Loyal Priorities Or Not

Loyalty is a commodity in ice hockey as much as points and save percentages. Whilst it cannot be recorded on the game sheets or analysed by the statos it is what holds a team together by providing that link between the owners, managers, coaches and the players. Loyalty is what lets the new star player know where the supermarket is when he arrives in town. Every club has their loyal players. The ones who the fans know will be there through no matter what. But loyalty has a problem. It does not put points on the board and so there must come a point when loyalty is axed in favour of wins even through it may upset the balance of the team.

It is not new problem for teams handle but the when Cardiff Devils backup Joe Myers was axed last week it raised many eyebrows not least amongst the Cardiff travelling support on their road trip to Scotland. Those fans sang ‘stand up if you hate (head coach) Brent Pope’ in protest at the axing of Myers.

In the summer of 2012 the Nottingham Panthers cancelled the second year of a contract for veteran Panther Danny Meyers. Meyers had been with the Panthers for 6 years and been part of many successful seasons with the club winning Challenge Cups and Playoff titles. Meyers’ departure was not seen in the best light by the fans at the time but his leaving led to a revamped Panthers side that went on to win their first league title in over 50 years. It is an example of the unpopular decision being made to benefit the club.

Back to Cardiff though and it is very hard to see their move in the same light. Financially speaking it doesn’t make much sense to have 3 full time goalies on the books but Phil Cook will be leaving the Devils and Myers had a full time job as well suggesting he wasn’t on the biggest salary. Playing wise it is hard to see the benefit of using a rotation of the clubs junior goalies and a new comer in Kamil Kosowski. Myers particular this season had proved himself as an able deputy. Stepping in in 9 games when Dan Lacoste was injured. You may not want to give Myers the number 1 role but if your main goalie has an off night or an injury you would be glad he was there. However a certain Stevie Lyle was a young Cardiff junior netminder who made his debut, as a 16 year old so perhaps there will be another one.

But perhaps most puzzling is the off ice dynamic. The Devils have had a dreadful season. They lay in 8th place in the standings, which is there lowest since the Elite League began. There was a month of uncertainty with Gerard Adams playing then not playing then being replaced as head coach. Yet through that Myers had kept going and playing and was sacked for it. It is not something that can go down well with an already confidence battered dressing room.

Where loyalty comes in a list of priorities for player attributes does vary between fans, coaches and management. The Danny Meyers move was an example of that. The Panthers needed to change their British dynamic and that meant no room for Meyers but in the Devils case it is very had to argue the same. The Devils management have gotten rid of a player whose contribution of the ice far exceeded that on it and created more bad blood in an already tainted season.

Neil Tucker

Neil has written on ice hockey for many websites concentrating on British ice hockey mostly. Neil also covers ice hockey in other countries and organises his Blueliner Hockey Tour. A graduate of the Manchester Metropolitan University Neil turned his hand to hockey writing in 2009. As well as contributing on Blueliner Hockey Neil has contributed to Get Real Hockey and Slapshot Magasine.

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