Paul Balm Column 26th January

Bit of a mixed bag this week, something about the news, something about goalies and the odd cryptic sentence so not too much difference to normal really.
The big news this week has to be that Ryan Finnerty is hanging up his skates at the end of the season. The latest in a long line of serial irritants is retiring because of a back injury. As you’d expect this has created a certain amount of debate, mainly around the fact that in revealing his injury he’s revealing a weakness in his game and giving the opposition an opportunity to exploit it. Typically, this has somewhat polarised opinion into two camps – those who think he should be targeted and those who think he shouldn’t. OK, there’s a few in the middle but we’ll ignore them for the purposes of this introduction, not because it spoils my argument but because it makes things easier, OK?

I have to admit I’m in the former camp and I’d like to explain why. I’m not saying I want to see people deliberately going out to injure Finnerty, he’s done a fair few things that might warrant a well-timed slap (the slash on Kowalski’s hand in the last minute of last season’s play-off springs to mind) but that’s his game and it doesn’t deserve that sort of attention. His injury, and the result it has on his game should, though, feature in a coach’s game plan for taking on the Steelers. A decent coach will have assessed the opposition’s players and should be aware of a player’s weaknesses and should be using them to his team’s advantage. Is a defenceman slow? Then tell your fast skating forward to take him on. Is a goalie weak moving across his goal? Then try and get him to do just that. I know those examples are simplistic but finding the chinks in your opponent’s armour is one of the things that can help you win games.

That isn’t the real reason that I think that his injury should be ignored by his opponents. The biggest single reason is that because I believe he wouldn’t want it to be. Do you honestly think Finnerty wants teams to pander to his injury? Does he expect them to let him skate down the boards because they’re scared to touch him in case it makes his injury worse? Of course not. He’ll want people to play in the same way that they’ve always played him, he might have to make changes to his own game but show me a player that hasn’t had to do that at some point in their career.

If you don’t agree with me let me give you another, more obvious example. David-Alexandre Beauregard’s loss of his sight in one eye is probably the biggest example of this that you’ll find in the EIHL at the moment. Everyone knows about it, there’s no secret to it, there can’t be but does he make an issue of it? No, he goes about playing his game the same as any other player. He asks, and gets no quarter from anyone for his situation. He’s altered his game to accommodate the problem and has got on with it continuing a career doing what he loves. To be honest there’s been far more outcry from fans when he has been blind-sided (for want of a better word). Colt King did it earlier in the year and there were calls for misconducts bans or whatever simply because he did it to DAB. That can’t be right, and I’m sure DAB wouldn’t want it to be. He’s out there playing, in the same way as Finnerty is, he knows the risks, he accepts them and he gets on with it. I think they should be applauded for it (I’m not sure I’d continue in either situation) but neither should they be singled out for special attention from the referees.
It also appears that Ryan Finnerty is actually a really nice bloke but you’ll, hopefully, find out about that soon. Just remember, even if he is nice, he’s still an opponent so don’t go easy on him when he’s on the ice, he wouldn’t want it any other way.

You’ve got to be a little bit odd to be an ice hockey netminder. Just ask yourself who in their right mind would want a job where lumps of hardened rubber are fired at you at high speed and it’s your job to make sure it hits you whilst people are trying to stop you, not to mention the fact that people are going to cheer when you fail. With all that in mind I shouldn’t have been surprised by what I saw Garrett Zemlak doing on Sunday (and I don’t mean playing for Fife). I don’t suppose I was all that surprised I’ve just never seen anyone do it on an ice rink before. He looked as though he was visualizing a series of saves and his body was moving to make those saves, his glove hand twitching up and down catching imaginary pucks, legs moving to keep more pucks away. I’ve seen F1 drivers walkng about holding imaginary steering wheels as they mentally drive round a track but it just seemed odd seeing an ice hockey goalie doing it. Thinking about it though, given what I said at the start of this paragraph he’s probably a bit odd anyway but you wouldn’t say it was doing him any harm.


1 Response to “Paul Balm Column 26th January”

  1. 1 Ken January 27, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Zemmers warm up routine is legendary up here in Fife. Shows how really focused he is before a game. That’s how you save 70-ish shots behind a dodgy defence!

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