Scramble In Front: Why Steelers Should Shut Up, & Braehead Responds

It’s tricky sometimes being a hockey blogger.

Wednesday’s blog post stirred up a bit of a debate in Braehead, with Clan fans particularly objecting (albeit in a very polite fashion) to my criticism of Steve Birnstill on the Clan defence.

This is where I respond and point out that, while Birnstill has unquestionably been the main offensive force on the Clan blueline (his 16 points may be half that of top D scorer in the league Mike Schutte but they’re 5th in (current) Clan scoring.

Trouble is, and in response to those Clan fans surprised I’ve called him “disappointing” along with the rest of the Clan defence: a defender’s job is to defend first, attack second. How many goals has Birnstill either caused or indirectly contributed to by finding a need to pinch up ice and then being caught out of position. If he’s been involved in 16 goals and been on the ice for 17, then surely he’s not doing his job to the appropriate standard?

I get to see the Clan on Sunday, so perhaps my opinion will change (and if it does, then I’ll mention so on Monday)…but until then, I’m reserving judgement about whether or not Birnstill can be exempt from the criticism of the rest of the Clan D, as some have said.

Sheffield Weasels. Now THAT has a ring to it…

The Sheffield PR machine is at it again. Barely a week after the owner Tony Smith called his own fans “scumbags” in the matchnight programme, Dave Simms is weighing in on Twitter with a bit more revisionist history, responding to an interview in which Tom Squires said the Steelers went for a full character assassination on him after he left them for Hull by desperately trying to justify himself.

Simms was quoted alleging that Squires had developed a bad attitude with the Steelers, saying that he believed he was a “superstar” because he was being told such by those around him and that he had got “too comfortable”, which is sports-journalist code for “he’s arrogant and lazy”.

Squires has of course denied this, praising the Sheffield Steeldogs organisation but noticeably avoiding doing so with the Steelers.

Now Simmsey has messaged Squires on Twitter saying that apparently this sniping was not character assassination, but “the truth” and that they’re happy where he is now anyway.

Or, to put it another way “we may have savaged you in the press, but it’s OK cause we thought it was the truth, so we can happily use it to affect your career out of spite afterwards”.

Nice defence, sir. Not sure an “opinion” can be held up as the truth, which usually deals with the things you twist, bend and break to your own liking we call “facts”.

 

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Jekyll And Hyde Hockey: The Strange Case Of The 2012/13 Braehead Clan

In 1886, Scotland’s most famous author Robert Louis Stevenson wrote The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, a famous novel about an outwardly respectable individual who, for reasons of science and experimentation tries to make the best of himself, but suffers from a fatal flaw that he can’t resolve, and which ultimately destroys him.

In 2012/13, Scotland has its own hockey version of the beleaguered Dr. Jekyll in Glasgow’s Braehead Clan.

The Clan, as I wrote earlier this season, are doing absolutely everything right off the ice. Growing crowds, excellent fan relations and a genuine buzz make them a model for teams to follow. Their recruitment during the off-season caused great excitement as fans and pundits picked them as the class of the Gardiner Conference. Jordan Krestanovich could do no wrong.

On the ice, though, the Clan are struggling. A team that promised so much at the start of the season, a team that had the pundits all claiming it would roll over the rest of the Gardiner conference and challenge for the league title (yup, including me) and a team that caused one hell of a buzz around Glasgow.

Now, they’re sitting 3rd in their conference and sixth in the league, with the worst goals against average and save percentage in the league being boasted by Garrett Zemlak in net, and a defensive unit that appears about as effective at stopping attacks as a picket fence is at stopping a hurricane. Mitch Maunu is injury-prone, Steve Birnstill and Matt Hanson have been unimpressive at their own end despite scoring points at the other, and Kevin Phillips and Sam Zajac, while trying manfully, perhaps have struggled to reach the required level.

Scoring is one area the Clan don’t have a problem. Jade Galbraith and Ash Goldie are both in the league top 20 and seven of their forwards are in double figures in points already, which isn’t bad at all. However, being a forward for the Clan must feel like a Sisyphean task as any progress made upward is dragged back by the millstone of an underperforming D.

So, what’s Jordan Krestanovich’s solution?

Signing a power forward and another EIHL team’s castoff d-man, of course.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Jesse Schultz looks very useful on the forward line. Impressive stats of 252 AHL points and over a point a game in Italy and the CHL mean that he’ll add even more offensive punch to a team that’s very useful going forward as it is. But he’ll have to be defensively responsible too, especially as that’s an area that the Clan seem to lack-players like Galbraith, Goldie and Robert Farmer are great as long as the play is heading toward the opposition net but occasionally need a map to find their own end. Schultz can’t be the same.

And on defence, the Clan sign Martin Tuma-a player whose main impact on the EIHL this season so far appears to have been on the concession stands at the NIC and local hostelries. Derided as unfit and slow by the Nottingham fanbase on his signing, the Czech hasn’t done much to impress since then due to a combination of injuries and a slow start. Clan fans are pointing to the Panthers saying that he looked a “useful stay-at-home D man”…but the obvious question is “if he’s that useful, why did the Panthers release him so easily?”

The main problem with this Clan team on the ice is that, just like the doctor mentioned in the story at the beginning of this article, it’s hideously unbalanced and prone to shooting itself in the foot, letting its flaws overtake its very real positive qualities. That needs to change immediately, and it appears that, while Jordan Krestanovich is taking steps to do so, he’s focusing his energies in the wrong place-certainly there are probably one or two Clan Dmen thankful they still have a job right now.

If things continue the way they have been doing in Glasgow on ice, then for the Clan’s sake, maybe some of them need to be preparing to look elsewhere. Otherwise the great work done by Kirsty Longmuir and her team off the ice is in danger of being wasted by those on it.

 

Hometown Glory: Just Why Do People Care About This Blaze Team So Much?

A fan’s relationship with their team is a weird thing.

It goes through stages, just like love does. Firstly you have the “honeymoon” period, where you discover this awesome new thing that comes into your life and can do no wrong. This is the “buy every jersey and go to every game while blindly defending the team” stage.

Then, there’s the “committed relationship” stage. You realise that, sure, maybe this team has a flaw or two, and there might be others out there that look much more attractive at first glance, but this is your team, for better or worse. Your relationship might be frustrating, it might be destructive. They may even break your heart. But for whatever reason, you’re stuck together. 

Or maybe you’re not. Maybe you just drift apart, don’t care about them in the way you once did. Maybe they commit one dreadful act or loss so irreparable your heart says “I’m done”, no matter what they do to win you back. That’s the “breakup” stage.

A lot of Blaze fans over the past two seasons were drifting between the second and third. There was a danger in Coventry that if we continued to see the uninspired, lackadaisical hockey we were “treated” to in 2010/11 and 2011/12, coupled with the seeming indifference of the owners, there was a breakup on the horizon.

Most importantly, though, this wasn’t a “Coventry” team any more.

I have a theory that, in some small way, the most successful and well-loved sports teams end up being moulded and driven by the character of the places they play-a theory that can be applied to the Elite League. Nottingham, for example, is a city that looks modern, fresh and innovative, but has underlying problems of infighting, warring factions and maybe thinks it’s more important on the national stage than it is. Remind you of any EIHL teams nearby?

Sheffield. Another city that’s fairly large, on the surface looks like it could be a major player in UK sport (two big football teams, rugby, and the Steelers) but gets ridiculously excited about little things and always has a chip on its shoulder. Oh, yes, and prefers to focus on a petty internal sporting rivalry that no-one else cares about ahead of national success. Hmm…that sounds like a certain EIHL team…

Cardiff. Capital of Wales-a place that likes to present itself as the underdog, loves putting one over the English but is quick to assume that any measures made by government aren’t made with the best interests of them at heart and nobody takes them seriously even though they really should. Oh, and with national teams that promise much but can’t quite beat the true quality in their fields right now. Hm. Sound familiar, EIHL fans?

My argument is that the best-loved EIHL teams are those that fans can identify with. That for, whatever reason, somehow reflect their city’s identity.

My home town, and that of the Blaze, is an ugly place. Coventry is not a town that appears high on the list of places to visit. The people here are cynical, with a sharp and often cruel sense of humour. We’re used to having to scrap for any recognition, being in the large shadow of Birmingham 20 miles up the road. Jobs are hard to come by, so people in them work hard, and expect a return for their hard-earned money. They hold teams accountable, and expect their teams to do the same.

It’s a town and people that rose from the ashes to become important again through sheer bloody-mindedness after nearly being erased from existence by outside forces.

They complain about their city all the time, but to outsiders, they’ll defend its honour to the death, and expect their teams to show the same pride in where they come from and the town they represent.

This 2012/13 Blaze team, like the ones in Sheffield, Nottingham, Cardiff and elsewhere, can be said to reflect their town perfectly. It’s not the fanciest, prettiest team in the league. It’s not a team with an inflated idea of its own importance. It’s not a team that’ll go out and complain when things don’t go their way. It’s a team that’s proud to represent the city and people it does-a team that has the same quiet bloody-mindedness and penchant for achieving things against the odds that its town does. 

A team that nearly died, just like its home town, and has come back bigger, faster and stronger.

It’s a team built on and by the very scarred, hard-bitten soul of the place it plays in.

It feels like it’s part of us, like our city will forever be a part of who we are.

And that’s why, this season, Coventry loves the Blaze again.

It’s risen from the ashes, tight-knit, hostile to outsiders, and more-bloody minded than a herd of mules, just like the city and its people.

And we wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

Things We Learned This Weekend: Rivalries, Referees and Redemption.

Happy Monday, y’all.

Time to run through the events of the weekend and, at the same time not get fired:

The Biggest Hockey Love-In In Europe

Once upon a time, about eleven years ago, two British hockey teams had a match in February. This match contained a bench-clearing brawl that became quite popular on Youtube.

Granted, everyone loves a scrap or two, but this isn’t anything particularly special in the annals of bench clearing brawls.

The trouble is, since then we’ve never been allowed to forget this scrap, mainly because every time Sheffield and Nottingham have met we’re informed it’s “The BIGGEST RIVALRY IN UK HOCKEY” or “THE MOST INTENSE IN EUROPE!” by either Dave Simms or the Panthers PR team.

Living aside the fact that the laughable “most intense rivalry in Europe” claim clearly shows none of the Panthers or Steelers PR team have been to the Rheinderby (Cologne v Dusseldorf), the Helsinki or Stockholm derbies in Scandinavia or the Prague Derby between Slavia and Sparta (to name but four hockey rivalries that make Steelers-Panthers look like a candlelit dinner for lovers), it appears even the teams themselves can’t really be bothered to care any more.

This is a rivalry in which the two teams play golf together for charity. A rivalry in which the teams cordially arrange to start backups in a meeting between each other for “fairness”, because the game is a Challenge Cup game and “doesn’t mean anything” (somehow, they still got 6,000 gullible fans through the doors with their “RIVALRY!” schtick).

It’s not even a proper rivalry any more-certainly not the biggest in British hockey. One bench clearance twelve years ago is the basis for a sham rivalry created purely to continue selling tickets-a rivalry that even Sheffield and Nottingham fans themselves struggle to generate any heat in, never mind anyone else.

Rivals don’t play golf together. Rivals don’t cordially agree to start their backups because a game between them “means nothing”.

You want a British hockey rivalry with real hate in it? One that’s the product of genuine heat and antipathy?

Try Edinburgh v Fife (pure local hatred honed and reformed over at least 30 years). Or Coventry v Cardiff (built on two similar teams with similar fanbases who have had some truly epic battles) Or even Coventry v Nottingham. (pure, raw, non-PR driven hate).

They’re rivalries. The Steelers/Nottingham sham is merely a lover’s tiff and a distant memory that’s being clung to by two teams and fanbases who can’t admit that, after all, their own “big rivalry” has now become just another game.

Trouble Is Black And White

Referees.

They’re a strange breed. After all, they have to be willing to take abuse night after night, and are usually ranked just above Dave Simms and below Brad Voth in most UK hockey fans’ estimations.

But, lordy, some of them in the UK don’t make it easy for themselves.

Andy Carson is under attack by both Blaze and Nottingham fans again today after he threatened to let Sunday’s Blaze/Panthers game get out of control, allowing a dubious Nottingham equaliser two weeks after handing out misconducts like confetti in the Blaze v Giants Firework Night Frenzy. Suffice to say that as a result he’s not the most popular person in Coventry right now.

Interestingly, Tom Darnell seems to be a little more popular on his return to Cardiff after the Blaze v Devils brawl a few weeks ago, though. In fact, contrary to their reviews of him after that game Devils fans seem to like him a bit more this time. It can’t possibly be due to the fact that, this time, the Devils won the game he was reffing.

Can it?

Maybe The Mayans Were Right

Paul Bissonnette.

NHL agitator. Twitter celebrity. Never scored more than 42 points in a season (for Wheeling in the ECHL). Generally seen as a wind-up merchant and muscle rather than a sniper/pointscoring forward. 

Now 5+8 in 5 games for Cardiff.

On pace for a hundred point season in the EIHL.

I don’t know about you, but if this continues, I’d get the canned food ready and prepare to head for the basement on December 21st, just in case.

Scramble In Front: Alphabets, Breakups and Controversy

Yes, Chasing Dragons is back. Thanks to having to find a job AND a house for me and my fiancée, who’s moving over from Belfast in the New Year (oh, and the horrendous incompetence of BT, who make Corey Neilson’s off-season recruitment look like it has a logical and well-defined strategy) I’ve not been on the Internet much the past few days. But it’s OK, cause nothing happened in the Elite League, right?

Well, nothing if you don’t count Team Great Britain making it through to the final round of Olympic qualifiers, a game that tested my abilities to make hockey interesting to the absolute limit and a minor cataclysm in Braehead. Let’s make sense of the chaos, shall we?

RULE BRITANNIA! Well, until they face the big guns in February, anyway:

Team GB have managed to fight their way through to the last hurdle between them and the 2014 Winter Olympics, after winning their pre-qualifying group in Japan this week.

Naturally, this has caused great excitement amongst the GB fanbase, with lots of talk of how great the achievement is, how the GB programme is bearing fruit once again and how it’s not long before team GB will be playing with the big guns if they keep up the current improvement…

Whoa, Britain. Hold ya horses a little.

Without wishing to denigrate the achievements of the GB team (after all, this is the closest the GB hockey team have got to the Olympics since they won the whole shebang in…um…1936)-the work starts now.

In the pre-qualification group the Lions beat Japan, Korea and Romania. Now, these are all decent nations, but what everyone is missing in their “underdog comes through” rhetoric is this:

GB were the highest-ranked in their group.

That’s right. They’re, in the definition of the IIHF, the best team in that qualifying group-one place ahead of Japan and six and seven ahead of Korea and Romania.

Now they go on to face Latvia, France, and Kazakhstan in Riga in February. THIS is a real test-Latvia are 11th in the world, France are 14th and Kazakhstan 17th.

More to the point, they all have international federations who have actually seen the international team as something worth committing more than a paltry budget to over the past few seasons.

We’ll see if IHUK actually bother to send media this time, what with it being the biggest competition Team GB have been involved in since they played in Pool A of the World Championships in the early 90s. If they need a PBP guy, fairly sure I could make some time in my schedule for February. I even have a working knowledge of Latvian. SARAUJ GB!

In Braehead, The Alphabet Has 25 Letters…

because they’ve never heard of “D”.

Now you’ve stopped groaning, we can make a serious point. What in the name of sweet holy puck is going on at the Braehead Arena? Off the ice (as I wrote earlier this season) they’re going from strength to strength. On it, they’re struggling mightily, being tanked 8-4 by Edinburgh this weekend. Definitely not the form of a team many (including me) expected to dominate the Gardiner Conference this season. A team with the likes of Drew Miller, Garrett Zemlak and Jade Galbraith should be winning a lot more games then they are.

They’ve already made one change, bringing in Davided Nicoletti on defence…and yet the goals continue to come. So naturally, Jordan Krestanovich’s move is to chop Ryan Campbell (no points this season, which is a bit horrendous for an import, and embarrassing for me as I picked him as the Clan’s unsung hero in my preseason preview) and also Bobby Chaumont, who despite his 18 points was adjudged expendable.

Relationship Issues:

Chaumont’s release leads me nicely onto another point, too…the relationship between players and fans. It seems fractious up in Glasgow nowadays, with Chaumont having a barely-veiled dig at the Clan faithful yesterday, tweeting “you got your wish, Glasgow” barely days after Ryan Watt appeared to embrace the traditions in Gorgie, Scotstounhill or Govan by challenging a fan who criticised him to a scrap. Well, not in so many words, but “I could have you easily” probably isn’t a chat-up line, put it that way.

With the EIHL social media policy proving to be about as effective as a eunuch’s dangly bits at doing its job so far (sure, Devin DiDiomete and several other players have been fined for tweets but if a system has repeat offenders twice in a week there’s probably not much respect for it) and now the line between fans and players seeming to get ever more fractious this season (we had the Cardiff incident, this and also a bottle being thrown at a Trafford player at an NIHL game in Coventry this weekend)-maybe it’s time for everyone to calm down a little?

No Spleen Left Unvented

Finally, shamelessly nicking from the Banners On The Wall blog, I’m inviting you, dear readers, to send in your questions, mailbag style, for me to answer in a future post (probably this Friday). Ask it about hockey in general, the EIHL, its personalities, or what I think about the no-touch icing rule.  No question too big, too small or too controversion. As long as it’s not going to get me sued for libel, I’ll probably answer. 

To get your question in, tweet @fourthlinewing your question with the hashtag #askchasingdragons or email askchasingdragons@gmail.com, and we’ll hopefully have some fun talking hockey. You’ve got until Friday.

Happy quizzing, and see you tomorrow, Internet permitting…

The Times They Are A Changing: UK Hockey’s Silent Revolution

A shorter version of this article also appears in the November edition of the Coventry Blaze magazine “On Fire”, available at the Skydome. Well worth a purchase if you visit Coventry:

It may seem easy being a sports pundit. Simply watch as many games as you can, make sure you know about the sport you’re watching and try not to say anything too stupid, and watch the money roll in. As long as you know what you’re talking about and come out with bland sports cliches left right and centre, you’ve a job for life.

 This is a formula that’s been replicated by ex-footballers since time immemorial. In British hockey, though, the “expert” market is a little narrower…in that there just isn’t one. 

 Or at least until recently, there wasn’t.

 If you wanted “expert” comment on UK hockey in the post-Grandstand era of the late 90s/Superleague, at least punditry-wise you listened to Dave Simms up in Sheffield. That was it. It didn’t matter whether you agreed or (as many did) disagreed with his opinion–he had all the access, knew all the coaches, and perhaps most importantly spoke the loudest. If the media needed a quote on British hockey, they turned to him.

 Over the past few seasons, though, challengers have begun to pop up to Simmsey’s throne, as the world of UK hockey blogging has got bigger and more polished, and clubs have begun to produce their own webcasts, letting new voices come to the fore. Simmsey may still be acknowledged by most to be top of the pundit pile, but his days are increasingly numbered as UK fans discover new voices to get their opinion fix from. 

 Amongst some of these new(er) expert voices worth keeping an eye on are Craig Anderson of the excellent Slapshot Scotland, Katy Parles of UKAmerican Sports Fans, Jono Bullard of Nottingham’s “The Cat’s Whiskers” fanzine and Anthony Russell of Basingstoke’s “Banners On The Wall” blog. Coventry fan Craig Summerton (@craig_s96) and Fife’s Laura Duff (@hockey_laura) have also gained large Twitter fame with their intelligent and well-informed updates on the EIHL and their clubs.

 Because of this, increasingly fans are turning away from Simmsey’s blustering or the carefully-managed club press-releases, or the infighting and flame wars characteristic of forums, and looking for more intelligent comment.

 In fact, purely by reading this you’re contributing to the UK hockey media revolution. As clubs become more aware of what good PR and writers can do, more and more fans are stepping forward and letting their creative talents show-as evidenced by the superb work done by all the contributors I’ve mentioned.

All it needs is for fans to hunt them out. Hull Stingrays’ F Block Blog. Belfast’s A View From The Bridge. Coventry’s Sky Blue Hockey. Braehead’s Clanoroma. All over the EIHL fans are letting their fingers do the talking with knowledge, comment and argument that’s blowing that available in the “mainstream” media or from more “established” reporters into the shade.  

This is a trend UK hockey needs to embrace, and more to the point pass on to any interested media partners. 

Some clubs (such as Belfast and Nottingham) are incredibly supportive, while others, based on my own experience, are far more wary. The Blaze are making tentative steps with their excellent “On Fire” magazine, produced and edited entirely by fans, but still seem unsure of the true power of the Internet, as do many other teams. 

Belfast’s Doug Christiansen, however, appears to be far more aware of the power of fan media, with he and the Giants actively promoting A View From The Bridge wherever possible.

However, the recent closing of Fife Flyers’ forum shows that some are still not entirely sure (or indeed aware) of the benefits opening the door to bloggers can give. Certainly not to the level in other leagues-for example Slovan Bratislava of the KHL actively promote fan blogs, giving their writers free tickets in return for coverage.

Whether the UK hockey hierarchy realise it or not, the days of UK hockey journalism being a small, closed shop that may have existed in the past are over. There is a thriving group of nationwide UK fans who know the game well, are careful with their considered opinions and could easily do a job covering the sport, who have built up a following amongst their peers. It’s up to the clubs to find the right way to harness this talent and use it.

The next step is for these talented voices to be given a chance on the national stage, alongside the sterling work of those like Simms and Chris Ellis in Nottingham. I’m not saying that the current journalists should be replaced by the new breed, but it can’t hurt to have them supported.

The wind of change is blowing through the world of UK hockey media-it’s up to the league and their clubs to use it.

Knowing UK hockey, that may take a little while.

In the meantime, I’ve given you the names of those spearheading this silent revolution. Get out there, hockey fans. Read the blogs. Seek out a new view of the sport unfettered by press releases, petty rivalries or the same old tired hype we find in club PRs everywhere.

In short, there’s a whole world of UK hockey coverage out there waiting to be discovered. Next time you’re on-line, get out there and read it.

You’ll be glad you did.

Scramble In Front: Ref Hits and Hissy Fits

Yes, the title’s a little bit uninspired, but I was trying to think of another way of summing up the kind of post where we just tumble around trying to pick up the scraps of hockey news and make a worthwhile post out of them, and naturally thought of one of those mélées in front of the net so beloved of hockey, where the most important thing is somewhere under a pile of bodies and everyone’s trying a different way to get to it.

So anyway, away we go with a look at some of the news around the EIHL this week.

For Some, EVERYTHING Comes Down To Black And White: 

Refereeing. It’s a thankless job at the best of times, but in the Elite League, you’d better either have the skin of a rhino or be a closet masochist to want to take the job up. Already this season, Tom Darnell’s been in the firing line on Sky Sports and now Andy Carson is the one being criticised for what was something of a horror show on Sunday. Granted, Carson’s struggles led to a truly incredible game playing out between Coventry and Belfast but both Blaze fans and in particular Coventry sniper Brad Leeb were very vocal indeed about his performance, Leeb posting a vicious (but very funny) dig at the official on Twitter followed by this:

EIHL ref Andy Carson is the worst official I have encountered in my professional hockey career. #ForTheRecord

As of now, four days later, the tweet is still up. Think there could be a fine coming.

However, since Devin DiDiomete has also earned himself a fine through blogging on the Devils site and being viciously critical of Messrs Darnell and Hicks. It seems that the EIHL players aren’t shy of expressing their opinions, social media policy or not.

Cry Me A River (Severn)

Another group of individuals who aren’t bothered about expressing their opinions in public are Cardiff Devils fans. In the past two-weeks the various Devils fan forums have seen everything from conspiracy theories to threats of boycotts to outright vitriol as South Wales unites in an orgy of self-pity, ranting and opprobrium. Tin foil hats must be considered a current fashion accessory in the Valleys as talk of EIHL conspiracies, secret owner cartels with agendas against anything in red and referee bias has flooded the Inferno, reaching its peak in a frankly ludicrous thread on the Inferno which contained threats of boycotts and all sorts.

However, there is the excellent sight of the Devils clubbing together to pay DiDiomete’s social media fines, which is either a great demonstration of fan loyalty or something that completely negates the point of the punishment in the first place depending on your view of things.

In fairness, I have perhaps overstated the scale of things-many Devils fans have raised legitimate concerns about the officiating and disciplinary process which are shared by other teams in the league, but they have been let down by the lunatic fringe who have (and still do) see everything that goes wrong as some sort of conspiracy against their team. There are fans like this all over the country but there seem to be a particularly large number of them at the Big Blue Tent right now, and it’s not helping the sane and rational ones get their points across very well.

Of course, I could tell the Devils fans who’re convinced of a conspiracy the real reason for the problems Devils are having-about how Neil Black is actually a giant lizard king from the planet Tersysyadzgax who has a pathological aversion to the colour red and intends to ruthlessly punish all who wear i…hold on, there’s a black helicopter with the EIHL logo on it hovering outside my window….

Saucer Of Milk, Table Two 

Phew, avoided it. That was close. Anyway…where was I? Oh yes. Hissy fits. Just like Cardiff, Sheffield are no strangers to spitting their dummies from the pram, and today is a fine example of that, with pacifiers being parabolised all over South Yorkshire at the news former Steeler Tom Squires has joined Hull.

Clearly unaware of the “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything” rule, Dave Simms and his tame attack dog Bob Westerdale have delivered a thinly-disguised hatchet job on the young forward in today’s Star.

The thrust of the article is that Squires was getting a little too big for his boots in Sheffield last season, after “being told he was a superstar by some people”. The Steelers PR man is further quoted as saying that the club had done everything possible for Squires, even arranging gym membership, apparently, with the plan that he’d play in Telford under Tom Watkins.

Unfortunately, it seems that Squires didn’t fancy a drop back to the EPL under Sheffield’s terms and elected to make the move himself, signing for the Sheffield Steeldogs instead.

The best bit of the whole article is the barely-hidden dig at how Squires’ slow start to the season is a direct result of not following the Steelers’ advice, who were of course only doing the best for one of GBs brightest prospects in continuing his development by trying to stash him back out of the way in the EPL rather than offer a full-time contract despite Squires’ 34 points for them over two seasons…not bad for a 10th forward.

Squires himself has reacted in a far more classy fashion, eloquently and politely pointing out on Twitter that “no-one called him a superstar” and that “there were many reasons why (he) didn’t take the two-way contract, both professional and personal”.

Or, to read it another way: “Get off your high horse, Steelers. And stop making insinuations, too”.

The PR game in British hockey is often a bitchy one, but with today’s Star article Sheffield have shown themselves willing to sink lower than most, even making accusations about a young Brit when his decision isn’t the one they wanted.

Which is why I’m hoping Squires sticks those accusations of attitude problems right back down certain people in Sheffield’s throat when he goes back there this season.

There you go-the puck’s frozen, the whistle’s blown and that’s the end of Scramble In Front for today. There may be a delay in posts for a day or two because my home Internet’s currently knackered, but I’ll do my best to keep updating. See y’all in a bit.