Fighting In The Elite Ice Hockey League Part One

By Ed Kimberley
Coventry, England

index2I was having a nice chat with Ashley about fighting in hockey the other day and I thought it would be good to explore the role of enforcers and tough guys in the EIHL. I love fighting in hockey and although it is something not everyone condones and with recent legislation in the NHL about protecting players from concussions and other injuries related to fights it’s a bit of a hot topic.

Fighting in the UK is something that is widely anticipated and there is a lot of discussion when tough-guys/enforcers are signed. Some of what is said is positive. For example Kevin Harvey who signed for the Coventry Blaze earlier in the summer is coming off the back of a season where he posted a pro-career points high with 31pts in 53 games for the Elmira Jackals in the ECHL while racking up 191pims and 10 fighting majors including this slugfest vs Mathieu Gagnon:

Some of the talk is negative. Tim Spencer who recently signed for the Sheffield Steelers, has only amassed 35 points in his pro career. His signing is aimed at taking away some of the pugilistic load off star defenseman, and returnee Drew Fata. The Steelers fell short of silverware last year that ultimately cost their coach Ryan Finnerty his job. Finnerty built a team that epitomises a notion that is popular in UK hockey as a roster with “team toughness ” and boasted fighters like Fata, Chris Frank, Simon Ferguson, Shawn Limpright and Tylor Michel.

For a few seasons now teams have tried to err away from having an out and out fighter and focus on team toughness however this seems to be a redundant exercise as even with team toughness clubs have to sign someone to carry the load. Looking briefly at the champions rosters most have a guy signed to carry the weight: Continue reading “Fighting In The Elite Ice Hockey League Part One”

Oh Captain My Captain: Coventry Blaze and the case for Captaincy

By Ed Kimberley
Coventry, England

751df029a77eaffc916aed7ba27130d2Coventry Blaze Captain Mike Egener will not return to the blaze due to illness.

Losing a player you thought you had signed weeks before the start of the season is always a nightmare for a coach and for the Blaze; losing their intended captain for the 2013-2014 campaign is going to provide a large headache.

Mike is suffering from Guillain–Barré syndrome. The syndrome affects the nervous system and can cause progressive paralysis. By all accounts Gullian-Barre syndrome is a nasty little affliction and I would like to wish Mike a speedy recovery while his family remain in my thoughts.

Without a doubt the loss of Egener is a big one, literally considering his 6ft4 215lbs frame. Eg was surprisingly mobile for a big guy and threw board shuddering hits night in night out, easily cleared his crease and could be relied upon to make a solid first pass. He was a guy who was an integral part of the locker room and his professionalism and tireless work ethic led to him being given the C in his second year. While also racked up 6 fighting majors including this doozie against Panthers tough-guy Kelsey Wilson he became somewhat of a fan favourite:

So what does this mean for the Blaze? Continue reading “Oh Captain My Captain: Coventry Blaze and the case for Captaincy”

Fan Voice: Craig Summerton and the Coventry Blaze

Craig Summerton is a die-hard Coventry Blaze fan who also runs his own blog dedicated to hockey of the United Kingdom. It might be new but his post gives an in-depth look at Team Great Britain and the Blaze in general. He gives me a look at the Blaze, how they will cope with the loss of Captain Shea Guthrie, and how they continue to Bleed Blue.

March Hockey: Where are you located and how did you first get into hockey?

Craig Summertown (middle) with Blaze players Adam Calder and Joel Poirier (Twitter: @block15blaze)
Craig Summertown (middle) with Blaze players Adam Calder and Joel Poirier (Twitter: @block15blaze)

Craig Summerton: Born and bred in Coventry, living and working in London. Coventry Blaze season ticket holder so every game is an away game for me. On recommendation from a friend I attended one of the first Blaze games at the Skydome and I’ve been hooked ever since.

MH: What makes you a passionate fan of the Coventry Blaze and the EIHL in general?

175px-CoventryBlazeCS: I used to be a Coventry City season ticket holder but after attending a few ice hockey games my passion quite quickly shifted to the Blaze. After my first season of ice hockey, the Coventry City season ticket wasn’t renewed (sorry for my part in the state that club are in today!) and I found myself travelling around the country following the Blaze most weekends. I enjoy being part of a fairly small community of UK hockey fans, I’ve met life long friends of all ages through ice hockey. One of the big attractions of the sport for me is how it breaks down age barriers. I’m 29, one of my best friends who I met through hockey is 82. It really makes no difference. I like the fact that fans of all teams, can make friends and come together after a game without fear of trouble. Can you imagine bringing ten sets of football supporters into one venue for a whole weekend like we do in the UK for the playoff weekend? Mixed with alcohol, it would be chaos. It’s a shame more ‘closed minded’ football fans won’t give ice hockey a chance in the UK.

FC41E0E0-B175-44F2-B6E7A758CC5D4ABC_H234_W407The EIHL has taken a lot of criticism over the years (deservedly so in the most part) but I certainly wouldn’t want to go back to the old British National League days in which Coventry used to compete or indeed for my club to move to the current EPL. Don’t get me wrong, the EPL has its merits & some of my best hockey memories come from the days when Blaze competed in the BNL. However, I feel that the EIHL as a ‘product’ is a major step up in quality over the old BNL and current EPL and that’s where I want my team to compete. The level of import being recruited to play in the EIHL seems to be improving each and every year. Many clubs have done a good job forging links with local Universities in order to offer high calibre pros the opportunity to study and play. Younger guys from across the pond seem to be using the league as a stepping stone to get into the higher paying Euro leagues and British players appear to be reaching levels beyond what we have seen in the past. The ever-widening gap between the rich and poor in the league is a worry but the introduction of the conference system (with the prospect of tweaks in future years!) has to be considered a success. Continue reading “Fan Voice: Craig Summerton and the Coventry Blaze”