(note-for those of you waiting for the Gardiner Conference preview, that’ll come tomorrow now)
So, the EIHL season is officially underway thanks to the Cardiff Devils sneaking a two-one win against the Blaze at the Big Blue Tent last night.
Gerome Giudice gets the honour of being the first Blaze (and Elite League) goalscorer of the season, tapping home a Russ Cowley centering pass. The Devils responded with goals from Max Birbraer and Tyson Marsh to take first blood in a “friendly” that pushed the definition of the word to breaking point and beyond.
Like many, I couldn’t travel to Cardiff so was relying on the updates from Imagineer UK, who cover the Devils games and do great work getting highlights of key events up onto youtube mere moments after they happen.
Which means I, like everyone else, saw the youtube footage of everyone’s favourite mouth Devin Didiomete finally having to back up his ceaseless poking fun at Blaze players and fans on Twitter with his fists.
Unfortunately for the Cardiff man, his opponent was Benn Olson, who had roughly six inches and 40lbs worth of weight and height advantage, and used it to great effect. However, Didiomete stood up well to what in these parts is called “a shoeing” from the big Blaze defenceman, although his celebration at the end of the scrap was probably more to do with staying on his feet than actually winning the fight.
But, credit where credit is due, the player many are calling “gutless” and “a coward” didn’t run when he had the chance, stood up and was counted (although he got a kicking for his trouble) and later assisted on the equalising goal. If you’re scoring at home, I’d call that, at the very least:
Devin Didiomete 1, Haters 0.
Sorry, Blaze fans. But on a purely objective level, and disregarding how you feel about the Devils’ player’s actions off the ice (some of which on social media have made me wince this offseason) everyone who was against DiDiomete called for him to stand up and answer any challenge provoked by his abrasive Tweeting style-and he did. Whether or not he lost the scrap is irrelevant. He showed up.
The major talking point of the game, however, was a questionable hit from Cardiff’s Birbraer on Jerramie Domish, which has reportedly left the Blaze player with a concussion ahead of the weekend. My initial reaction on seeing the hit was “head-hunt”-it appears to be very high and very hard, and knocked Domish out of the game. Birbraer was roundly condemned by Blaze fans afterward, with many claiming it was a deliberate hard, high smash to the chin and that the Devil left his feet before the hit..
However, Domish himself has tweeted today that Birbraer has personally apologised for causing the injury, and that action alone should go a long way to lifting any calls for the Cardiff Devil to follow the so-called “code” or “answer the call” next week.
Sure, the hit looks nasty, and Birbraer should probably expect a fair bit of stick from Blaze fans when the two teams meet at the Skydome next Wednesday, But calls for “revenge” or anything like that seem far overblown. Birbraer landed the hit-and he’s shown the class and respect for his opponent that many cite as one of a hockey player’s great qualities by dealing with the consequences directly. Now, it’s up to the Blaze to decide if they want the EIHL’s discipline committee to be involved in any further action, and the players themselves to decide whether or not Max’s apology is the end of the matter on-ice. Let’s let them do so and move on.
Blaze are next in action on Saturday in Sheffield, before I finally get to take my place behind the microphone for the first time this season at the Skydome on Sunday. Those two will be games well worth watching…although if I’m honest, I expect them to be split between the teams at best.
Results mean little in preseason. It’s all about tuning lines, building chemistry and forming a team. Judging by the reports of Wednesday’s game, it seems both the Blaze and the Devils are moving on nicely with that process.
Gardiner Conference Preview to come tomorrow…