“It is far from a goon league”

With it seeming that the EIHL has a less than fair reputation overseas, Jono Bullard says that it is an unfair reputation

On the 19th October I interviewed Nottingham Panthers forward Nathan Robinson for the Cat’s Whiskers TV Podcast after the overtime victory in Hull (from 30.54 on this link). Something he said in the interview struck a chord with me when I asked him about the standard of the Elite League. To quote Robinson “It’s pretty good hockey, it’s not like the way it’s talked up as a total goon league.”

In a interview this week with Aaron Murphy, former Edinburgh, Belfast & Sheffield coach Doug Christiansen said “The league is held back by the perception that it is a goon league. It is far from a goon league.”

There appears from both Robinson’s & Christiansen’s words that the EIHL has an unfair reputation, a reputation that can be extinguished with players like Robinson playing in the EIHL and seeing for themselves that the reputation is wrong, as he himself alluded to in his interview. It cannot be argued that the EIHL is managing to attract much better players, especially if you look around the rosters of some teams.

As well as Robinson the EIHL can now boast some highly skilled players. Braehead Clan captain Matt Keith played 27 games in the NHL while also icing in some of Europe’s top leagues. While the circumstances as to why Tyler Mosienko found his way to the EIHL are well documented there can be no denying that the skilled forward has been an excellent pick up for Sheffield Steelers. Despite a poor start to the season there have been many plaudits for Dundee Stars defenceman Kevin Quick who has been a standout for the club. Then of course there is the aforementioned Robinson who has been a sublime addition to the Nottingham Panthers roster.

However it is the additions to rosters since the start of the season that have really made the hockey world sit up and take notice. Firstly Paul Bissonnette signed for the Cardiff Devils after failing to secure an NHL contract. Of course Bissonnette had played for Cardiff previously during the 2012 NHL lockout but even so, a player of that pedigree coming to the Elite League had not been seen since Theo Fluery’s season with the Belfast Giants (Lockout excepted).
Sadly, Bissonnette received an offer from American Hockey League Portland Pirates and now won’t be making his way to the BBT.

That wasn’t the end of the surprises though. Just last night Belfast Giants announced the signing of Kevin Westgarth, who was a Stanley Cup winner with the LA Kings in 2012 and has spent the past four seasons in the NHL. This is an incredible coup for both the Giants and the league which for me gives the EIHL a lot of kudos. Of course there are those that have tried to belittle Westgarth’s signing saying he is nothing but a goon, but you do not play 175 NHL regular season & play-off games without having something about you. He may have only played 6 minutes a night in the NHL and had a specific role, however he will be expected to play much more minutes for the Giants and I fully expect him to one of the leagues standout players for the remainder of the season.

I agree completely with Doug Christiansen when he says that the EIHL is far from a goon league. The quality of player being attracted to the EIHL is improving drastically which in turn improves the product. Obviously a question mark remains over the quality of British players coming through (despite Ben O’Connor’s return to the UK with Sheffield) and as much emphasis needs to be put on developing British players to bring them through, however that is another debate for another day, let us enjoy the quality on offer right now.

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