Goodnight and Good Luck – Jon BastonPosted: 13/05/2016
Having tweeted his availability to the world and following the club’s press release late yesterday, it’s been confirmed that netminder Jon Baston will not be returning to the Bison.
What have we lost?
To say that Baston is an unorthodox netminder would be like saying that Ciaran Long likes to dangle in shootouts. Stylistically in some ways, how he plays shouldn’t work; the frantic movements combined with throwing himself around like a child on a bouncy castle should make for a guy that can’t stop anything.
The thing with Baston stylistically was that he has fantastic body control. Being quite a tall guy, he’s not gangly with it. It sounds really simplistic but he’s able to manoeuvre his limbs quite well and that’s important for a goalie. Whilst a lot of his movements were frantic, they were mostly deliberate and intentional rather than random acts of chance.
That said we all know that Baston excelled in those mad moments. When the puck was in front of the net and people were scrambling, he just seemed to find a way to get something in the way and make a save. With that came shutout after shutout. Combined with a quirky personality and a dress sense that rivalled Mindy Kieras, it made him an instant fan favourite.
Where has he gone?
At the moment, nowhere. Baston’s agent tweeted his availability and Baston retweeted it. It’s a likely bet that this forced the Bison’s hand in announcing his departure to stop people asking about it.
Who replaces him?
The chances of the Bison having two import netminders intentionally this season was always was always going to be low. Given you’d assume that Shepard is wanting to keep a title winning netminder, it was either going to be Baston or Hiadlovsky leaving and we’ve seen the answer to that question.
There’s a lot to unpack here so stick with me.
Given his popularity with the Bison fans and his performances over the season, there was a lovely symmetry that it was the Finn in net when the Bison secured the title. However the opinion of many was that Tomas Hiadlovsky had taken back control of the number 1 slot in net at the tail end of the season. Following the Slovak’s return from injury in February he lost 2 games; 1 in the league away at Milton Keynes after the title was already won and the playoff semi-final against the Lightning in a shootout. Baston by his own admission had given up soft goals and he regularly made jokes about how big his 5-hole was.
Baston had seemingly been fine with being swapped in and out of the line-up; he would sit in the stands with fans at home and away games to cheer the team on and would make himself visible but then lime green trousers do help that. He joined in the title celebrations. Then he vanished.
After an ill thought out tweet of a picture of the back of his Bison shirt with inverted colours that exclaimed that the name on the back was more important than the name on the front (which was since deleted), Baston was a ghost. He wasn’t at the Coventry weekend as rumours of him being “sacked” for the tweet abounded nor was he at the end of season awards dinner. The Finn had vanished into thin air.
I reached out to Jon for comment over playoff weekend and I did last night as well for this piece which he hasn’t responded to. That is his right and I make no judgement based on that. At times players want to talk, other times they do not. I spoke to a raft of people about the situation; some saying it was just an ill-advised thing he did, others quite cross that a player would say that.
My view is this; at EPIHL level, Jon Baston is a very good netminder capable of playing for any team in this league. He has things that he needs to develop in his playing style and he plays a very high risk game at times but he showed himself at Basingstoke and Hull to be more than capable of handling what is thrown at him.
He’s also just about to turn 22 years old and when I was 22, I did daft things. I can’t speak for the locker room mentality of the Bison nor would I dream of doing so but we do know that they’re close and dedicated to the cause. I can understand entirely why saying something like that in a public sphere would not have gone down well. It wouldn’t be a leap to suppose that this might have crossed a line that couldn’t be returned from. Baston is a very different character from the rest of the Bison line up; maybe it was a case of not quite fitting in combined with this. I can’t say for certain, this is all supposition but for him to just disappear like that speaks to something of magnitude having happened.
He should take the flack for doing something silly however I don’t think it is fair to crucify a young man for one mistake of this magnitude. It was a poor choice of words but making mistakes is how people learn and if this results in Jon Baston being a better person and professional then that’s what we can hope for.
It means that, for now at least, we will not see him back to help defend a title that he played a massive part in the club winning. His form from his arrival to Hiadlovsky’s return won him the 1st line EPL all-star goalie spot. The story of Jon Baston will no doubt continue somewhere else and despite its rather abrupt ending, we did get to see a really exciting part of it.
All the best, Jon; as it was when you joined, the mic is yours should you ever wish to speak about it.