Building the Herd – Joe Baird

#15 Joe Baird

Position: Defence

Born: Southampton, Hampshire

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 23rd June

No average Joe; Mr Baird is back in Basingstoke for 2016/17. (c) 5 Hole Photography

No average Joe; Mr Baird is back in Basingstoke for 2016/17.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

Having had a brief break from announcements, the Bison returned to their usual routine with the re-signing of veteran defenceman, Joe Baird.

36 year old Baird’s career spans from dressing for 1 game for the Basingstoke Beavers in 1994/95 to winning his second EPL title in 2016 with the Bison and heads into his fourth consecutive season with the Herd.

Baird was a product of the Bison junior system making appearances for the Buffalo in the old ED1 and the Bison in the Superleague before becoming a more permanent fixture for the Herd when the club moved to the BNL in 1998. Baird made 135 appearances for the club in the BNL, scoring 18 points in that time.

From 2002, Baird has played exclusively in the EPL. He started with the Isle of Wight, spending 3 years in Ryde and scoring an impressive 47 points for the Raiders before moving to Bracknell.

Baird was part of the successful Bees side under Ryan Aldridge that won the EPL league and playoff double in 2007 and made 3 loan appearances for the Bison during his 4 seasons in Berkshire.

In 2009, Baird moved down the M4 to Wiltshire and spent the next 4 years playing for the Swindon Wildcats. Baird made 180 appearances for the Cats scoring 52 points and was an alternate captain in his last season.

For 2013/14, Baird returned “home” to Basingstoke and has remained with the club ever since. Baird has played 295 times for the Bison/Beavers in his career and has played an impressive 607 EPL games with 195 points. Combining league and playoff appearances, according to Elite Prospects Baird has played 936 senior games in Britain. He is also a former Great Britain under 18 and under 20 international.

It’s not a headline buster of an announcement but a necessary one nonetheless. When I sit down to do another season’s worth of Building the Herd pieces, if the player has been around the club, the scene or both for a while, then I take a minute to try and re-evaluate them a little bit. Did their game change over the season? Have they moved from being a bit part player to a more prominent role or are they one of the headline talents? However Joe is different because as long as I’ve been watching British hockey and been aware of him, yes he’s gotten older but he’s always played exactly the same role. I never watched Joe Baird as a young player starting out so he’s always been that steady, older presence.

I heard someone earlier today describe Joe Baird as “no frills” which is a good if you were looking for the short version but there is more to Joe than that I feel. Also, let’s face it, these pieces aren’t known for being the short version of anything so let’s delve a little deeper.

People have their criticisms of Joe Baird and some of them are justified. I reckon that there’s people behind me in Block C that run a pool every game as to what minute he’ll take his first penalty of the game. He’s also not the fastest of players on the roster and that’s where he’ll get burned by speedy forwards on occasion. However there’s still a great deal of upside to his game.

On a team of youngish guys, he’s been around the block a few times. We forget that Mogg and Balmer weren’t born when the Beavers won the title in 1993 so someone with that experience in training or in a game to say “try this when this happens” who knows what they’re doing is important. Whilst his speed isn’t great, nobody on the team knows how to play their position better than Joe Baird so with that confidence in what he has to do is how he goes about doing it. In big games for the Bison when players have seemed nervous or too energetic, Baird remains calm. Yes I need to hark back to the playoffs in 2014 a lot but we talk so much about Nicky Chinn and his influence on the semi-final against Guildford but if you ever want evidence of what Joe Baird does just by being himself, go back and watch that game. It might still be the best I have ever seen him play.

On a team of vocal leaders, Baird is a very non-vocal leader. You hear Aaron Connolly, you hear the guys talking lots, you even occasionally hear Baird talk but his leadership is to do rather than talk then do. Being that vocal isn’t his style but he doesn’t need to be on a team that has so many guys ready to gee the team up. In some ways it means you know that when he does talk, it really means something.

I never see tons of Joe Baird shirts around on Saturday nights, you just don’t but that’s not a comment on how good he is. Baird isn’t that sort of player where he will necessarily stand out. Given that the BOTW player of the year starts with a fan vote, I will confess that I don’t think I’ll ever be handing over the trophy to Joe at the end of the season. What I can tell you is that Joe Baird is a gritty son of a gun, a player who will do what he can when he can to help the team win. He’s not alternate captain by accident, it’s because the team know that he means business and he helps lead them. He just does it in his way.

Welcome back, Joe.

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