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.

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