Goodnight and Good Luck – Stevie Lyle

Off the back of the retirement of Greg Owen once the world championships are done, the Bison lost another member of the 2012/13 with the news that Stevie Lyle will not be returning for the new EPL season.

What have we lost?

It’s not an understatement to say that Stevie Lyle is the best netminder in the EPL. The netminder is always a difficult position to fully understand from the outside but all are aware of its importance. You need a good goalie to win anything at all and Lyle was a keeper that will help any team to win. There were moments watching Lyle when he would just make a save that no other keeper at this level could make and his class shone through at times when the defence seemed all at sea. The playoff quarter finals alone recently showed what a great keeper he is under pressure and, whilst he has moments of being human, could do something a moment later that would make you forget he’d made a mistake in the first place.

Where has he gone?

Lyle has signed a two year contract with Swindon Wildcats so we’ll at least see a bit of him over the next couple of years.

Who replaces him?

At the moment, nobody. The rumour mill is busy with a variety of names, Nottingham Panthers’ backup Dan Green and Slough Jets’ backstop Gregg Rockman having been mentioned recently to me.

Final thoughts:

I’m not entirely sure why this is a shock to anyone. It’s sad, yes. We’d all have liked Stevie Lyle back in Bison colours. All teams want the best netminder they can get, but a shock that he’s gone? No, not really.

It’s a well known fact that Lyle dropped to the EPL to be closer to home so the revelation that after a year in Basingstoke he’s now changed his situation to be even closer to home should surprise nobody. The arrangement works well for both parties; Lyle can easily commute and Swindon massively upgrade their netminding on previous years. This does however come with caveats.

I’ll get into my thoughts on Swindon in their “Standing in the Way” piece later in the summer but for Bison fans, this need not be all doom and gloom.

We had the best netminder and yet won nothing in 2012/13. Who wins trophies? The best team wins trophies, not necessarily the best netminder. Guildford and Manchester didn’t have the best netminders and won trophies for a variety of reasons. Swindon had arguably the EPL player of the year and the best British forward and won nothing. The parts have to be good but it all has to work good together to make a winning formula.

Unless the Bison sign Stephen Murphy or go down the unusual route of an import netminder, will our starting netminder for 2012/13 be as good as Stevie Lyle? Likely not but it’s about the entire package that Doug Sheppard puts together that is important. Yes the cogs need to work and the goalie is the biggest of those cogs that needs to work but one cog doesn’t make the machine.

This however doesn’t detract from the fact that in British hockey terms and certainly within the context of EPL hockey, that we got to watch a very special talent. Getting to watch that calibre of play week in, week out for hockey fans should not be something we take for granted. It would have been nice to be able to watch that for another season but other factors stopped that. That is minor league hockey and if you’re not used to that then I am very sorry but you need to be. It is part and parcel of the sport. I confess that I would like Sheppard to keep a core of this team together as it did well and tweaks to the system could make all the difference but the ebb and flow of player transfers for reasons not necessarily related to the sport is just what we deal with. We can only thank Stevie for coming back given his previous experience in Basingstoke, going out every night and giving everything.

All the best Stevie, just not when we see you.


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