Getting angry with Greg Mitchell – 8th October

First of all apologies to anyone turning up here expecting to read my thoughts on the Sheffield Steelers. I’ve decided that what I want to say about them is the sort of thing that should be pinned by Ben Simon on the dressing room door to gee the team up so I’ll keep them under wraps for now. Don’t worry though I’ll have my say later in the season.

Instead I thought I’d talk about something that seems to be on some people’s lips more often than pie juices can be found on Brad Cruikshank’s chin – FIGHTING.

Let’s get one thing straight from the top. I’m no namby pamby, I like fighting as much as the next fan but it has to be in context. Two players hate each other – that’s fine, some player does something that another doesn’t like – bring it on. What I can’t abide is this current fad for seemingly staged fighting at face-offs. Everyone knows it’s going to happen but we’re still supposed to think it’s exciting. You want exciting? Simon Hunt beating seven shades of the proverbial out of Les Millie, Selmar Odelein putting league hardman Mike Rowe on the floor with a punch (the second was just for effect) and to top them all Darcy Loewen taking on Darby Walker. That pair threw more punches in that one fight than the entire Panthers team did last season. Don’t believe me? Have a look HERE .

What we’ve got now is a pale imitation of those days (maybe I am a grumpy old man eh GP?). Three quarters of the fights these days have been set up in warm up. It’s like being back at school, Tucker Jenkins arranging to meet Gripper Stebson around the back of the woodworking block because he nicked Pogo Patterson’s dinner money.

It’s alright though Greg’s got a plan that’ll please the fight fans and purists alike. The added bonus is that it won’t change games. There’ll still be the spontaneous sort of fights I talked about earlier. The only thing that will change are the pre-ordained fights that are such a joke.

Basically you take the fights out of the game and put them in the intervals.  And that’s it. Let’s face it, if I see another 10 year old who came 7th in the Romford Invitational three months ago drag themselves around the to the strains of Lady Gaga then I’m going to scream, so let’s scrap it. Instead the league insists that each team employs a hard man who will only fight in these inter-period bouts and at the end of the season there’s a league trophy for the fighter who wins the most bouts. Let’s face it the majority of fighters/goons/enforcers/whatever you want to call them in this league aren’t still in their chosen type of employment for their silky puck handling and positional play are they? So why not simply remove the need to play the game from them and allow them to get on with what they are truly good at? Punching people.  The bouts would be just like normal ice hockey fights but in the intervals, they could take as long as needed or until a player was put on his backside. There’d be no penalties, no instigator penalties, no bans, could it be any simpler? It needs a bit of work but that’ll give the league something to do after they’ve spent an hour searching for the rule book at their annual meetings.

Another positive is that any (admittedly unlikely) restraint the clubs might have had about glorifying fighting in the sport can be forgotten. They can throw the full three ring circus at the fight, really build it up in the press any way they like. Teams have been using fighting to draw people in for years so this should be manna from heaven to them.

OK, I concede that there might be a problem with beer sales but have you noticed how the intervals are starting to stretch at the NIC? The clock might only show 12 minutes but we’ll have had the best part of ten minutes since play ended before it starts counting down. You watch it, I’m not wrong. Plus if people don’t like the fighting they can get to the concessions when they’re quieter so they’re happier as well. It might even attract people who are only there for the fighting so they can drink during the periods. The only person who doesn’t win is the losing player on the ice.

Back in the real world Liscak has gone. I can’t say I’m really that bothered. Did he actually do anything? I don’t know, if he did I must have missed it. Rob Bellamy looks, on paper (the Panthers’ playing surface of choice), to be an improvement and the type of player we’ve been missing this season. The problem is that, once again, Panthers’ management has managed to screw the transfer up. Bellamy won’t, in all probability be icing this week so you’d expect a normal team to retain Liscak’s services until after wouldn’t you. Do the Panthers do this? No, we’ve no Zion, no Levers so we let a player go in the week before a game against our biggest rivals. Genius. Don’t give me any guff about not wanting a player on your team if he’s being released or it not being fair on the player. Lisack is a professional player (how is a question for another time) and he will be used to situations like this, they come with the territory. If he isn’t then I would suggest he grows a pair pretty quickly or things are only going to get worse for him.

If Bellamy does get to play I wouldn’t worry about him fitting in with his team-mates, I’ve lost count of the number of players who had pretty much their best game for the Panthers straight off a plane before the coaches managed to drag them down to their level. Remember Galbraith in his first season, he was late, barely trained and then got a hat-trick (I think but it’s close enough to prove a point) in his first game. From there on it was downhill all the way. Jade’s not the only one and I’m not singling him out for criticism because he doesn’t deserve it, there’s been countless players who have started well and then fade which is probably why Panthers’ seasons usually do the same.

GREG MITCHELL

Next week: I don’t know yet. It depends on Saturday.

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