The Worst Thing About The Play-Offs

Paul Balm with his second article of the week. This time it’s what he doesn’t like about the play-offs…

This is the article I was going to write this week before I was overcome by a desperate need to get things off my chest. I’m glad I wrote that, not least because of the response it generated. When I wrote that article on Monday I wasn’t sure whether anyone would agree with what I was writing. I wasn’t too bothered about that. I don’t write these articles to curry favour with you out there. That possibly sounds a bit on the harsh side. Don’t get me wrong I’m more than happy that you’re reading this but I’d probably keep going if you weren’t. Writing like this can, at times, be extremely cathartic. Monday was one of those times. You can probably guess how blown away I was by the response. I never expected to see so many people agreeing with what I said. There were a few disagreeing but that’s OK. These articles are about creating debate not stroking my ego.

I think that’s an important thing to state – I’m trying to generate debate. It was great to get so many responses and from some surprising places as well but some of them went a little beyond what I was trying to say (and that’s probably because I wasn’t clear enough, I still think the article is a little muddled in places but I put that down to my state of mind at the time). I’m not the poster boy for the disillusioned and I don’t want to be. I want to highlight what I see as the flaws rather than become a hod carrier for other people’s grievances. Once the dust of the season has settled and I can make some sense of what I’ve been thinking over the last few days and weeks I want to sit down and write another article about how I, as a fan, think the club can address those flaws. If someone takes notice then great if they don’t then that’s up to them but wouldn’t it be great if they interacted with us and told us why.

But anyway, let’s move on. What was I going to talk about? Oh yes, the playoffs and why they’re rubbish. Well, not so much rubbish but all the things I don’t like about them (I’m starting to spot a trend here).

The playoffs can be great especially the play off finals weekend. Show me another event of that size where so many fans from so many teams come together without a hint of trouble time and time again. I’m not saying it’s unique but I certainly don’t know of anything else like it (but by my admission I do need to get out more). I’ve written articles before about my experiences, you can read them here and I stand by what I said in those but on reflection there are thing about it that I just don’t like.

For a start they’re too short. You can’t do a lot about the playoff finals weekend (the clue’s in the name) but why do we only have two games before that? I suspect that the reason lies with two things: money and time. To have a round of quarter finals you need, by definition, eight teams. Which means eight teams get the gate receipts from a home game. Personally, I’d like to see either a return to a three team group stage, but obviously that reduces the number of teams involved so more teams miss out on the chance of extra revenue. It would also mean that qualification would potentially take two weekends rather than the current one if you retain the current home and away format (and I don’t think there’s any other way around it). This obviously causes problems with ice time, particularly for the arena teams but are you telling me that they couldn’t juggle dates and availability and shuffle everything forward by a week?

Another option would be to go to a best of three series but I can’t see this happening because it is fraught with problems. Take this season (please?). Look at how the play-off match-ups weren’t finalised until the final weekend. Could it seriously be possible to sort ice time etc out for a (potentially) additional game in that limited amount of time? I don’t think it could. And that’s a shame because I think a three game series could really improve the excitement of a tie. OK, there’s a blood and guts element to a home and away tie but who knows what another game would have meant in the Braehead v Hull quarter final (notice I didn’t use Panthers v Blaze there? I know what woud have happened there, we’d have had another bad 1st period and spent the rest of the time trying to make up for it again).

Secondly, I’m not entirely sure they’re actually about ice hockey unless your team wins. Look at the tweets that come out at this time of year. How many of them are as much or more about drinking and having a good time as they are about ice hockey? Don’t get me wrong I love the mingling, the atmosphere and getting up to go straight to the pub (do not pass GO but do collect £200 from the cashpoint on the way) but they seem to come before the thing that we’re all there to see. Or are we.

Before I moan about something else I have to say that I believe firmly in the phrase “each to their own”. Just because I don’t like something doesn’t make it wrong. Got that? OK, let’s keep going.

I can’t stand fancy dress. Never have and I’m guessing never will. I just don’t understand the attraction. I’ve got clothes already. Why do I want to spend £30 or more to dress as a pirate in clothes that I have no idea who has been wearing them before or what they were doing when they were wearing it. So I should buy something you say? Why? When am I going to need them again? And all that’s before you try and work out what dressing like a pirate, minion, superhero or anything else has got to do with watching ice hockey. Dressing as a golfer I sort of get if your team isn’t there but still…

I’m getting warmed up now. Can you tell?

Finally, the one thing I really don’t like about the play offs (apart from not knowing if you spell it with a hyphen, as two words or just one) is those “On Loan To…” signs worn by fans of teams that haven’t made it. I know I wrote about the fact that it’s not possible to watch a game as a neutral but that doesn’t mean you have to go out and pledge your allegiance to a team you haven’t been able to stand for the rest of the season. Cast your minds back a couple of years to the halcyon days when we used to make the final weekend and Sheffield didn’t. Just think how wildly their fans cheered every goal scored against us. It felt like there was no difference between their excitement then and last year when they had a team to cheer. I could find words to describe their actions but I’d probably get in (more) trouble if I did. Let’s just use the word bizarre. I’ll lay my cards on the table here and now. The only thing I’ll be on loan to this weekend is the British brewing industry with an occasional allegiance to Germany and Belgium. And that’s the way it should be.

Having said all that you know what the worst thing about the play offs is? Not having your team there.


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