On Time Management, Hockey Celeb Culture and Fan Outrage

This weekend, the Blaze finished their regular season with a 4-2 loss against Belfast at home followed by a loss to the last-place Hull Stingrays away.

The big story of the weekend was the absence of Jerramie Domish from both games, for reasons as yet unknown. New Blaze coach Matty Soderstrom has been getting stick all week for his appointment, and the fans are angry about a lack of passion and most seem to have already given up on the season, putting the management under attack for not releasing a statement and generally acting like hockey is the most important thing on earth and the sky is about to fall on the Skydome.

Or, to put it another way, it was just another week in this injury-ridden and tumultuous Blaze season.

Normally, as Blaze PBP guy, I’d have been joining in with this and posting my opinions on the new coach, how the Blaze should do this and that, which player should be signed, the whole thing.

But over the last week or two, I’ve become sick of the whole churning of fan opinion in Coventry-particularly with the accusations levelled at the players of “not caring any more” and “only wanting to accept their paychecks”. Mainly, I’ve become sick of the propensity of the Blaze fanbase to treat every single thing that happens in Coventry as something to either be torn down, debated or thrown around as proof that this club is going to hell in a handbasket.

This culminated last night with fans getting wound up about…of all things…their coach deciding to miss an away game to go and scout the opposition, saying that it was an “insult” to those who had travelled, that a man who’d given 18 years of his life to their team was disappointing because he elected to travel and scout the opposition for a game that actually meant something next week rather than go to the bench for a meaningless end-of-season game that would have zero effect beyond ticking a box saying all fixtures had been completed.

Let’s get this clear, Blaze fans. Paul Thompson’s time is his. If he decides that he wants to spend his last regular-season game scouting Blaze’s next opposition and giving his assistant (who let’s not forget is going to be doing Thompson’s job next season) the chance to cut his teeth with absolutely nothing on the line, then that is his affair.

You, I or anyone else have no right to tell him his actions are wrong, nor do you have any right to feel disappointed because something that you arbitrarily expected to happen didn’t. That, my friends, is called life.

Oh, but it was his last regular-season game” you cry. So what? There are at LEAST two more games during which Paul Thompson will be behind the Blaze bench, including one at the Skydome next Saturday. The only significance of Sunday night’s game was an arbitrary one ascribed to it by you and those selling the tickets for the away coaches, which meant considerably little to anyone else. You can see how much significance the man for whose “milestone you were all getting so teary-eyed about ascribed to it by the fact that he missed it to go and DO THE JOB YOU’RE ALL EXPECTING HIM TO DO, which is attempt to make it more likely the Blaze will win a game that actually matters next weekend.

I can understand being annoyed at the way the game was “sold” to you, but getting annoyed at Thommo himself is a step beyond the line.

In the grand scheme of things, getting pissed off about the “snub” Paul Thompson delivered to you and your mates (a snub which only exists in YOUR OWN HEAD) is about as petty and worthwhile as yelling “I’M THE NEW KING/QUEEN OF THE WORLD!” in Coventry city centre and then flying into a rage because nobody bows. See the bigger picture here, people, for Christ’s sake.

*takes a breath*

Am I done with this post yet? Not even close.

Blaze dman Jerramie Domish missed both games this weekend for undisclosed reasons, which has led to a flurry of fans saying “WE WANT A STATEMENT” along with a bunch of wild speculation about what’s happened and the reasons why, none of which I’ll post here as some theories are potentially libellous. People want to know why Domish didn’t play, and more than that, some expect to be told by the club immediately.

At the risk of being potentially flamed here, and writing this with no insider knowledge, it seems to me the reasons why Domish didn’t play or (if it IS the case) the reasons why Blaze have terminated his employment are between the Blaze & Domish himself, and the reason that as of now the club haven’t commented on why he didn’t play at the weekend and why any statement they release on the matter will simply contain the bare facts and not justification is, in my eyes (and I’ll put this as bluntly as possible), because sometimes the reasons are none of our business.

UK hockey is a sport where, rightly or wrongly, the fans are allowed a lot of access to the players. This, in Coventry, appears to have bred a culture where fans think they should be told EVERYTHING about a team, including the players’ private lives. The “celeb culture” which appears to have invaded everyday life has hit the Skydome and other clubs, too.

I used to be part of this. As a fan, I wanted to know EVERYTHING about my favourite players, up to and including what they listened to in the changing room or their favourite pregame meal. Being “in the know” was fun. It gave you credence and a bit of a buzz.

Being the Blaze webcast announcer, I am lucky enough to have a little more access to the team than the “average fan” and I do try and find out information so I can do my job effectively. Every PBP guy does. After all, if we want to we have the chance ask the players, staff and management why things are happening, why someone isn’t playing, and all the questions that people are asking.

But, if anything, being in this privileged position has taught me a valuable lesson, both about fandom and the operations of a sports team.

Even with access the average fan could only dream of, there are times when I ask a question which to me seems perfectly reasonable and am told simply “You can ask us all you like, but sorry, we’re not telling you the answer. Why? Because we’re not.”

When I first started, this sometimes used to frustrate me. After all, I’m supposed to be “part of the team”-the players know me. Why am I still being shut out? Why wasn’t I told the reason for this line change, or this personnel decision?

Now I know why.

Even in my position, if I’m not told something, it’s because. even though I may want to…I don’t need to know it.

It’s human nature to WANT to know everything possible about a situation, to look for reasons and speculate. Wanting to be told everything, wanting to speculate is fine. It’s what fans do and have done since time immemorial.

But expecting to be told everything, even when having that knowledge will make no change to anyone’s life beyond a few people or have negative effects on fans’ or players lives-that’s a new fan phenomenon in the UK. And more to the point, it’s a fan phenomenon that’s unrealistic. A phenomenon that relies on a “perfect world” where information isn’t power and it can’t be used against the teller or the subject. A phenomenon that in this world simply is unrealistic.

Sometimes, it’s necessary for one to accept that not everyone needs to know everything. And the more I come to know, the more this becomes true.

In hockey, as in life, information is power.

And simply put, especially when it’s power over your players’ lives and future careers. power is not something to be given up lightly.


3 thoughts on “On Time Management, Hockey Celeb Culture and Fan Outrage

  1. So from the guy who has criticised anything Blaze over the years and has caused an awful lot of controversy, even being removed from the PBP position at one point (dont know what that stands for btw)and including misleading hearsay on occasions, we are now getting sanctimonious, patronising, generalising, pontificating claptrap telling us we aren’t entitled to ask why one of our D men has disappeared a week before the play offs, the only thing we have left to play for. Incredible!

  2. Once again Paul well written. Coming from the frozen hockey frontier I would say my husband and I are avid hockey fans. That being said we loved the atmosphere at the Coventry games but were very surprised with how far some of the fans go. No not the dressing up, chants and cheers or the fans travelling to games, that all makes the games fun to go to.
    It’s all the negativity, nosiness in private lives ( yes the players have lives away from hockey) and once again negativity. Really think about this, when you go to work each day and hear negative comments continuously, daily and on all levels of your life . how are you going to perform at work ? Positive thinking and letting something go after the fact will get you farther along.
    I am not saying all fans are like that because we have met great people in Coventry, cheering on their home team and keeping a good outlook.
    Things can’t be perfect all the time, enjoy the Game, cheer and yes critique the game but for heavens sake , once the game is over…. LET IT GO !!!

    Go and enjoy and cheer on your boys. Go Blaze GO !

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