Curtain Down 2018/19

As another season has sunk away into the midst of time, it’s time for Banners On The Wall to wrap everything up as we usually do; to close the door on the season before. This is Curtain Down.

Playoff weekend

I always enjoy playoff weekend but I knew something was going my way when I read messages of people having tough journeys to Coventry and I breezed through every major obstacle and rocked up at my friends’ house in just over 2 hours.

Paul and Becky Shipman have always been gracious enough to let me stay at theirs over the playoff weekend and my thanks has to go to them again for putting me up as well as to their young son Sampson for letting me crash in his room when I needed a nap.

After taking part in some Shipman family fun that included watching people run, outdoor gym equipment, a zip line, a podium photo and 11 people sat around a table eating bacon sandwiches (thanks John and Sue), I hit the centre of town and the hockey.

Sometimes the hockey at playoff weekends can be tentative and nervy whether your team are there or not. There was certainly nerves but it wasn’t tentative which mostly came down to the antics of the winners of the weekend, Hull Pirates.

Never afraid to push the play and attack, the Pirates have always played a high press, physical game and they didn’t change for this weekend. During the first period of their game against Bracknell they didn’t play well but adjusted in the first break and then blew an unimaginative and stilted Bracknell side away.

In the final against a Peterborough side who outlasted and punished Sheffield, the Pirates played their game and it worked. Knowing it would be high risk but high reward with a good rather than great netminder in Ashley Smith between the pipes, the Pirates could see what the Phantoms were going to do; get the lead and shut it down. So what did they do? Not allow the Phantoms to get the lead and kept pressing. Allowing the pressure to come to you and being pushed back are very different things. The Phantoms had the quality to score, exemplified by the frankly bizarre sight of Callum Buglass doing a Patrick Kane impression, but this wasn’t the game that they wanted to play. They didn’t want the physicality and they didn’t want the run and gun. Hull didn’t give them a choice. Phantoms forced overtime but, as Bison off ice official Mark Taylor said to me when Smith dropped a shot onto the post, “put their name on the trophy now as they’re not losing after that”. He wasn’t wrong and the winning goal from Bobby Chamberlain was a very Hull goal. It was a fitting end to the weekend from a hockey perspective.

The Coventry Skydome was busier than the season before which was good to see. The Whitley fans were in good voice and putting them next to the Romford fans was a stroke of genius as those guys mixed with beer and a sing-song was a sight to behold. I am unaware of any issues and if nothing else the gin bar appears to have gone down very well, much to the delight of Chris Carpenter who manages the Skydome.

It’s obviously a different weekend with no Bison there but it was also good as I think it allowed me to concentrate more on my friends and the BOTW stuff that I recorded and did across the weekend. Sadly with no wifi for the media in the rink (and between the EIHA and the rink, they really do need to sort that) it meant the somewhat odd sight of a What’s Current Stream from Wagamama’s in Coventry so viewers got a mix of hockey punditry from me and my friends as well as my dinner. I take BOTW seriously but never take myself seriously; it seemed a fitting way to sum up the weekend.

The Bison

On this site we’ve always made a point in this piece of grading the season for the Herd. I initially wondered if that was possible this year or even fair. The roster was built in half the time that any coach would want to do such a thing. Do we give them a pass?

Ultimately, no. We do not give them a pass from being graded but we do need to grade on the curve. The Bison get a B for the season, a solid B but I don’t think they deserve an A. An A season or even an A minus season should be reserved for trophy winning seasons. There are no trophies. Arguably there should have been and some of the officiating decisions in the second leg of the Southern Cup Final not withstanding it could have been but I think a B grade is a fair reflection of what happened this season. It was predicted to be terrible, it could have been terrible but it wasn’t. This group deserve a massive amount of respect for coming together as they did, for showing no care for anything outside of themselves or what anyone thought. They’ve left us wanting more which is advantageous because there is more for them to do.

With a full summer to recruit, good contacts and now as a proven coach with an accolade for that coaching to hang his hat on, Ashley Tait’s goal must be silverware not as a pleasant by-product of a roster built at speed, but as a real goal of a roster that goes into this new national league to do damage. Not every player will come back and in the cold light of day upgrades can and will be made to this roster. However when you consider where we were last season, that B I think is a fair reflection. It’s been good but there’s room to grow. Let’s watch them grow.

The thanks

My wife Emily and my son Nathan always deserve the biggest thanks for their support and understanding. It’s time for some more wrestling shows, guys. I love you both.

The other members of the British hockey blogging and podcast community also deserve thanks for interacting and doing their thing which has challenged me to keep what I do at a quality that I am happy with.

A thanks to John Neville and all at the Bison organisation always needs to be said. We do not and will not always seem eye to eye but I like to think that they understand that we’re all after the same goal.

I also need to thank Craig Simpson at the EIHA for believing in the value of bloggers within British hockey and others as well as asking folks for and providing answers to the many daft questions that I had at awkward times.

All of my friends in Basingstoke deserve my undying thanks for letting this mouthy old man who yells at clouds remain a part of their community. Thank you as always for keeping me honest.

The last thanks goes to you; whether you read the pieces or download the podcast and watch the streams, thank you for supporting this. BOTW is 8 years old. That’s crazy to think of. It’s been and continues to be the most fun ride. I thank you for giving your time to consuming what comes out of this.

The future

I talked about this recently on the What’s Current Stream but it bares repeating here.

This season has been tough for me personally. The podcast suffered due to technical issues which meant it took a long break and then as the year went on, the health of my father suffered badly. Frustratingly in a year where I felt I did some of my best quality analysis, I was short on time to do as much as I wanted to do.

This is a fact that I need to address to keep BOTW being what it has gained a reputation for; being a place where fans get quality content about hockey. I intend to take some time to sit down and think about what needs to be done.

BOTW is not going away; as a minimum the writing will last. It’s some of the other stuff that I need to think about how best to do some of the other bits and whether I do it on my own or at all.

Whatever happens, BOTW will keep going. I know people enjoy the writing but it’s always been for me to help me.

I thank you for sticking with this site and me for the past 8 years. Stay tuned, we’ll stick with it.

See you soon,

Anthony

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