Matt Myers in action at the 2008 World Championships

Matt Myers in action at the 2008 World Championships

You may have seen that the Great Britain ice hockey team will be in Poland on the weekend of 8/9 November, taking part in the 1st qualifying tournament for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada. Now, you might think that such an important weekend would lead to the suspension of domestic games that weekend wouldn’t you? Well, you’d be wrong, only one of the 10 Elite League teams will not be playing that weekend (the Panthers, in case you were wondering).

This, however, shouldn’t affect the strength of the squad. The teams should release their best British players (if picked/not injured) to play in the tournament. Replying to a post on Steeltalk, GB Media Manager Dave Simms confirmed this, saying “How are the league NOT supporting the Olympic Bid? The league will insist that its member clubs will ensure their players, if selected, play for GB. So they are supporting as best they can.”

So now we have a situation where there will be a full league programme on the very same weekend that the best British players will be unavailable. While it is great that the strongest team possible will be sent to Poland, what about the fans who will be watching their understrength teams compete in the league that weekend. Is it fair that fans should still pay full price to watch weakened teams? Take Sheffield for example, they could be playing without two of their most influential players in Tait and Phillips, not to mention that they could be further weakened if the likes of Hewitt, Thomas and Dowd are also selected for the squad. A few Steelers fans on Steeltalk asked about moving their game against Manchester to midweek, Dave Simms replied “Priorities, shall I tell you what ours are as a club, being here next year and the year after. As someone who has been with the club when it looked liked we wouldnt have a club next year I am someone who beleives in stability as its number one priority. Play on a Saturday against playing on a Wednesday is between £15,000 and £20,000. We moan that we dont have enough Saturday hockey and then we give the Arena a Saturday back, thats crazy!”

So here we have the situation that a team cannot forsake a valuable Saturday night income, despite some of their best players being away. Can you imagine Chelsea playing a game in the Premier League while England were on international duty, depriving them of Lampard, Terry & Wright-Phillips?

The profile of the GB team has been raised tenfold since Paul Thompson took over as coach and Dave Simms was put in charge of raising the profile, for which both deserve a lot of credit. For the first time in several years it appears that the British team is being taken seriously, so lets not have a choice between club and country. Suspend the weekend programme so that the squad can have the best preparation and the fans will not be short changed by watching league games with weakened teams.

Written by Jono#72

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