

The reward of a two-year contract is absolutely just and well deserved.  You get out of life what you put into it. To again quote Coach Weber “What we do today, effects our tomorrow’s” That sums up Pietrus efforts in a nutshell.  Credit to James Pease for cementing Jordan on a two year extension.  It’s the best news we could have wished for.

Director of Hockey James Pease was a busy man during the season signing Igor Bobcek, David Clements,  James Isaacs, Jordan Pietrus, Brenden Walker and Chris Bruton.

Pease

Robbomania begins

Brett Robinson finally hit his straps towards the end of 2015, points then came thick and fast.  Always known as a late starter, it was a case of be patient and it will come, we were patient and so it did.

I did an interview with Brett around this time (December), and he explained to me in great detail, the difference between the ECHL and the Elite League. The traveling and how it takes its toll, how its totally alien for a player to sit on a coach for 6 or 7 hours to Dundee, jump off, play a game, then back on the coach for 6 or 7 hours, home, sleep, then play again.  In the ECHL anything over 2 hours, they fly, and fly the day before the game usually.

Now, some people reading may think “pah, they get paid to play what’s wrong with them” But the difference is a big one. It’s something you have to train your body to cope with.  There is no set solution either, every player is different.  Eat, sleep, talk, listen to music, all different ways to kill 7 hours, but it can take many trips to work out, which works routine works best for you. Brendan Walker is another who has admitted to struggled with the traveling.

Happy New Year

Highlight of the season, pre play offs, was probably Nottingham away on New Year’s Eve.  Ironic, given my comments earlier about Nottingham being one of the lowest points earlier in the season.  We got a bit of luck that day, Dan Green stood in for Mika Wiikman, and we blitzed the Panthers in the first period.  Pietrus. Fisher, Robinson and the under rated Carl Lauzon all scored in the first period to send us in to the first break 4-0 up.  Robinson was 1+3 that day and was outstanding.  All of a sudden the Blaze were electric, on fire if you pardon the obvious pun.  

Nottingham gave our Man of the Match that day to a guy who didn’t get a point in the game. A shame as Robinson was worthy of a bigger pat on the back for his endeavours’ that day.  Still, its a ‘team game’ and that’s the first thing Brett would tell you.
The upturn in fortunes in our season, from this point on, is well documented, at one stage we were a bottom place team earlier in the season.  Things were never that bad last season, but there are definite similarities, and all of a sudden like last season, we clicked.  

Despite some setbacks since we have carried on clicking.  No team in the world wins every game. Eighth place was a disappointing finish, yes I 100% agree, however to get past Sheffield in the Quarter Finals show that we are far better team, than the final league table suggests.  

It was a monumental effort to get past Paul Thompson’s men.  This was no fluke either.  The ex Blaze Coach said we were the better team over the two legs, and we were.

Fair comparisons?

Last season we were possibly spoilt with some of the quality we had. O’Marra, Goertzen and Egener together with Brian Stewart maybe carried us at times – individually and collectively, but now I find myself looking at this team, and being able to compare certain players and their roles with those that won the play offs last season.

Ryan O’Marra / Jordan Pietrus

Steven Goertzen / Chris Bruton

Derek Lee / Drew Fisher

Steve Chalmers / David Clements

Justin Da Costa / Mike Quesnele

Goals

The one thing we didn’t have last season, that we do have this season, is goals.  Or at least we have found the net with more ease this season. Believe it or not we have scored 33% more goals this season than last season.  Which is why there is no comparison on offer for the free scoring Brett Robinson, and the highly skilled, hard-working Carl Lauzon, we didn’t have them or players like it last season in my opinion.  I mention 33%, the actual difference in goals scored is 43, which, yes you have guessed is the total number of goals these two (Robinson and Lauzon) combined have scored for Blaze this season.

Carl Lauzon, hardworking and free scoring

Lauzon

Jorgensen

Perhaps defensively we are not as good as last season’s Champions.  Jim Jorgensen for me is right up there with the best D men in the league.  His improvement throughout the season has been significant, and another reason why we have turned the season around.  He seems to have grown in confidence and relished the responsibility thrust upon him.

Valabik

Another key component of the Blaze D core is the big man.  Big Boris Valabik.  Boris pushes doesn’t he?  And pushes very close to the line. Seemingly officials are more than happy to give themselves one less headache, and to remove him from the game at any opportunity.  There have been plenty of misconducts. Some harsh, some not so harsh, but either way, Boris is a far better player for us than on the ice, than he is in the shower, and we need him to be on his best behaviour this weekend.  He has to play with an edge, I get that, and I am sure he has the experience to know just what to do (and what not to do – or say!) this weekend.

Bruton?  Yes please!

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the league came on the 4th February the day of the Bruton / Trimm trade.  The deal was done pretty quickly despite the odd snag here and there.  It was the perfect opportunity for us, losing a player who had possibly under achieved, and gaining, as I said earlier, one of the best players in the league.  

Bruton is everything I want in a hockey player, similar in style to Pietrus, Bruton is possibly a more polished player, that sounds harsh on Pietrus who never fails to give everything. Perhaps more experienced would be a better explanation, but I know ‘Pietey’ won’t mind my comment.  I won’t touch on the saga that unravelled around the trade, only to say Bruton handled himself with far more dignity that the now retired Chris Holt.

I hope Bruton is re-signed next season, and fingers crossed.

Brian Stewart

Brian Stewart had a tough first few months, perhaps it was the expectation of the previous season, perhaps it was a new team and particularly a new D core around him, perhaps it was just a genuine loss of form, but oh my, has the big guy bounced back.  It’s no coincidence that we have also bounced with the big man.

Brian Stewart, “Seemingly unbeatable when on form”

Stewie

When he is on form, we are close to being seemingly unbeatable.  This was always my theory as to why we would qualify after taking a 2 goal lead to Sheffield with us.  With Pinc in goal I fancied us to score at least 3, which meant Sheffield had to score at least 5 to tie the game and 6 to win it.  ‘Touch wood’, but when Brian Stewart is in this form, he doesn’t concede 6 too often and so it proved in “The house of steel” as my esteemed college Ed Kimberly refers to Sheffield!

This weekend, history repeating itself?

So, to this weekend, believe it or not the bookies make us joint favorites with our friends in Nottingham.  Its wide open isn’t it?  Any one of the four could win it.  Blaze have hit form, Cardiff are so strong and deep, similar to Nottingham. Defensively Nottingham are so good, and tough to score against, and Fife, well Danny Stewart and Todd Dutiaume have had a fantastic season, their highest league position for years, and I am sure they are proud of what they have achieved – they should be.

A Blaze v Fife final would be nice; I can think of a certain Canadian veteran up there in Fife that would really fancy that.  Will he get his chance, it remains to be seen, after this season, I would not discount anything?

Will we see Chuck Weber have the last laugh, I certainly wouldn’t bet against it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question Time

Week Commencing 11th January 2016

Welcome everyone.  First of all, I trust you all had a very merry Christmas and a great new year.  Its a crazy time in the hockey world isn’t it?  Games come thick and fast! Apologies for the delay in getting this next edition of “Q.T.” out to you.  We should be reverting back to weekly from now.   Enjoy reading, and don’t forget to send me your feedback.  Rob.

It is the week Cardiff Devils lead the EIHL and add the very highly rates Ryan Russell to their ranks taking their import count to an incredible 17, Sheffield’s recent good run continues and see’s them move up to 2nd in the league, the Clan also have hit their stride and march into third place, Marc LeFebvre is given a 2 year contract extension, and the hunt for a new forward in Coventry continues ….

As a reminder here are you panelists…

Seth2Seth 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”

 

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”

 

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 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”

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”

Stuck In the Box:  So, first of all, it’s been a hectic few weeks for everyone, none more than the people answering these questions. Did you all have a good Christmas and New Year?

Seth Bennett (SB)  It was a working holiday season for me but still some to enjoy the celebrations with my family.

Craig Summerton (CS)  11 from 14 points for Blaze to end the year, including back-to-back victories over the Panthers. There’s no better way to celebrate the festive period than by beating that lot – twice!

Marc LeFebvre (ML)  We had so many games over this period I didn’t really have anytime to enjoy it but the many bottles of wine and champagne I received as gifts made up for it.

David Simms (DS)  Christmas day was a nervous one – waiting for Boxing Day – but that was a good day. Incredible crowd, the largest ever for an EIHL game, over 9,000 – huge 50-50 – and a win – so yes Christmas was good.


Neil Russell (NR)   I was home in Belfast for a few days over Christmas and got to see family & friends which was great, but hockey is never far away, so most of the festive period was spent at games, on the phone, or on email! “No days off in hockey”- David Simms. (He is right!)

 

I am not going to lie, Neil mentioning he was in Belfast for Christmas just gives me the chance to use this fantastic photo to promote what is a a superb city! 

BFS

Photo Credit: Forward Continuance

Stuck In the Box:  It’s been a few weeks since the last Question Time, my apologies for that, but I think we all know the reasons why!  Pick something out over the festive period, that was your highlight, something that gave you warm fuzzy feeling!

CS   Jordan Pietrus’ scoring exploits in front of his visiting family. His Mum, Dad and wife so proud and seemingly enjoying their time in Coventry. He has the potential to be a future captain for the club. Sign him up!

Coventry Blaze forward Jordan Pietrus has been on fire in the last few weeks

“A potential future captain” Craig Summerton tells the panel.

JP2

Picture Credit: Scott Wiggins

DS  I think our highlight was Boxing Day, 9000 in, huge 50-50, huge shirt off your back and a win – for a Steeler it doesn’t get better than that warm and fuzzy – well that might have been going into Manchester on New Years Day – seeing how well things were going there, big crowd, great atmosphere. Also the day after to see so many Storm fans so committed so early to their side and travelling in such numbers – there is only one team in Manchester, the Storm.

 

ML  That the league is still wide open. All ten teams are still competitive and it’s good to see every team has a chance to win every night.

SB   Manchester having a full building for the Sheffield game. I had been working and arrived midway through the second period, it was amazing walking up to the building, seeing the car park full, hearing the sound from outside the building and then walking through the doors and seeing that old rink rocking. It was a great moment in the short life of the franchise. 

NR  Seeing our rink in Altrincham packed out on New Year’s Day was special! Not a bad effort considering we’ve only been on the ice 4 months as a club again. And what a game it was too. Superb spectacle for everyone in attendance. Hopefully many more of those nights to come, as we continue to build our club brand across all of Manchester. Also, to see 200 Storm fans travelling to Sheffield the following day was awesome. Our fans sang the whole 60 minutes and were simply awesome.

Stuck In the Box:  Congratulations to Marc, a 2 year contract extension – something unusual in the Elite League I guess for a coach a 2 year contract – what has been the key to Marc’s success in Dundee

SB  Recruitment. Marc has done a great job of finding players who are hungry for success and who have delivered. I also think that he deserves a lot of credit for the way he is maturing as a coach. Like all coaches he learnt more in failure, hard lessons that stand you in good stead for the future.

NR  Firstly, well deserved recognition for Marc. I’d say maturity is the key behind the success. Marc had a tough ride in Coventry last season, and like with most things in life, when you go through a tough time, you learn a lot about yourself as a person. Some will wilt and fade away, Marc pulled himself together, went to Hungary and coached there, learnt a lot, and has now integrated a lot of what he learnt in Europe into his coaching strategy/culture in Dundee. Fair play to him. Good things happen to good people, and Favor is exactly that, a good person.

 

Question Time’s own Marc LeFebvre has recently been rewarded with a 2 years contract extension.  Well deserved agree the panel.

Pink

DS  The quality of he predecessors. No seriously, Marc has done a terrific job. Dundee rolled the dice with Marc. Tarnished from the links in Sheffield with Christensen, things not working out to well in Coventry many wouldn’t have taken the risk. Dundee did and were rewarded with a motivated coach knowing he had to make a success of this chance.

Marc has worked hard, took his job seriously and now has been rewarded with this extension. I think the two were well matched as well. Dundee needed someone who would work 24/7 and he needed a club he could develop. – perfect match. Happy for him.

ML   First of all, thank you. Greatly appreciated. The thing for me is maturity. The experience of last season and going to Hungary gave me a chance to grow as a person and coach. I learned a lot in how they do things in mainland Europe and a pool “A” nation and have implemented them here in Dundee. It also gave me time to reflect on things from my time in Coventry and what I needed to do to become a better coach. I still have a long way to go but the key for me is to learn something new everyday and bring it to the rink. On the other side of it, the Wards saw and believed in my vision and allowed me to bring in the players that I believed could help us be successful. My main point for recruiting this team, and always will be, was that they had to be a good person first and foremost. In the past, I would take a chance on a guy who had character issues but was extremely skilled but now I’d rather take a guy who may be less skilled but is a great teammate and is willing to go to battle for his teammates every night. I believe we’ve gotten that right here this season and the results have shown on the ice.

CS  Good recruitment first and foremost, lessons learnt and a coaching maturity which has developed in a short amount of time. Also, a strong commitment to making Dundee the best they can be on the ice. Well done Marc, well deserved.

Stuck in the Box:  We have spoken before about Devin Didiomete, and there were some eyebrows raised when Neil and Pacha bought him back – trying to jump in the other penalty box, seems a bit crazy – that was over the top at best wasn’t it?

DS  It was crazy, it was daft, I guess it was Deeds all over. Great photo’s of Deeds trying to climb into the Fife Box mind you – Manchester should have got that photo everywhere to publicise them. I would have.

ML  I’m sure the Twitter world had a good time with it. I don’t know all the facts but as a pro you have to have controlled emotions. DOPS has dealt with it for the league and I’m sure Neil and Pach dealt with it in house. 

Devin Didiomete made the news over Christmas, Seth Bennett says it “Wasn’t a smart move”

David Simms however would have “Got the photo everywhere”

DidiPic credit: N.Y.D.T.

SB  It was not a smart move from Devin, but he is the kind of character who sometimes oversteps the mark and this is one of those occasions. He has been punished and he knows what he did was wrong.  

NR  Bar this incident, Devin has pretty much been the model professional since his arrival. He brings a hard work ethic to practice every day, and the same to games. He’s excellent with the fans, and good in the community. That being said, YES, I would prefer everything to happen ON the ice, not off it!

CS I said previously in Question Time when he signed, “Drama just seems to follow this guy around” Nothings changed.  Everywhere he goes an incident occurs”

Stuck in the Box:  Sheffield, Nottingham and Braehead have all recruited net minders for various reasons, Cardiff and Belfast sit top of the league with two very good guys in their net who have thankfully escaped injury – how much has a hindrance to the aforementioned three clubs have the injuries been to Plante, Wiikman and Holt – is this the reason the Sheffield, Nottingham and Braehead are not higher up the league?

DS  Goaltending is a Question Time all on its own. Firstly to answer your question – YES – those three teams haven’t had consistent goaltending all year either from their starters or replacements.

The rules on Work Permits though effected goaltending more than anything else this summer. We thought that the standard of goaltending would improve this year especially with some big resumes coming in. Reality is that the standard across the board has fallen and the quality of goalies has diminished. That is down to the rules for obtaining WP (Work Permit)

ML  I don’t believe that is the reason. It certainly hasn’t helped things especially trying to find a replacement/cover at that position during the season but the guys they have brought in look more than capable of helping them win. I believe it’s more to do with the fact that there is parity across the league that has them where they are in the standings.

Tyler Plante has moved to German outfit Lowen Frankfurt, after failing to be given assurances of keeping the regular number 1 spot. 

TylerPic credit: BBC Radio Sheffield

NR  Good question Rob, but I don’t believe it’s the reason. This league is easily the tightest from 1-10 that I’ve ever seen. So many quality players, and the old cliché of “anyone can beat anyone on any given night” is 100% right.

CS   If Sheffield had any sort of consistent goaltending I believe they would be leading the pack right now. That’s irrelevant to injury though, Plante wasn’t good enough and nor is Pinc. For Clan and Panthers their main issue hasn’t been in net, injuries or otherwise it’s been the consistency of those in front.

SB  In short no. Cardiff are top of the league because they have played more games than anyone else and they have a good team. Sheffield, Nottingham and Braehead have all lost games they should have won and dropped points at times they shouldn’t have. BUT that said if Sheffield, Nottingham and Braehead would be very close to Cardiff if they win their games in hand. 

Stuck in the Box:  The Blaze have recovered a little since we all last spoke, despite losing twice to Belfast at the weekend, the team sit in a playoff spot – but still no forward to replace Lukacevic – has this been a surprise that Blaze have waited and waited so long for the right man?

DS  Yes as there are players available however they have played well recently, maybe they are happy with their lot and are just saving the cash for when the right guy appears.

ML   I’m sure it hasn’t been from a lack of trying. Chuck and Peasey are looking for a specific type of player and they seem to be being extremely patient to make sure they get the right fit. All ten clubs are always looking to improve their teams but are not going to make a move for the sake of making one. It’s not like North America where you can bring a guy in whenever you want with limited costs. There’s many variables that come into play when trying to bring a player into our league.

NR   Like all clubs, you have got to do your due diligence on players. I have no doubt Chuck & Peasy could snap a player up right now, but is he the right man? Evidently not. I’ve no idea what budget Coventry have got for their new guy, but I know there’s not a lot out there in terms of real quality. They’re biding their time for the right guy, and rightly so.

 

Coventry Blaze Director of Hockey James Pease still searching for a forward to replace the departed Ned Lukacevic

Pease

Picture credit Scott Wiggins / Coventry Blaze

CS  I applaud the club for not panicking despite missing out on numerous high end targets. It’s frustrating for both fans and the club but a real difference maker is required and there’s no point settling for anything less. The playoffs is Blaze’s sole goal and it’s essential the best possible guy is found to give them a chance at that trophy again. Perhaps they could push harder but when for example the rich Champions of Denmark three years running are in competition it’s tough for a club like Blaze to compete.

SB   Yes. The question of Coventry and recruitment is one that has been raised several times. Blaze are starting to put some results together and it is important they continue to do that. I am somewhat mystified as to why it has taken so long to bring a replacement. I get that they have been waiting for the right player, but I think if you cut a player midseason when you are in trouble, you have to always have a hit list ready to go. That said Coventry are scoring goals and are playing the kind of hockey that will wreck somebodies dreams of winning the League title.

Stuck in the Box:  Ben O Connors recent penalty shot selection against the Caps raised a few eyebrows – would Thommo have been a little miffed when he saw him try and pull that move again, or is it artistic license at that stage?

CS  Without asking him it’s impossible to know if he was absolutely furious or sent Ben out for the sole reason of pulling that shot. We lauded him for nailing it on a critical shot for GB so I guess it’s unfair to bash him for trying it again in that situation unsuccessfully.

ML  I haven’t even see it so I can’t comment on the move. When you pick your shooters, you go with the guys you feel are best in that situation to help you win the game.

NR   I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen it either, so like Marc, I can’t comment! I do recall Ben’s penalty shot last year for GB, and that was audacious!

SB  He can’t be miffed, that is Ben’s move, it is as natural to him as a fake shot, deeke to the backhand side and then sliding it through the goalies legs. Ben had Chubak beaten with the top of the net to go at and he went too high. I am not sure who’s eyebrows it raised, the surprise would have been if he would have done something else.

Ben O Connor tried his famous penalty shot again, this time in Edinburgh, but this time his effort was thwarted

Ben

Picture credit: The Sheffield Star

DS  I think he was happy enough – he was more miffed that his forwards had missed 1026 chances in the game and couldn’t score on any of their penalty shots. Don’t blame Benny.

 

Stuck in the Box:  As we are half way through the season, I am going to ask you again, the question I asked when we first started Question Time – who wins the Elite League this year?

DS  I never bet against my own club so Sheffield. To win though they will have to finnish 1 point ahead of the Braehead Clan.

CS   I said Sheffield from day one and I stand by that. Tony Smith will support Thompson in any changes he feels he has to make to get the job done and I believe they will with a coach who knows how to get over the line.

ML  From 0-60, Sheffield are the best team we’ve played this year. So, if it’s not us here in Dundee then I still think Sheffield.

SB  Braehead have the best run in and if they win their games in hand the table will start to tell the story more accurately. Cardiff, Nottingham, Belfast, Coventry and Sheffield are going to beat the living daylights our of one another in this final 3 months of the season. Braehead play the majority of their games in conference and their travel schedule gives them a real chance to win their first title. If there is a team I would want to finish above, it would be the Clan.

Seth Bennett is tipping Ryan Finnerty’s Braehead Clan to be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.

ClanPicture credit: Braehead Clan Ice Hockey Club

NR   Heart says Belfast, head says Sheffield.

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

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!

Of shots, and shot counts…

Reflecting on last nights Coventry Blaze victory against Sheffield.

Lots of words from the Sheffield camp regarding being mugged, and finger pointing to the mythical shot count scoreboard in the Sky (Dome!).  You know that shot count board that decides the game.  It doesn’t matter how many go in.  The same shot count board that establishes if you win the league or make it to Play off Final weekend; after all, its the number of shots that win you the game – isn’t it?

Of course it isn’t.

Shots are a fair reflection of the game, in football you would use a possession stat to prove this point.  I concede to that. But speak to any football manager about that possession statistic and they will tell you, its one of the biggest nuances in the game when it comes to trying to equate it with winning a game.

Go to Leicester City and ask the “Tinkerman” how his side are top of the Premier League when they consistently, give up possession, and are content without it.  They are happy without it. Sometimes they don’t even want it!  I digress, this is hockey.

The big surprise from last night for me, is the shock from Sheffield that they had so many shots and failed to win a game of hockey.  Its well known Blaze don’t take a lot of shots, but also well known we are happy enough taking less than 30 shots and still remain confident about winning a game of hockey.

Defensively, on our night, there isn’t a better side in the Elite League.  Yes, Stewart is a superb netminder and he gives us a chance to win.  But if you are a coach without one of these types in your net, you have been unlucky with injury (Paul Thompson) or you have recruited badly (No need to fill in this bracket is there?)

Any netminder can stand on his head and shut a team out.  Holt in Braehead, as average as he has been, has been our nemesis this season and done it to us.  Bowns, Murphy, Wiikman, Brown the list goes on of netminders who can shut teams out on any given night.

Pointing at Stewart and moaning he is too good is scraping the barrel a bit.  There is no hiding we can and do ‘ride the guy’ (tip of that hat to Paul Wheeler, I accept that point now) at times, but let me show you Ross Venus’s legs and you will see it wasn’t just big Brian stopping the shots that won us that game last night.  Michael Quesnele came off the ice last night and looked like he had ran three marathons with a heavy back back on. Jordan Pietrus, would skate through a wall if he had to for Brian Stewart.

‘Stewie’ is our last chance saloon, yes, but there are plenty of guys in his bar ready to put their pints down, stick their chests out and defend that same bar.

Was it really such a surprise last night?

Play off Final  – Blaze beat Steelers

Shots on goal – Coventry 20 Sheffield 37 (35%)

Play off Semi Final – Blaze beat Giants

Shots on goal – Coventry 29 Belfast 41 (41%)

Play off Quarter Final in Nottingham

Shots on goal – Coventry 28 Nottingham 47 (37%)

Play off Quarter Final in Coventry

Shots on goal Coventry 36 Nottingham 42 (46%)

The only other two times last season we beat Sheffield last season?

March 1st – Blaze 36 Steelers 42 (46%)

November 29th (Under Goertzen) Coventry 29 Sheffield 54  (34%)

A team doesn’t need to just take the most amount of shots to earn the right to win a game of hockey.  It needs hard work, endeavour and guts before anything else.  Thank God, or maybe thank Weber.

Stewie

(Picture credits: Scott Wiggins)

#MarchOnManchester

First of all, thanks to everyone for your support.  It should be a great trip.  Its important we are organised so please read the below in full.

Any issues, you have a couple of days to come back to me.

Whatever happens both coaches are leaving at 14:00 hours from outside the Skydome, outside Crosbys on Sunday.  If you are late, we will be gone and you won’t get your money back so please, please get their early. 

This may sounds harsh, but 2pm is the latest we can leave, and I don’t want to upset people as we are hanging around for Joe Bloggs who hasn’t got their in time. We wont hang around, we will be gone.

2pm the wheels turn and we head to sunny Manchester.

In an ideal world, I would like everyone to be there ready to go at 1.30pm, 1.45pm very latest.  I have checked the weather and it shouldn’t be raining so it shouldn’t hurt to stand around for 10 minutes.

On Saturday night before the Sheffield game, I will be sat at a table in Crosbys in the walk up area towards the toilets.  You can’t miss me, great looking guy, cheeky grin and chiselled looks.  I might even make a sign! Anyone who has booked for the coach needs to come and a) pay me if you haven’t already b) get your reciept and coach ticket. 

Cash only please, no cheques or green shield stamps thanks Dee.

I will be there from 5pm when Crosbys opens until 5 minutes before Face off.  I won’t be there after or during the game so this is the time to come and say hello, pay your money and get your tickets etc. This gives you 2 hours to get sorted.  If you have already paid, you still need to come and get your coach tickets..

If you are not coming to the Sheffield game, then please let me know.

There are 2 Coaches.  Each coach has a lead person, who will be close to the front of their coach, ticking off people as they get on.  Therefore get on as soon as you can!  Once everyone is accounted for we can get on our way.

Coach O’Marra – Pink Tickets – The Coach will have a PINK A4 PIECE OF CARD AT THE FRONT WITH “O’MARRA” ON IT.

Please get on this coach if you have a Pink Ticket

I will be the Lead Person.

Coach Calder – Green Tickets – The Coach will have a GREEN A4 PIECE OF CARD AT THE FRONT WITH “CALDER” ON IT.

Please get on this coach if you have a Green Ticket

Katie Lerigo (all being well!) will be the Lead Person

Both coaches are close to being full, so please don’t put your bags on the seat next to you to avoid having someone sit next to you.  Its rude and it will just delay us leaving.  If you want to purchase the seat next to you, there are a handful of seats, send me a message, and I will arrange that for £15 for you.

On the coach there is complimentary booze! Over 18s only!  When its gone its gone, obviously its for everyone, so if you want to bring your own as well, feel free.

There are also going be soft drinks, crisps and “Taylors Butchers” Sausage Rolls.

On the way up and down, there will be something on the TV’s to watch, no idea what yet though.  Least of my worries!

There is no scheduled stop on the way up there, the coaches are luxury and have toilets on, as well as hot water if you want to bring your own stuff to make a hot drink.  So only in emergency will we stop on the way to Manchester.  None of us want to miss face off!

Sounds like a military operation, but we all want to get their without delay, so important we all know the situation and times.

ANY problems please let me know

There are a handful of tickets, remaining should anyone want more.

On Friday there will be a full list of people published on here, together with who has paid, and if they have ordered Under 16s tickets.  I will need people to check this if you get time.

Thanks
Rob Plaister

 

Slap1

 

 

 

Week Commencing 23rd November

Welcome everyone, once again I am very happy to welcome Cardiff Devils GM Todd Kelman to the table.  Whisper it, but I think he nearly enjoyed doing it this week!  He won’t admit it though!  Anyway, lets crack on!

It is the week that Sheffield release Mike Duco and bring in Guillaume Desbiens from the Austrian league, Blaze release Ned Lukacevic and replace him with no one – yet,  Belfast gets set to host the fantastic “Freindship Four” tournament, Braehead Clan enjoy a well earned and very welcome 4 point win to relieve some pressure on Coach Finnerty,  EIHL player of the week is Clan forward Brendan Brooks, Edinburgh are caught up in more controversy, this time at home to Nottingham, and the Manchester Storm win the battle of the basement in Coventry.

As a reminder here are you panelists…

Killer   

Todd 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?

Seth2

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”

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 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:  The ins and outs we discussed a few weeks ago, are now in full swing, Sheffield bringing in Desbiens, and releasing Duco, Blaze releasing Lucacevic, and seemingly set to replace him in the next day or so. Is it a surprise these two guys in particular failed to impress at their respective clubs, they both were bought in, with high expectations and fanfare?

Todd Kelman (TK)  Every year there are players that come in or move teams and big things are expected of them. The truth is sometimes guys just don’t pan out or maybe they don’t fit into the team. You have two good coaches here recruiting players that they obviously did their homework on and it didn’t work out.

You can’t blame the coaches, blame the players for not performing. Fans always have opinions on where guys should play or who they should play with. Players have the same opinions of themselves.

In my 18 years of pro hockey experience, I have never seen a coach release a player who is a great teammate, who comes to the rink with a great attitude and works hard every day. So this is the player’s fault, always. And when players don’t think so, they aren’t looking in the mirror hard enough. It is the same in every profession – you can go to work and get paid and complain when things don’t go your way, or why you were overlooked for the promotion or in our world why you don’t get PP time or PK time or why a team got rid of you when you are clearly one of their best players… OR you can show up with a great attitude, work hard every day and if things aren’t going your way, work harder and if they still aren’t going your way, ask how you can improve or what you can do to get better. Coaches don’t get rid of those guys, they find a way to keep them.

Seth Bennett (SB)   Mike Duco is a player, who on paper looked a perfect fit for the the Elite League. For whatever reason, Duco didn’t work out, maybe it was the adjustment to playing on big ice or maybe it was having to play a lesser role than he potentially imagined. In truth he wasn’t much more than a third line grinder which is below expectation.

Ned Lukacevic was a known quantity and Coventry knew what they were getting. He is a player who thrives in a free flowing game where his responsibility is limited.

 Mike Duco and Ned Lukacevic, both released this week…

Craig Summerton (CS)  I expected more from Duco. A character guy who didn’t play with much character. NHL > AHL > Austria > ECHL > EIHL. Did he have the motivation to go again in the EIHL? Who know but he certainly didn’t do what it said on the tin. Lukacevic on the other hand did do exactly what it said on the tin. Turned it on once in a while. Only wanted to play one way. A player/coach match that was simply never going to work.

Marc LeFebvre (ML)  Every player that is signed over the summer is brought in to fill certain roles. I can’t speak for Thommo or Chuck but looks like they felt they needed an upgrade and weren’t getting what they expected from those players. Every signing is always a risk and sometimes they just don’t work out as you expected.

David Simms (DS)    You never know, there is risk in signing any player. Especially those you don’t see before they arrive (Duco). If it was as easy as just reading resume’s then Freddie Black would be the best GM in the league.  Players you expect to succeed don’t and then some you take a flyer on work like a dream, its part of sport I guess. As far as Duco goes no one here has a bad word to say about him. Nice guy, worked hard but things just didn’t work out as we had both planned.  It proves that resumes are only a small part of the job.

Neil Russell (NR)  I think everyone expected more from Duco. A former NHL’er you’d expect to see walk our league, but as evidenced with likes of Westgarth (very different players, granted) last season, it doesn’t always work out like that. Lucacevic is a good hockey player, saw him play plenty for Fife, and was always a threat…..strange to see he wasn’t able to replicate that for the Blaze.

Stuck In the Box:  There are clubs within the EIHL currently, whose coaches have admitted publicly their players are under performing.  Weber, Finnerty, and Thompson all critical of their players recently. Thompson and Weber in particular were vocal in their own styles of their own players. In turn, are they under pressure from their own bosses to turn things around, soon rather than later?

CS   Here are three guys probably at their wits end simply trying to get their groups going. Each has enough clout in their respective ways to get away with it. More heads might roll but I don’t see it being any of the coaches, just yet at least (the 4 point weekend was massive for Finner who I think is under the most pressure of the three, right or wrongly).

DS   I don’t think either of the two you mention are and I would be surprised if Weber was either. Three experienced hockey coaches who know their trade better than we or those reading this.

There is of course pressure, certainly at our club. The Steelers is the biggest pressure cooker in the league but not pressure to change as many outside would likes to do. I don’t think there has ever been real pressure in Braehead, they are above where they were last year on points out of conference, they have had a horrible schedule out of their rink. I still think end up a point ahead of them and you won’t be too far off.

Coventry is a slightly different one, I think Weber earned enough Brownie points to see him through the year whatever the results are. The bigger question is who replaces him if he leaves. I think they are better sticking with him long term, as are the two other clubs.

Weber

Blaze Head Coach Chuck Weber, bottom of the league and under pressure? 

“Not so” says David Simms

TK  Here is the thing – coaching is stressful, far far far more stressful than playing or running a team. You do all the preparation, systems, scouting, analysing then you have to rely on your players to implement all of it. I bet Weber and Thompson are both frustrated as hell, but I doubt either one of them is feeling pressure from their bosses because the pressure they are putting on themselves is far greater and probably all they are feeling and always feel during any season.

They both have won.. ALOT. They are both experienced and they will both be working around the clock to fix the problems they feel they have in their teams. I don’t think their bosses in Coventry or Sheffield know more about hockey than either Weber or Thompson and I don’t think they could find better people to run their teams. There are good teams in this league and all of them are well run and have good coaches doing far more these days than what coaches were doing a few years back.

We all will have periods through out a season when we lose games and play poorly – that is what is so great about pro sports and why this league is more exciting than ever. Because when 10 teams face-off on a Saturday Night, finally after all these years, 10 fan bases, every single week have the one thing that keeps them coming through the doors… Hope. There are no more easy games, there are no nights off and that means that preparation becomes more important than ever.

So when a great coach finds his team not performing, he gets frustrated, and that might be pressure, but it is also passion and a desire to win, which these two guys have in spades.  

ML  This is a results oriented business and there is pressure to perform whether its at a big club or a small club. In Sheffield, I know the expectations there are to win every trophy. in Simmsey’s own words, “we are the best club in the UK”. Tony Smith is a passionate man and has put a lot of time and money into the on and off ice product and from being there he expects results.

I don’t need to go into any thoughts on Coventry as we know what happened last season when things started going the wrong way. 🙂

As for Finner, I don’t know how Neil Black runs things so I can’t comment if he would be putting him under pressure or not. 

SB   Yes – Sheffield have already made one change and there will no doubt be more to come if they continue to under perform. Speaking to the media and expressing their emotions to the fans a key part of a coaches jobs. Weber is more calculated, Thompson and Finnerty are more emotional but the impact is the same. To let the fans know what they have seen is not good enough. 

NR  This is a results based business, and for those “Big Teams”, their owners have high expectations every year, so I’m sure they do feel that pressure. And so they should, as should the players. Fans can accept defeat if they see blood, sweat and tears from their team, but they won’t settle for players not giving their all, and that seems to be what the coaches who have publicly slammed their players, are calling them out on.

Stuck In the Box:  Changing the subject completely, I am off to Sheffield on Friday night, and taking my 8 year old daughter who can’t wait to see Steeler Dan do his dance. Which club has the best Mascot and why?

SB  It is funny I never pay attention to the mascots, but they are a great part of match nights for the kids. I have to say there is no mascot in the league that can match Dan for dance moves.

NR  Clangus is very good at the Clan (bit smelly mind you!)

ML   I don’t pay attention to what mascots are doing what but if they’re entertaining the kids and crowd then they’re doing their job. 

DS  I like that new one at Dundee, the one stands on the bench behind the players in the new suit. He is very good!  10 Sets of fans will give you 10 answers – I of course love Steeler Dan and he is perfect for us. I think a lot depends who is in the costume and how the are directed in their use. I think they all do a good job though.

CS  Daisy says Steeler Dan and who am I to argue with an 8 year old?!

TK  I haven’t seen them all, and every team is probably partial to their own so I am voting for Taz in Cardiff. My favourite opposing team mascot right now has to be Clangus in Braehead – I really need to do my research before these questions because I don’t know what Clangus is, a bison, maybe a buffalo? Whatever he is, I like him, I bet Clangus rocks that rink.

To be fair to all of the mascots, they are all doing a good job and it makes it a fun part of the game night experience. And let’s be honest, they need to be a bit strange to be a mascot – I bet goalies talk about how weird mascots are and that is saying something..

SD.jpeg‘Steeler Dan’ strutting his stuff at play off final weekend

Stuck in the Box:  Before we all sat down today there was a lot of talk and jostling over which EIHL club has the best MNE (Match Night Experience) so come on tell me, which club is doing it best currently, bearing in mind, some of the restraints some clubs have with their own arena’s?

DS   I think you make a good point, what you are allowed to do based on your arena. We can do things at the arena we can’t at Ice Sheffield. I was in Cardiff and see Todd trying to do the same job he did in Belfast – it works but not as well as it did in their arena – I think their show will be terrific in the new building where he can get back to what he did so well with the Giants.

Its also not just about the gimmicks either. Fife do little if anything to enhance their show yet the MNE is as good as you will find because of the people inside the building creating an atmosphere you can’t replicate with gizmo’s.

ML  I can only speak from the introductions as I am on the bench. It is hard to beat Sheffield’s build up to the players coming onto the ice but I think Braehead is right up there as well. I will say this, the best build up to player intros was in the old Cardiff rink. Even as an opposing player I loved it

SB  I like what Belfast do, good music, good show. Sheffield make best use of the big screen and it is an event. John Hammond does a good job at drawing in new fans in Manchester and atmosphere wise nothing right now beats Cardiff. 

ND

Neil Diamond belts out Sweet Caroline.

No thanks” says Question Time’s Craig Summerton

TK  I think different teams do it well and without being able to travel to every away team, it is hard to judge. I have experience with two very different venues and two completely different match night experiences and I take the fan experience very serious and make it the core of our business. I think we do it well in Cardiff, but I would say over the last few years, every team is getting better and learning more each season.

You have to know your audience and continue to find new ways to engage with customers and make it fun for everyone. We are entertainment after all, and entertainment has to be the focus before sport. Not everyone would agree with that, but go to a sport you have no interest in and decide if you would go back based on your experience. The likelihood of the score in the game being the first thing you talk about is very low.

More than likely it is about what was going on around the sport, the experience. Great sporting performances keeps the purists happy and coming back, great experiences opens up your customer base to so many more people.

NR  Pound for pound, for me, it’s my Storm. {a collective groan around the rest of the table follows these words}  Hey listen, the feedback we receive night in night out from travelling fans as well as newbies to our rink, has been incredible! Jon Hammond should be doing this seasons Play Off’s in my opinion, he is exceptional at what he does!!

CS   To answer this, from a fan perspective I ask myself which do I enjoy the most? The answer is Belfast. I don’t like the screaming kids and the free food that flies everywhere but I get it. They have the advantage of a tremendous city and facilities which are second to none but I just like the feel they create in the building and of course the two hockey themed bars. Their fans are most welcoming and I much prefer listening to Volbeat rather than Sweet Caroline or Cotton-Eyed Bloody Joe.

Stuck in the Box:  Talking of comedy figures within the EIHL, Devin Didiomete, reintroduced himself to the Coventry Blaze faithful this week, skating around laughing, sharing banter, generally being a pain in the behind to Coventry and helping his team secure 2 points. The league is a better organisation with people like Deeds in it, isn’t it?

DS  If you can keep him interested, focussed and doing well on the ice it is yes. I like Deeds, a good man but many have come over more interested in their twitter followers than the game. Deeds will be a good signing for Manchester, he is a character but he has to be a good hockey player first and character second …… Or #gonebydeadlineday

ML   For a new franchise like Manchester, I think it is important to have characters like Deeds to help put bums on seats and promote the club. In the UK, it seems the characters/villains are talked about and remembered more than the skilled scorers. 

TK  I saw a video of Didiomete lip syncing Thunderstruck before his first game just sitting in his apartment. I thought it was clever. I love that kind of thing. Good for him, it took me 20 seconds to decide for myself that he is obviously a fun guy and knows that he can be a character.

NR   100%- I love characters. They sell tickets & get people talking. When they’re on the ice, fans are always thinking “something could happen here”. I love/’d players like David Ling/Brad Voth/Paxton Schulte. There aren’t enough characters these days. Deeds is most certainly ones of those!

DD.jpeg

Love him or hate him Deeds is back in the EIHL!

“Is that ok for you?” Devin yelled at Blaze fans on Sunday night. 

It was certainly ok for his adoring Storm fans!

CS   Yes 100%. I got talking to a guy last Sunday before the game in the pub who told me he’d been to a handful of Blaze games in the past. “I remember that Andre Payette,” he said. Not Dan Carlson, Neal Martin or Adam Calder. “I went to a game a year or two ago and I was disappointed there wasn’t any rough stuff, not fighting but you know, hitting and stuff. It was quite boring actually,” he concluded. I guess that says it all. 

SB  Devin is smarter, older and wiser and in my opinion he helps the Storm. That said, Devin will give Neil and Omar plenty of headaches between now and the end of the season. For him to be who he is he has to walk the line and there will be times where he crosses it. 

Stuck in the Box:  Up in Edinburgh on Friday night, a monumental mess up with the time keeper letting Caps player Craig McCallum out of the box early, we all know what happened then. Credit to Stef Hogarth and his team for sorting it all out. Had it not have been spotted at the time, would the Panthers have been within their rights to request a replayed game? What would have been the correct fix, if any?

TK  It would have never gotten to that point. The player came out of the box early and someone on the Panthers bench would have figured it out if the referees hadn’t. I don’t know if there was someone working the penalty box who got it wrong or if the player just jumped out there, but either way, somebody messed up and the refs caught it.

DS  There wouldn’t have been one once the game had ended – unless Sheffield would have been involved and 2 point Tony would have sorted it. Seriously once a game is over its over. As much as I wish that goal would have stood, credit the officials for making the right call.

ML   Yes they would have but in saying that it becomes a grey area. Do they replay the game from the start? Continue the game from when the “goal” happened? The outcome of the game stands? The league would be in a bad spot PR wise to try and explain what happened if they let it stand. For me, the correct fix would be to restart the game from the time of the “goal” and finish the game from that point. 

NR  Thankfully Stef Hogarth got the call right on the night, and real controversy was averted. I hate sitting on the fence, but I would have to think about this a lot more to give an honest answer to the question.

CS  McCallum doesn’t jump on the ice if he knew he had another 2 minutes of penalty to sit. Did he pay enough attention or was the information not communicated properly to him? Let’s just be thankful it was spotted despite it being a huge shame for the Caps – the last thing we needed was another refereeing controversy.

 

 

caps

The Edinburgh Capitals boys involved in another controversy, last time it was no over time in Belfast, this time players getting out the penalty box early!

SB  Of course Nottingham would have been within their rights to request the fixture to be replayed, thankfully I am not having to deal with that scenario. Had an extra skater come on the ice from the bench when Edinburgh scored I think Nottingham would have been told tough luck. For me this again falls into the category of players having to take more responsibility, you have to know when your penalty will expire. 

Stuck in the Box:  As well as Steelers –v- Blaze on Friday it’s also the big Scottish derby game Dundee –v- Fife on the same night, Dundee are in fine form, an easy win for Marc’s team surely?

CS  At home especially I’m backing Marc’s team. He has more difference makers, better goaltending and his group is playing with confidence, something seemingly lacking in Fife at present.

ML  There are only two things guaranteed in life. Death and taxes so definitely no easy wins ever. Fife are looking to turn their fortunes of late around and they’ll be well prepared to play us Friday. It’s a derby game and they will bring a good crowd with them to Dundee. In saying that, things have been going well for us lately and we want this run of form to continue. 

 

NR  I hope Fife run them ragged the whole 60, then take them to OT & penalty shots! (Stars play Storm on Saturday in Manchester!!!) Marc is doing a fantastic job there & has recruited really well, delighted to see him do such a good job after a difficult period in Coventry last year.

SB  Dundee have been playing really well and have had some huge wins including Sunday against Cardiff. Fife have been streaky and they are a team that really need a win. For me it is a Stars win they have too much offence. 

TK  Never an easy win in those big games between those two teams. Your team’s place in the standings doesn’t matter when you are playing your biggest rival. I would love to experience one of those games live, I bet they are awesome to see. This will be a great battle and as long as it is being shown online, this is the one I will be watching on Friday. Should be a great game.

Pink.jpgDundee chief, style guru and QT panelist Marc “Pinky” Lefebvre faces a tough local derby on Friday night

DS   I hope so for Marc’s sake as he is a good boy and still an agent for the family. No such thing as an easy win for anyone. Small teams beating big teams. Edinburgh beat Nottingham, Dundee beat Cardiff and Braehead beat Sheffield (wait for them to bite!)

We haven’t seen Fife yet so hard to comment. Dundee favourites? Yes I guess they are, but easy win, those days are gone.

Stuck in the Box:  I mentioned Deeds earlier, and made reference to him being a character, who’s the biggest character of the same ilk, to grace the EIHL, tell us about why you have picked him

TK   EIHL – Brad Voth no doubt. I tried to sign him every year when I was in Belfast and now that I am in Cardiff I realise just how popular he was here. He was a big, tough imposing figure during a period when (probably lucky for him) there was no DOPS to keep him a bit more in line. He scored goals, he fought, he crushed guys and in the BBT he was the most noticeable player on the ice every single game.

Had we had twitter and Facebook to promote him in his glory days I think he would have sold even more tickets than he was responsible for. He was great with fans, could entertain a crowd and it was usually worth coming to a game just to see him. And more importantly, he knew it.

Part of being a character in this league has to be longevity with the same club. Fans want their favourite player to stick around for a few years and when they do, especially if they are a tough guy, they are easily the most popular player on the team.

Currently I would list Adam Keefe as the one guy that has become the face of a franchise, which is rare in the EIHL these days because players usually don’t stick around long enough. Adam would go out and fight the other team’s heavyweight, then play it up to the crowd win or lose, he would then be the first guy upstairs getting photos done with kids and probably earlier that week he was doing some sort of charity thing on his own without the rest of us knowing.

The league needs more guys like him and there are probably guys on every team that could and want to do more but maybe think it is too over the top or against the code of the game. To the players wondering about what I mean… I’m telling you – celebrate your goals, in fact over celebrate, we want to see the passion and the excitement you feel when you score – jump into the glass, high five the fans hanging over the plexi, taunt the other teams, chirp opposing players, we all love it.

It creates memories and gives us stories to tell and helps promote the game. No good hockey story over a beer ever started “hey remember that great pass you made to that guy that one time?” They usually are about a fight, or a funny moment, or a great line a player chirped at someone else. Work with us guys – get creative.  I think Zach Fitzgerald is going to be this guy in Sheffield, I really do. I think having Simmsey there to promote him is good too.  It is probably about time we start to associate a player with Sheffield more than we do Simmsey, wouldn’t you agree David? Honk if you love Fitzy – now there is a good hockey story.

 

 

DS  Not sure about that Todd!  Lots of characters though. Payette was one when he first came over, became a side show after his first two years I think but he did the job.

 

CS  Tough to look past Brad Voth, the face of the Cardiff Devils organisation for so many years and as the others have referred to, characters come no bigger than ‘the wild thing’ Andre Payette. However, I’m going to give a shout out to Derek Campbell. ‘Soupy’ was loved and hated in equal measure but one thing he always did was get people talking. Something happened when he was on the ice, for better or for worse. He’d wear his helmet half way up his head, his shorts would almost fall down as he screened the netminder. He’d get you off your seat with a silky move or perfect pass. He’d have opposition fans baying for blood as he went after a player on the final buzzer. He was a little loopy but I loved him. It was just right for him to sign off with a 47 game ban! He was pure entertainment and that’s the business we are in.

ML  For me it is definitely Andre Payette. He has always been a larger than life character on and off the ice, whether good or bad. He is a big reason why Coventry won the grand slam and Newcastle’s playoff victory. Opposing fans/players hated him and he played the role of the villain perfectly.

SB  Big bad Brad Voth for me – he is the man Belfast could have built the whole franchise around. He scored goals and wound up fans and players of every other team. 

NR   I mentioned a few in my earlier answer. From Sean McMorrrow, to Brad Voth, to David Ling, Andre Payette, Ryan Finnerty, Jade Galbraith, Adam Keefe, John Craighead have all been great “characters” that have graced our league. BUT, you’ve asked me to pick one, so I’ll go with Brad Voth. He was tough, he was dirty, he was a huge man that intimidated many players and got under the skin of the opposition. He loved the Lord Mayor of Cardiff tag, and played the whole role superbly well. He put bums on seats although he was never the same after Sean McMorrow dropped him one night in Belfast!


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!
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!

QT

Week Commencing: 16th November

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…

Killer

 

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?

Seth2

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”

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 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 BoxRyan 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. 

holt

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. 

Thommo

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”.  

AB

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. 

PachaNR CRICKET

“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..

 

Aview

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!

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!

QT

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

Week Commencing: 2nd November

This week on Question Time we welcome Braehead Clan head coach Ryan Finnerty to the Panel.

It is the week the Elite League relaunch its website, Tyler Plante suffers injury and is replaced by 36-year-old Marek Pinc, Coventry’s poor start continues crashing out of the Challenge Cup at the expense of Manchester, Kevin Noble gets a 5 game ban for clipping whilst Joey Martin gets a 1 game ban for throwing a water bottle in the same incident, and Storm netminder Zane Kalemba wins EIHL Player of the week….

The panel answering the questions this week, consists of…

Finner34-year-old Braehead Clan Head Coach Ryan Finnerty is this weeks ‘guest’ panelist.

Finnerty first burst onto the EIHL scene in 2007, joining Sheffield mid-season after a brief spell in Italy and prior to that over 250 games in the East Coast.

The popular Canadian completed two further succesful seasons winning the League title and two play off championships before leaving in 2009 for Bloomington in the IHL.

The sabbatical from the Elite League only lasted 15 games however and soon enough Ryan found himself back in the UK, this time around with Cardiff.  Again he was a big success, averaging a point a game.  In his second and concluding season with the Devils, he captained the Welsh side clocking up a notable 228 PIMS, a career high and 4th in the EIHL that year, behind messrs Penner, Campbell and Lepine.  Finnerty significantly the only one of those mentioned to bag more than 50 points that season (65).

What turned out to be Ryan’s final playing season (2011-12) saw him back with “the family” of the Steelers where he accepted the role of player coach.  A nagging back injury saw Ryan only play the one season in this second spell with Sheffield, and he retired to become their full-time coach.  However both campaigns went without silverware, and his contract was not renewed by the Yorkshire club.  However he wasn’t out of work for long, accepting the head coaches job, and being an integral part in the rise in fortunes of Glasgow based club, the Braehead Clan over the last three seasons.  2014/15 saw Braehead win their conference (Gardiner) but finish runners-up to Sheffield in a closely run contest, something Finnerty, is sure to want to put right.

As usual I asked our regulars to give me one word for “Finner” this is what they gave me.

David Simms “Beauty”

Craig Summerton “Fiery”

Marc Lefebvre “Humorous”

Seth Bennett “Relentless”

Neil Russell “Rink – Rat”

Seth2

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”

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 Box11 games since last Wednesday in the Elite League. What has been your stand out team performance since then? Is there a result where you have thought “Wow”?

Ryan Finnerty (RF)   I think everyone is looking at Edinburgh and constantly surprised with how well they’re doing. The result in Sheffield was a surprise only because they were so short benched but they have a dynamic team that can create scoring chances out of nothing. Chubak gives them the stability we are all looking for in net, he wins them games, he has been incredible every time we have played them. 

Seth Bennett (SB)  It has to be Dundee 6-all with Belfast, coming back in the final minute having conceded was amazing and showed great character. I can’t imagine the amount of video Favor is consuming after this weekend though. 

Craig Summerton (CS)  Sorry Seth, but its got to be Manchester going into the Sky Dome, equally depleted as their opponents, full of sickness and coming out convincing winners to complete a 4 point weekend. Their first away win of the season in their most important. It wasn’t a 3-1 game, it was a 5 or 6-1 game. Blaze stunk the place out, that was my “Wow” moment. I was stunned how poor the effort and performance was from a team who were seemingly going in the right direction, regardless of how many games in how many days it was very disappointing.

Marc LeFebvre (ML)   Yep, Manchester’s win over Coventry Sunday. Must win game for both teams to advance to the next round of the cup and Omar and the Storm stepped up to the plate and got the job done. Have you come down from cloud 9 yet Neil?

Pacha

The majority of the panel pick out Omar Pacha’s Manchester Storm victory at Coventry as their “wow” performance of the week

Neil Russell (NR)  Just about Marc, just about.  Yes Rob, it has to be my Manchester Storm’s performance vs Coventry last Sunday to clinch a berth in the ¼ finals of the CC. A sickness bug spread across the team prior to the weekend, so a few of the guys that played on Sunday, should have been tucked up in their beds in all honesty. Very proud of the teams efforts.

David Simms (DS) I can’t disagree with the last few comments, I think the Manchester win in Coventry. It was the first real “Must Win” game of the season for any team. That game made Manchester £20,000 and lost Coventry a lot more, both financially and surely in confidence.   Coventry not making the quarter finals is simply not acceptable to the owners of that club, or shouldn’t be.

 

Stuck In the Box: Steelers netminder Tyler Plante has unfortunately been hit by injury and Paul Thompson has had to bring in 36-year-old Marek Pinc to cover, how will the effect them?

CS  It’s very difficult to find a grade A guy at this time of year. Despite a good start Plante has struggled to live up to expectations and in recent weeks has been Sheffield’s weak link. Steelers give up less shots than anyone in the league. So far, on average Plante has faced just 25 a game. Thompson wasn’t looking to replace a world beater, he just needed someone who could make the stops a goalie in this league should. Pinc has a CV which suggests he should be able to do that.

DS  We will see, we only announced it at 6am today. But I can tell you Paul worked throughout the day and night for two days. Lets hope its worth it.

PT

The Sheffield ownership and management have had a net minding crisis to deal with this week

RF  I am sure the new guy will be fine.

ML  At this time of the year its hard to find the quality you want at such short notice.  In saying that, his CV suggests that he can be a good injury cover, and I am sure Simmsey will have him integrated into their “family values” in no time.

SB   Who knows Rob?  He is a quick fix for a big problem – he has a good resume and there is no doubt he has shown previously he can play at this level and above.  He doesn’t have time to play himself in though, and he needs to be sharp and quick.

NR  I don’t know a lot about the guy, but what I have heard over the last 24 hours has been positive.  Knowing Thommo the way we all do, he may well have found another stud with Marek.

Stuck In the Box:  In the summer it was suggested that net minding standards had increased across the league. What are your feelings on this now?

SB  We seem to have seen some high scoring games, I am not sure if that is down to deeper squads or worse goaltending. I think there have been some amazing saves and every netminder has shown they are beatable so far. 

NR  Good question, reading a lot of social media, it’s fair to say Holt in Braehead hasn’t had the start everyone was expecting off him, given his superb resume. One thing I will say though, remember Frank Doyle? He had a slow start to his first season here, and ended up back stopping Sheffield to a championship. He was easily their MVP during the “business end” of the season.

ML  I think it’s been up and down across the board but I think that’s due more to the fact of the quality offensive players that have been brought in throughout the league. There’s more creativity thus leading to better scoring chances. 

DS   Goaltending has always been a strength in this league I have felt. In the summer I thought the standard had risen but I’m not so sure. It’s very good but is it really better? The chap in Nottingham looks the most consistent right now. We have seen others have great times and then not so great times. It’s good but it isn’t great – is it Ryan?

CS  How many goalies are looking at their numbers and feeling happy right now? Simmsey, is right regarding Wiikman, he certainly will be happy with how he has started the season.  But I feel there are a number of guys who will be feeling they need to be better. Two or three others might be content but overall I’d say the netminding standards have been below average thus far.

RF   I believe the reason for the parity in the league this year is down to one, the increased level of imports and two, the quality of goaltending. Goalies can win you games and we are seeing that week in and out now, teams are getting heavily out shot but still winning games. 

holtChris Holt hasn’t had the start we may have been expecting, Neil Russell tells us.

Stuck in the Box:  Braehead and Coventry aren’t where they want or expected to be in the table. Coventry playoff winners but bottom of the league albeit with games in hand, and the Clan 8th after narrowly missing out on the title last season, again though with a game or two in hand. What can both teams do to change their fortunes?

DS   Nothing wrong with Braehead is there Rob? Look at the table, no really look at it. Their win record out of conference is already better than last year, they have played most of their games on the road and out of conference. In another 15 games time when everyone is roughly on the same page then you will see Braehead in the top 2/3 for sure.  Coventry is a different story. There is obviously something wrong there, a little like Chelsea. Everyone has their opinions but they are all slightly different. I think the Blaze would like to have their summer back. Some lazy recruitment.

ML  Both of their coaches would be better to ask for specifics but I think all 10 coaches are looking to change their fortunes in some way. Unless you’re winning night in and night out and sitting in first place, coaches will always be looking to improve their teams in different areas to become better and get results. 

SB  Braehead need to play a few games at home that will really help them. The Clan don’t scream that they are a Ryan Finnerty team. They have been at times a bit perimeter and they are not as in your face as I anticipated. That said, they will still be up there come March. Coventry appear to have bigger problems. Scoring remains an issue and Chuck Weber needs to find a way for the team to be more creative, whilst improving it’s defensive play.

RF    I can only speak for Braehead here and while we aren’t where we want to be, there is no panic in our camp. This league has been home team dominated so far (43-14) We have only played 3 home “League” games. Compare that with Nottingham playing 9 to date and the picture becomes a bit more clear. Its far too early to over analyze at this point, the key is to stay focused, not to ride the roller coaster that a long season will throw at you. We understand the expectations in Braehead are high at the moment and we need to channel that pressure in the right direction.

NR  I think the Clan will climb up the ranks soon enough, they’ve had a tough schedule so far this season, spending a lot of time on the road. Finner doesn’t settle for mediocrity, so he’ll have them flying soon enough. Regarding Coventry, I can only speak for what I saw last Sunday, and for me, there wasn’t a lot of emotion. Blaze had played 6 games in 10 nights I believe, not easy on any team, but in an important game like Sunday they needed a spark. A big hit. A fight. A big energy shift, to excite the bench and the crowd. It didn’t come. (And I’m glad it didn’t!!)

CS  I think both need to make personnel changes before it’s too late. Fingers are always pointed at the coaches in these situations but for me both teams have an abundance of players paid to produce who quite simply aren’t doing it.

Stuck in the Box:  How much of Braehead’s slow start is a direct result of the likes of Dundee and Edinburgh upping their game

DS  None what so ever. Braehead are better than them both and will show that over the season. Credit the other clubs for sure but Braehead are the best team in Scotland and the only Scottish team with a chance of silver this year. Their schedule has been the worst, the table can lie in November, it won’t in March. Any Braehead fan even slightly concerned right now is crackers.

ML  There’s a few factors that are probably coming into play. This league is a marathon and not a sprint and knowing Ryan, I’m sure he’s not hitting the panic button yet. They have a veteran group there and I’m sure they’ll rev it up sooner than later.

RF  Come on, I already answered this one Rob!

NR   No doubt that Dundee have improved massively from last season. They’re the one team that have blown us away both times we’ve played them. Favor is doing a great job there & I’m delighted to see it after he had a difficult time last season. Re Edinburgh, I’ve already mentioned a few times how impressed I’ve been with them, they have a great product there this season, with some size, toughness and Ryan Hayes!

Riley“Riley Emerson has recruited well for Edinburgh” Craig Summerton

“Maybe, but Braehead will still be the top Scotland team” David Simms tell us

CS  A big factor. Clan can no longer expect to win any game in their conference. Marc and Riley have recruited very well, both have goalies who can steal them games and a handful of offensive guys who can do serious damage on their night. Fife too are starting to put some form together. It’s that old cliché again but there are no easy nights in the EIHL anymore.

SB  I think Braehead competing in the CHL, the lack of home ice have been two of the biggest issues for Ryan. However the Gardiner is better this year, which helps everyone BUT Braehead. 

Stuck in the Box: How much will missing out on qualification to the quarter finals hurt Coventry and Edinburgh?

RF  I will leave this one for the other guys to answer.  It’s not one I really want to comment on.

DS   Won’t hurt Edinburgh at all. They won’t have budgeted for it. It would have been a confidence boost if they had made it but their league form recently will be a great replacement. Everyone happy to see the Cap’s doing well.  Coventry very different. This summer on the back of the play off success they built to win. Big coach, bigger budget and bigger expectation. They, I think assumed that the good times were back. Then in two weekends they find themselves out of Europe in what was a winnable group and then out of the Cup against a side put together in 6 weeks. It’s more the way they went out as well, at home, in a big game. The Blaze are a big time club, or were they?

ML  From a business side of things, it definitely hurts the club in regards to the lost revenue from having the extra home game. On the hockey side, it’s a major trophy we play for and not qualifying for the quarter finals is failure in my eyes. If it’s not seen as that then why even enter the competition. 

NR  Financially, it will hurt. The guaranteed extra home game helps the qualifying clubs a lot, hence why we placed importance on getting to the next stage! Though if we end up drawing Belfast in the ¼’s, that’s always an expensive trip for a travelling team to add into the mix.

CS  Edinburgh expect and plan for it. For Coventry it’s a massive hit in the pocket having to try to sell tickets for a dead rubber and losing the quarter-final gate and perhaps beyond. It also felt a turning point for fans, the pressure is now fully on the organisation, management and players to act and find a way to climb the table because right now the Blaze faithful are well and truly fed up.

SkydomeCoventryNo more challenge cup games at Coventry’s Sky Dome Arena this season after an early exit.  “That will hurt them and it highlights how hard the Midlands team are finding things this term” according to Seth Bennett

SB  I am not sure it hurts either of the long-term, but it does highlight how hard Coventry have found it this term.  

Stuck in the Box:  Sheffield have been caught up in another drama this week, this time showing a goal that was waved off (incorrectly) by the official on the big screen, were they right or wrong to do that?

CS  If the league can’t figure out a way to offer the officials the benefit of video replay then it shouldn’t be played back on the big screen for all to see. It didn’t change anything, just served to undermine and alienate a young referee who probably already feels like the league is doing very little to help and support him and his colleagues. 

NR  I knew this one would come up! Simmsey, stop creating drama!! I can see both sides of the argument on this one. I’m all for creating theatre in the arena, BUT, I can also see how it undermines the referee at the same time, and can create a hostile environment for them on the back of showing the replay. On this occasion, I would have aired on the side of caution & not played it. The game is there to create the theatre for the fans, not the video replays.

SB  I don’t think the crowd should ever be given a replay a ref can’t use on a controversial incident while or just after the decision is being made. The bigger issue it highlights, is the need for video reviews and how we do that going forward. It is not about goal line technology, it is about having a video referee which adds more cost than just the technology. 

RF They have the technology to do this, I wish we had the same in Braehead. These replays are shown at the NHL level, whether it was a missed call or disallowed goal. I don’t think Sheffield did anything wrong but I noticed they didn’t show the offside that led to their game tying goal against us a few weeks ago. But in all honestly, I think its great for the fans to be able to watch the replays live as it adds more excitement to the game.  

ML  Put it simply, they were wrong. Unless the official has access to it during the game to get the call right then it shouldn’t be shown. It’s basically undermining the officials. Have you been fined yet David? 

DS  No Marc, and I don’t expect us to be. 100% yes we were right. Just because we have worked hard to raise the funds to build our own screen and have the facility to do that, because every other club would have done the same and they would have been right to do so. The high and mighty in Wales (Not Todd Kelman by the way, who agreed we should do it) have had a moan but that’s what they do best, moan. If it was a bad injury then out of respect sure, don’t show it, but this was part of the theatre of the night. A massive turning point, a huge incident. 4,500 had paid good money and they deserved to see what had happened.

All those after the event showing holier than vow morals make me laugh. If its good enough for the NHL its good enough for me.

Stuck in the Box:  Finally, stick your neck out time.  Derrick Walser spoke in the week about the fact that he is still learning how to combine being a player with coaching.  However, Belfast and of course Cardiff are flying high in the league with player coaches. Are criticisms about club’s not employing full-time coaches unfounded?

RF  You know what?  I don’t think you can make an assumption like that after 10-13 games into a season. I personally think for this League to grow and get more respect from the Hockey world, we need to dissolve the player coach mentality and only employ bench coaches. I have done the PC role and have the up most respect for the guys still doing but I truly believe the game deserves full-time coaches at this level.  

CS  Player/coaches have won here before and they will win again. It is though something which harms the reputation of our league in Europe and beyond, right or wrongly. There are many variables but at the end of the day I expect Paul Thompson to get the better of both Lord and Walser. Could it be different if either stepped off the ice? Perhaps but equally they are both vital pieces to their team.

ML  I’m not a fan of having player/coaches but both Cardiff and Belfast have given Andrew and Derek a good support network around them to have success. I think that is the key if a club is going to go that route. It also helps that Derek and Andrew are quality players and people. Derek hands down is the best defenceman in our league right now and I tried to sign Andrew (Lord) in Coventry before Todd and his crew took over Cardiff. Thanks Killer 

DS   Player coaches are here for one reason only, financial. Ryan has done both ask him.  My view is that clubs should have head coaches not player coaches but I accept at the lower end (Edinburgh) they need money on the ice so can see why they do what they do. Both coaches at Cardiff and Belfast are doing good jobs but clubs their size should have head coaches (bench)

NR  Personal opinion, I would always, budget permitting, have a full-time bench coach. Player/Coach is often said as being the hardest role in hockey, and it probably is. BUT, Cardiff & Belfast have a superb back room staff to assist their player coach. Neil Francis in Cardiff is an ex pro, and Devils through and through. In Belfast, Coach Walser has the experienced Rob Stewart behind the bench, Adam Keefe, Shane Johnson, Brandon Benedict and of course Steve Thornton to call on for help & support! That’s a LOT of help compared to most. And don’t forget, Walser is arguably one of the best offensive D men to ever ply their trade over here. He was looking that next step, and Belfast has the back room support to aid that often difficult transition.

SB  Both Walser and Lord have strong backroom teams, which means they can focus on what goes on, on the ice. If you have all of that, you are picking the play/coach because you believe he is the best man for the job. The difference between that and employing a player/coach just to save money or to save a wage is huge. 

LordMarc LeFebvre reveals he very nearly signed Cardiff player coach Andrew Lord for former club Coventry Blaze
 

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 again to Ryan Finnerty for being the special guest on QT!

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