Curtain Down 2013/14

The season is officially done. 2013/14; a season that will go down in history as one of the most successful the Bison have ever had has come to an end so it’s time to round out the campaign. This is Curtain Down.

The playoff weekend:

It was fantastic to see Paul and Becky Shipman as well as meet baby Sam and catch up with Stu, Kerry and Isaac Coles again which is always a nice addition to the hockey.

When I missed the 2013 playoff weekend due to celebrations for my mother in law’s 60th birthday, my wife mentioned that had I missed us winning it, I’d be insufferable. My wife is an astute woman.

The weekend was outstanding. You meet people for fleeting moments or have a few moments of banter or chanting but that’s all you need. Playoff weekend is always good fun.

I managed to have some cherry and cinnamon mead, roast gammon and lamb rogan josh and that was just at the Shipmans! It should be said though that there can’t be a more hockey sight than 4 people standing outside Subway scoffing down a sandwich all looking so nervous that the sandwich could easily reappear.

The overriding feeling of the weekend though was anticipation. It felt all weekend like the Bison could pull it off. It wasn’t without worries of course because this is the Bison and they enjoy making us all have a heart attack but it was great.

Points if you noticed the following things at playoff weekend;

  • DangerMouse

  • Superted who went from being excited to pensive to sad to happy

  • Any Australian hockey jerseys

  • Scott McKenzie sober

The season:

People were writing off the Bison really early in the summer. The team was not meant to challenge, the netminding would see us win nothing, I remember one person saying the money had clearly run out for players when Sheppard announced Standing, Mogg and Dewey in one press release. There was a lot of really weird stuff being said long before the roster was complete.

In the documentary “4 Nights in October” about the Boston Red Sox’ run to the 2004 American League title (and if you’ve not seen it, find it because it’s spectacular), Red Sox manager Terry Francona says that yes, the team has a lot of characters but it also has a lot of character which might be the best way to sum up this team.

The 2013/14 Bison has been a team that is much more than the sum of its parts. Sheppard went out and got a team that really got the mix right. It had skill, it had leadership, it had energy, it had grit and it all came together to make something really good.

There were wobbles obviously and not everything went right on every night. There were setbacks, some had to get off along the way and others got on but the train kept moving. Ultimately Doug Sheppard deserves a lot of credit for putting this team together, the right team that has made the Basingstoke Bison a force in the EPL. I’m not going to sit here and say that I knew the season would end so well because a) you never do know and b) I’ve watched enough hockey to know that you rarely get what you want. You rarely do but this time, I’m pretty sure we did.

A grade for the season? It has to be an A. Written off before and during the season, the Bison won two out of three trophies, took the league to the penultimate weekend before a second placed finish and a lot of people are having to stare at a portion of humble pie over the summer. We can dream of what 2014/15 will bring.

The thank yous:

I’ll start with who I should always start with; my wife Emily never finds any of the ranting, raving, early Sunday mornings or late evenings spent writing silly. She never asks questions when I say that I’m heading to the rink for this or that and always understands. She will always be BOTW’s biggest supporter and thank you for being so understanding of the sport that I love and the writing.

Grant King of 5 Hole Photography is, frankly, superhuman in his efforts for the club when it comes to his photos and the fact that he allows me to use his work is something I’m very proud of. His photographs always make BOTW look that much more professional and make Running with the Herd especially that little bit more alive. I say it loads but given the season we’ve just had, go look through and find a picture to buy.  Grant’s work capturing the best season the club has had in the last few years deserves support and broadcast. Also be sure to check out his motorcycle photography over the summer.

My friendship with Jessica Blackburn and Hannah Farmer started when the pair of them “complimented” (I think) my $20 Edmonton Oilers jersey in the bar. Their Mo-vember stuff was a great addition to the blog this season and I hope to have them do that and more next season.

I also need to thank the other members of the EPL “bloggers union”; all those that wrote for “Standing in the Way” before the season began and showed support over the season but a special mention to Ben Knight and all at the Manchester Phoenix official podcast and Ben Callaghan of On The Prowl (though no thanks Ben for the Jan Melichar keyring and magnet). A mention as well is needed for Patrick Smyth of the now official Belfast Giants podcast, A View From The Bridge; thanks for the support and congratulations to AVFTB on their new status within the Giants organisation.

John Neville, Paul West and Graham Bell for being accommodating to what I do deserve a thank you as well.

Thanks as well to all the players and others that took the time to speak to me and be interviewed over the course of the season. We’ve had current Bison (Muzzy Wales speaking to me in the midst of a fire alarm being set off was fun), ex Bison and for all the flack Mr Scholes takes, he gave up 30-40 mins of his time and sat in a hotel in Liverpool to speak to me. Cheers, Wayne.

I could take an age thanking all my friends who I see at the rink every week. You all know who you are and I appreciate your friendship, support and for never failing to tell me when I’m wrong. You are all awesome.

Lastly, to Doug and the players without whom I have nothing to write about; thanks for taking us all on a very wild ride.

What’s to come

So what for Banners On The Wall? The same mantra as always; doing what works without stagnating. BOTW (somehow) has a reputation for quality and being a go-to place for quality coverage of this team and the EPL. I want that to continue. I’ve said for a while that one day, the title of this blog would be something tangible. The space is filled. We have something to put on that wall and BOTW will be there to watch the attempts to add to it.

We’ll be back when the next player signs or leaves. Stay safe and so long till next time.



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