Building the Herd – Joe Baird

#15 Joe Baird

Position: Defence

Born: Southampton, Hampshire

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 22nd June

Baird on board; veteran defenceman Joe Baird rejoins the Bison for 2017/18.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

The Bison continued their recent run of Thursday signings with the return of another well know face and a veteran presence in the form of Joe Baird.

Baird, 37 is about to enter his 23rd season in which he’ll have made an appearance in senior hockey. Having dressed for 1 Basingstoke Beavers game in the 1994/95 season, Baird has played for the club across both its names and in what will now be its 6th different league competition. A former Bison junior, Baird left the club in 2002 and plied his trade at a number of southern sides in the old EPIHL going from Wightlink (2002-2005) to Bracknell (2005-2009) to Swindon (2009-2013) before returning to Basingstoke at the start of the double winning 2013/14 campaign. Baird will enter his 5th consecutive season with the club when the season begins in September.

Joe has played 652 career EPIHL regular season games together with 65 playoff games for a total of 227 points in regular and post-season play with a total of 1636 penalty minutes in his EPL tenure. Baird’s personal PIMs record came in 2006/07 when he tallied 169 minutes of penalties in the regular season whilst at Bracknell where the Bees won a league and playoff double.

Joe has won the EPL league title twice, the playoffs twice and the cup once. His numbers for the Bison/Beavers organisation stand at 426 games in all competitions with 80 points and 448 penalty minutes. He is also a former GB u18 and u20 international.

I won’t lie; this one is a bit of a surprise for me. I genuinely had an inkling that 2017 would have seen the end of Joe Baird’s hockey career. With all that the off season has thrown at us and all that had been thrown about before the 2016/17 season had even ended, you wouldn’t have blamed him for calling time. I don’t think anyone blamed Matt Towalski from stepping away from hockey, it seems the ideal time to do it. At an outside chance, I thought that maybe a role with the Buffalo would have wetted Baird’s appetite but no. Joe Baird is a Bison once again.

Baird has his detractors; he’s not the fastest of skaters anymore which sees speedier forwards get the wrong side of him. People feel that he also takes too many unnecessary penalties into the bargain down to a mixture of being too slow and being too physical at times.

With 5 trophies to his name, 3 of those since 2014 with this club, it’s pretty easy to argue that Joe Baird should be allowed to go out on Joe Baird’s terms and especially where the Bison as a club are concerned. If Baird feels he can play on then play on he shall and the organisation should certainly take his wishes into account.

That’s not to say that Doug Sheppard should just blindly re-sign players because they were here the previous season. If there are upgrades to be made then they should be made. Sometimes that means putting sentiment aside.

However Doug Sheppard still sees a place for Joe Baird in this team, Joe Baird still wants to play and so Joe Baird is back. It’s as simple as that and I think I can see why Sheppard has brought him back and to my mind, there’s two reasons for it.

The first is simply the style of play that the Bison will be playing. Look at the three defencemen that the Bison currently have on the roster; it’s now Dan Scott (big lad who likes to play the body), Elliott Dewey (big-ish lad who likes to play the body) and Joe Baird (not the biggest lad but likes the play the body). Doug Sheppard is clearly not changing his overall ethos of how he is putting this team together and the blueline are going out to shut people down and make sure they stay shut down. The drop to two imports means a fair few imports who were usually the faster and more skilled players on the team are gone. It means that Baird has a role because the way we’re going to play defensively suits his style and it’s the style that has seen the Bison concede the fewest goals and allow some of the fewest shots in the EPL the last two seasons.

The other reason why Baird is back is the good old mantra of veteran leadership. The Bison has always been a team of multiple “leaders” in that sense. Aaron Connolly is still in his early twenties and is the named leader of the Bison but you can’t beat experience. In the shifting seas that we find the club in, on ice you need a steady head. You need someone who has been and seen and done it all and that’s where Baird will come in. He might be slow, he might take daft penalties but in crunch games who is generally a really solid player on the team?

I don’t propose that Baird is about to be on the Bison’s top pairing for the coming campaign, he likely 4th or 5th defenceman to be paired with one of the younger players to help show them the way. Whether you like him or not, Joe Baird has forgotten more about hockey than most of us. The Bison believe that he has an on ice role to play in their systems and with some younger players coming onto the roster as a result of the move to NIHL 1 South, it makes sense to milk that experience for all that it’s worth.

Welcome back, Joe.


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