BOTW Question Time – December 2013

It’s that time of year again, Banners On The Wall has no game reports to write up as the Bison were on the road so we asked for some questions to answer and you have provided.

 

What are you thoughts on fighting in hockey?

I’m generally known for being something of a progressive but fighting is one of those topics within the sport where I’m a bit more old school in my approach. I don’t have an issue with it in the game per se but I have issues with when some players bring it out of the locker.

Hockey is a game played by really athletic, really tough men and women who are skating at speed and bodily impacting into each other in a variety of scenarios whilst carrying a specially crafted weapon in their hands. When you consider it in that sense, having 2 players go toe to toe and punch each other is one of the more preferable options. Hockey is also an aggressive sport and sometimes things boil over. Whether you believe there’s “a code” or not, there’s generally some accepted dos and don’ts between players in fights and I think there’s an argument to be made about having that as an outlet compared to players recreating the final scene of Youngblood. In some ways, with fighting in the sport a player knows where they stand; if they cross a line, there’s a means of dealing with it within the context of the sport.

Does that mean the players shouldn’t be protected from stuff that can go wrong? No. There’s protection for all who take part in combat sports so to have similar things in hockey fighting makes sense.

Does that mean there shouldn’t be penalties for it? Again, no and I still believe the EPIHL should follow the EIHL’s example and have a major penalty for fighting. When you consider that an accidental high stick with blood gets 5+match and fighting gets 2+2, there’s a change of thinking required there.

What irks me; players who don’t answer the bell. If you’re going to do certain things out there then you need to expect to be held accountable for what you do by the opposition. In hockey that sometimes means having to drop the gloves. Is there a line between goading an opponent into taking a silly penalty and not answering the bell? I’d say so but there is also a time when you just have to heed the call.

 

What are your thoughts on the national teams playing at the moment? (under 20s and university)

As I write, the under 20s have finished their campaign and the side at the Universiade finishing the group stages tonight against the Czech Republic.

The under 20s I think will be pleased to have avoided relegation but probably hoping they’d done better in the games they lost. The opening game against Italy (who won gold) where they lost the lead then fell in OT was a game that, if won, could have made the end result of the tournament a lot different. GB also suffered from their age old enemy at international tournaments, penalty trouble with Kazakhstan punishing them on the powerplay. However a solid win over top seeded France and saving themselves from relegation by beating Japan were good results and there’s a lot to take from the tournament. It looked a good side and it was good to finally get Liam Stewart in GB colours. Whilst Stewart might be a career minor leaguer at best, he’s nailed his colours to the mast and a player of his calibre involved with GB can only help. Also of note was two man of the match awards for Coventry Blaze backup Adam Goss. Have his performances earned a look from Matty Soderstrom in terms of starting the odd game at the Skydome?

The Universiade side have had a tough time of it. This piece will go live just before their game with the Czech Republic but they’ve come off of an 8-0 and 11-0 loss and been heavily outshot in the process. Billingham Stars netminder James Flavell has given a good account of himself and we should have some more in depth stuff coming from the tournament soon.

 

If Banners On The Wall was a superhero, which one would it be?

I don’t know if Deadpool counts as a superhero but I’m probably too sarcastic to be anyone else.

 

Best signing of the season so far (not including the Bison)

It’s probably cheating as it’s partially not new but Manchester securing Frankie Bakrlik whilst managing to keep Michal Psurny. Bakrlik does have a tendency to go AWOL when things don’t go his way but Psurny is constantly a threat and add into that an interested Bakrlik and that’s a dynamite combination that Tony Hand has in Manchester. I’ve not seen Kostal play for Swindon yet so that’s my answer there.

 

Most improved player of the season so far

From a Bison perspective I’d have to say Zach Sullivan. Sully has always been good but he’s been outstanding so far this season. Aside from getting his first EPL goal he’s just doing all the little things right and is getting rewarded with more icetime as a result.

Outside of the Bison in terms of who looks better from when I last saw him, it’s Nathan Salem of Telford. I remember watching Salem a couple of years ago for Telford where he was pretty anonymous. He went away, had a couple of years in NIHL 1 North with Solway where he just annihilated the league (170 points in 57 games over 2 seasons) and is back in the EPL with Telford and is developing into a really decent British forward. What happens with the new regime at Telford in terms of his playing time remains to be seen what with Davies, Miller and Plant to now fit into that set of forwards.

 

Your thoughts on the overall fan experience of British hockey

This was sent to me on Twitter by a Bison fan using the name Humphrey Hippo. I asked for a bit of clarification and Humphrey mentioned that the experience rink to rink varies wildly. Our hippo friend was apparently in Slough on Sunday night and mentioned that they’d spent the night sat on a muddy bench staring at someone’s head for most of the night due to poor sight lines.

I can’t account for people’s personal tastes. I’ve also never been to Slough though its reputation does precede it somewhat. I think the experience as a fan differs more between the casual observer and the more dedicated fan than it does rink to rink. Organisations have to play the hand they’re dealt with to a large extent; Jets fans have to deal with poor sight lines, Bison fans have to deal with the loos at the rink not being amazing, Isle of Wight fans have to deal with every ref wanting to get the early ferry (possibly a joke).

It’s hard to speak on the experience nationwide because it’s so vast a topic so let me say what I think.

There are many shades of good and bad in the sport in this country but a hockey club should be focussing on a few things; good on ice product, sensible management of their finances, entertaining match nights and competitively priced tickets.

Some clubs do all of those, very few do none of them but there are some clubs that don’t get the balance right. Now again, that’s a question of perspective. If you asked a Steeldogs season ticket holder whether Sheffield did all of that compared to a Manchester fan’s thoughts on the same topic, they would be vastly different.

The key thing for the fans is to exert their influence within their own sphere. A Bison example would be what the Booster Club did with the programme; sales were low so they altered the format and found ways to make it more attractive to people and I believe the sales are up. Do some people dislike the format? Yes, as the programmes are now A4 they don’t fit in any standard programme holder but people keep buying the things so they’ve obviously done something right.

If you don’t like something at your club or you have a genuinely good idea for an improvement then here’s what to do; find someone relevant to the topic, have an adult conversation with them where you explain succinctly what it is you want changed and, most importantly, be prepared that what you’re suggesting might not be practical.

We can’t change the sightlines in Slough (and to be honest that’s the least of the Jets concerns right now) but any club that objects to reasonable feedback from its fans is doing it all wrong.

Humphrey did say that they’d come along to the game, Bison had lost but they keep returning. I’m glad to hear it. It appears someone somewhere is doing something right.

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