This Week in UK Ice Hockey – 5th November

This week in hockey has been one of the busiest, most controversial and disappointing weeks in the history of the sport. A rollercoaster but isn’t that why we love it.

So here are the main talking points from this week

  • Common sense has been found at the EIHL and its name is Simon Kirkham – Hard though it might be to believe but following the scenes at Cardiff following the Devils match with the Blaze the league actually got it right or at least the bans they handed out made sense. Many people may not agree with that but both Birbraer and Didiomete did comeback onto the ice to continue the fracas with Benn Olson and they have rightly been banned for that. The footage clearly shows that the Cardiff Devils ‘fan’ that pushed Olson on his way back to the dressing room was a) in an area he shouldn’t have been and b) made the first contact. Would we rather Olson rolled around on the ground like a soccer player or actually showed that hockey players are real men?
  • You can ice 3 goalies in a match – We already knew this for when there was an injury but the Nottingham Panthers knew it was possible anyway. During the Panthers match up with the Edinburgh Capitals on Tuesday night the Panthers had included young goalie Sam Gospel on the team sheet in addition to starting goalie Craig Kowalski and back up Dan Green. With the score 5 – 0 in favour of the Panthers, Kowalski left the bench after the first period to be replaced by Dan Green. Green was then benched in the third period to be replaced by Gospel who had changed from his skaters uniform into goalie gear.  It is the first time 3 goals have been used in a match an EIHL match and all 3 kept a shut out.
  • Paul Bissonnette is a class act – With the NHL lockout in full force the Cardiff Devils picked up the Phoenix Coyotes Paul Bissonnette. Whilst perhaps better known for his physical attributes (8 points, 251 penalty minutes and 270 hits in 135 NHL appearences) it took the Canadian all of 7 minutes to notch up his first 2 points in the EIHL after hot footing it into the line up to help the short staffed Devils. Thats was followed up by another goal against Edinburgh on Sunday.

  • The Winter Classic is now officially cancelled  – It was supposed to have been the biggest game in hockey history with a record attendance of 109,000 people. It is possible that it may still prove to be the biggest game in hockey but in a more figurative way. It appears that the cancellation of the game, that was to feature the Maple Leafs and the Red Wings at Ann Arbour, has sparked up talks again between the NHL and NHLPA to end the lockout. The shock of losing the most lucrative game in hockey history does seem to have had an effect. So like the NHL lockout ended the Winter Classic, the Winter Classic could end the lockout.
  • The Mysterious EIHL Social Media Policy has become a little bit more clearer – A week or so after the Fife Flyers got the first fine for infringing the EIHL’s not during game time rule for a post regarding referees on Facebook the EIHL has hadn’t out two more. Firstly to the Coventry Blaze and then to Cardiff’s Devin Didiomete. Both instances occurred outside of the EIHL’s game time ban so it highlights the league is willing to investigate other malicious or inappropriate comments as well they should.
  • Milton Keynes Lightning forward Leigh Jamieson is the best British forward outside of the Great Britain team – Tony Hand as named his 22 man side for the trip to Japan for the Olympic qualifiers and promptly revised this after Rod Sarich and David Clarke withdrew due to injury. Sarich was replaced by Nottingham’s Steve Lee on the blueline whilst Clarke was replaced by Jamieson of EPL side Milton Keynes. Hand’s choice was met with scepticism as EIHL forwards such as Matt Towe, Tom Squires who scored on his Hull Stingrays debut in midweek and the on form Lee Esders of the Sheffield Steelers. It is a decision that does suggest that some coaches are reluctant to allow their players to join up with the national team through fears it will jeopardise their league standings. But if the EIHL and Ice Hockey UK had gotten their house in order in back in April the tournament would have been played in the UK instead due to IIHF protocol. Now the governors of the sport are again hindering the development of the national team when there is a good chance to qualify for the next round and enhance the image of the sport in the UK.

  • When has the role of the enforcer gone to far? – A bad tempered match up in Coventry between the Blaze and the Giants on Sunday night left some fans to wonder if the EIHL has become a goon league. That is perhaps a bit far as Sunday’s game was the second game in two nights between the sides and that is always a recipe for heightened tensions on the ice as incidents the previous night are not forgotten. That was shown with a fight inside 3 seconds but with game penalties for Leeb, Hirsch and Eigner for fighting or third man and another game penalty for Benn Olson for having three fights in match there it is easy to understand why the fans are asking the question. But with an eleventh import eligible this season it was clear that teams were going to bulk up and the EIHL needs to rethink whether it needs to go back to ten imports per team next season for the image of the league.

It has been a big week and next week sees the GB team in action in Japan for the men and in China for the women. Whilst back home the Capitals face 3 games in 3 nights and Coventry and Cardiff will look to make up ground as the top three have the weekend off.

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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