Panthers Hockey Live tweeter Andy Haywood explains why the word class really shouldn’t be used in the context of hockey.

Whilst doing the twitter commentary for @NPHockeyLive during the Nottingham Panthers v Sheffield Steelers match there was an incident that has since grabbed the social media world by storm. At the very least the ‘EIHL’ community’s social media anyway.
After 8:47 Brent Henley jumped/attacked/suckerpunched/pummeled/fought (delete as applicable) Tim Spencer. The event was very one sided and even now, despite everyone having been in the best place to have witnessed it live, and having the best copy of it from youtube in super slo-mo and hi-def, people are still divided in what actually happened.

Now whilst I am not going to divulge into my own personal opinions on the incident itself I am now going to talk about a key word that I was constantly being bombarded with on my own personal twitter page and the NPHockeyLive page.

That word is: ‘Class’ or ‘classy’ as some other people wrote.

What is class?

Class is a mass noun that defines a system of ordering society or an impressive stylishness in appearance or behavior that shows excellence.

Now my issue isn’t with ‘classless’ players or teams not being classy with their match night programs etc., my issue is the ‘Holier Than Thou’ attitude that the people who use the word seem to be. I appreciate that we are all a little biased in what is right or wrong when we regard our favourite sports teams but people seem to believe that as soon as one instance has gone and another arrives then we can all forget about the previous one. Next weekend when ‘Player A’ beheads ‘Player B’ with his skate blade no one will give too hoots about Brent Henley and his classless goon antics, and so when it is a Panthers player on the receiving end of the beheading, we as Panthers fans will be furious with moral issue of the incident and conveniently forget about our own misdemeanors. (I’d like to point out that I’m pretty sure no one will get beheaded this weekend during an EIHL game, it was the sheer ludicrousness of it as to why I chose that)

This next piece is in no way, shape or form ‘sticking up’ for Brent Henley or the Panthers, as I have been accused many times in the past 24 hours, it is merely a look into the past, both distant and not so very distant, at some of the other misdemeanors that we have witnessed on our shores. Granted I will only go as far back as I can claim to have witnessed in some form or other, so 2000/2001 will be my ending point because it was the first year I remember.

This season we have seen no end of ‘classless’ incidents, even in pre-season, and I can guarantee that most of you have forgotten or just glazed over the fact that some of these incidents have occurred in the past 2 and half months. Already we have seen suspensions for head-butting, excessive roughness, hits to the head, eye gouging, sucker punches, stamping on the back of peoples legs, hits from behind, slashing, physical abuse of an official, fighting off the ice, excessive force to the head, attempted eye gouging & kneeing to the head.

We’ve even seen two players sacked by their clubs due to their poor disciplinary records in the league, one being an ‘exceptional hockey player’ that his club were going to ‘stand by’, until 4 days later when they decided to sack him. Andrew Conboy and Derek Campbell before him are long forgotten now, pushed to the backs of our memories as the weeks go by since they last played a game. It doesn’t stop what they did being ‘classless’ but because it’s pushed right back in our memories we can now only focus on what’s just happened.

So let’s delve even further back into the archives and look at other classless incidents year by year, and if you’re wise* you’ll spot a trend.

*By wise I mean can remember those seasons or read my tweets earlier today.

2012/2013 season: David Ling slashes one of the Leeb brothers in the back of the legs with a dirty two handed swing, and who can forget Kelsey Wilson trying to decapitate Simon Ferguson with his scythe (sorry hockey stick)
And then there was the incident of Panthers not shaking the Flyers players’ hands after the first leg of the Playoff Quarter Final in Fife. This still gets brought up almost every time I call a Flyers v Panthers game on twitter.

2011/2012 season: Belfast’s captain Adam Keefe slashed Fife’s Matt Siddall so bad that he was eventually chucked out of the game for slashing, but before he found out he was gone he still had time to jump Siddall and start throwing punches to the turtling Flyers player.
And in the same season at a game at the NIC Darryl Lloyd was guilty of spearing Brock Wilson in the groin/stomach area with Wilson staying on the ice in pain for minutes. Doug Christiansen actually seemed to bench Lloyd after this incident as the Belfast agitator didn’t see a single second of ice time afterwards and was even sent down the tunnel at the final buzzer without shaking hands.

2010/2011 season: After a Sheffield Steelers vs Edinburgh Capitals game which had seen a little bit of bad blood between a few players Derek Campbell decided to slash Edinburgh’s Jeff Hutchins on the back of the legs, during the handshakes line, a supposed sign of respect and class.

2009/2010 season: At 59:10 seconds Wes Jarvis scored an empty net goal for Cardiff in Coventry’s Skydome Arena to make the score 5-2 to the Devils. After that goal went in Paul Thompson put Brad Cruikshank & Derek Campbell on the ice. When the puck dropped so did the Blaze players sticks and gloves and they went straight for those two well known Devils thugs Mark Richardson & Phil Hill. What ensued was 2 pretty one sided fights at once with the officials wondering which Devils player to scrape off the ice first. After the game in the post match interview I recall Paul Thompson saying he ‘probably shouldn’t have put two highly emotional players on the ice at the end’.

2008/2009 season: In a game at the Big Blue Tent between Sheffield and Cardiff Andrew Sharp did what Andrew Sharp does, not a lot other than cause controversy. He tried to get at the Devils bench to justify his existence in a professional ice hockey league and in the process threw his stick up towards Doug MacIver’s face, unfortunately for Sharp he couldn’t even do that properly and he ended up sticking the linesman in the neck. He then decided he’d better get away from that scuffle and just grab Wes Jarvis and eventually get beat up. Earlier on in that year he also jumped Paul Moran in a pre-season friendly against the Hull Stingrays and continued to pummel him when Moran was quite clearly in serious pain. It transpired that Moran had dislocated his shoulder before Sharp decided to just throw punches to the motionless Stingray player.

2006/2007 season: Sylvain Cloutier was assessed 44 PIMs in one incident where it is reported he ‘attacked’ Manchester Phoenix’s Matthew Rich.

2005/2006 season: Graeme Walton was hit along the boards by Pavol Mihalik, by all accounts it wasn’t a bad hit but Walton took exception to it and proceeded to elbow Mihalik square in the face.

2004/2005 season: Andre Payette….. That is all

2003/2004 season: Sheffield’s Gerard Adams slashed Cardiff’s Russ Romaniuk across the chest (surprisingly not mention in last season by the Steelers faithful)

2002/2003 season: Joel Laing was banned from playing some games for Sheffield when he was given supplementary discipline for using his blocker to punch Briane Thompson in the neck/back of the head whilst the Panthers defenceman was laying on the ice after a fight with Timmo Wilman.

2001/2002 season: Jason Bowen was suspended for boarding Joel Poirier during a Giants v Panthers match. The Panthers captain would end up missing the remainder of the game and a few others afterwards with an injury relating to the check by Bowen.

2000/2001 season: The small matter of a certain team sending on their bench to fight anyone and everyone because a certain Mr. Nieckar was punching a team mate. Not to forget Scott Allison in all of this. He was the man that firstly cross checked Barry Nieckar in the back of the neck/spine in what was a nasty incident which saw him escorted to the penalty box.
Not content with his contribution to the big fight he decided to climb, that’s right folks climb, over the boards and the plexi out of the penalty box and proceeded straight to Big Bad Eric Levigne (You know Eric Levigne, the one that had a broken hand and was playing with a support on his hand) After dispatching Levigne he then went looking for the next dirty Panthers player he could find and got hold of none other than serial hockey goon Marc Levers (You know Marc Levers, that guy who played for us for a while, the one who was 19 at the time and in his first year as a pro, he only played 15 games that year and that was one of them)

Now that’s all I’m going in to, and if you’ve read through all that then well done, I’m actually amazed I’ve written so much.

Whilst that may seem like a random account of personal digs at other teams players I can assure it’s not. Panthers would have had their fair share of ‘bad’ incidents like the above, we are no angels, and neither are any other team for that matter (Rick Kozak immediately springs to mind… Poor old Marc Levers) but there is a direct statistic that links all the above incidents/players….

That link is that in the years that these players did those ‘classless’ things they were the ones we called Champions at the end of the year, yes even Andrew Sharp. They were the best of the best, they were the kings of the British Ice Hockey World for that year, some were multiple champions and are now legends of the teams they played for or even around the league.

I’m not saying that in order to win the league you need to do something classless or cheapshot your way to a title, but when it all boils down to it there has been very few incidents on and off the ice that are THAT bad that they have tarnished the team/players reputations. I just feel that a lot of people that are talking about the Henley/Spencer incident, and the Hewitt/Jensen incident have short memories. Not all the people making opinions on it, just some.

We’ve all had our share of goons/thugs/enforcers/agitators/fighters/classless cheapshotters and in my own opinion long may it continue. Because if it keeps giving us such good debates like this one has done then I’m all for it. Plus I do love a good bit of violence on the ice from time to time, but then I am just a classless fan of the Nottingham Panthers


1 Response to “Class?”

  1. 1 Doug November 18, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    Interesting, great write up. Spencer and the Steelers are still lousy sportsmen, playing “it hurt” after throwing their weight around. Bullies, and Henley splattered them. Looking forward to Boxing Day.

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