Periodically, we debate ice hockey’s place in the pecking order of British sport. With the men’s national team enjoying a better than expected return at this year’s World Championships, we have once again entered one of those periods.
Currently fans of the sport are shades of either outraged, frustrated, or simply saddened that the relative accomplishments of the men’s national side did not make more waves among the British media during the past month; despite the success, ‘relative’ is the key word here, and British ice hockey still faces some serious hurdles if it is to command more interest from both Britain’s sports media, and the public.Read the rest of this entry
“He needs to learn how to be a pro.”
It’s a sentence we often hear, either verbatim or with some slight variation, when we talk about developing young talent.
It has even been cited as a barrier to progression within British hockey on occasion; with young players considered to be given inadequate guidance on ‘how to be a pro’, making the jump to the EIHL (and beyond) difficult.
So if the fundamental skills – skating, stick handling, shooting – alone are not enough, what else does someone need to know to forge a career in pro hockey? What is it that a 10-year veteran does that a first year rookie must learn if they are to be successful?
How does someone learn to be a pro?
Team GB fell frustratingly short on Sunday night, slipping to a 4-1 defeat against Hungary in Nottingham in their final Olympic Pre-Qualification game.
Hungary now advance to the final qualification round, with a place at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics up for grabs; GB are left to regroup ahead of May’s World Championships.
Some thoughts from the weekend’s events:
Quality Versus Quantity
Doubtless it will sound odd for someone to downplay a 47-save performance, but here we are.
Miklos Rajna was tidy in backstopping Hungary to victory on Sunday, but that’s all he needed to be behind a defence that was just as effective – clogging lanes, clearing rebounds, blocking shots. It was as perfect example of the synergy between goaltender and defence as you might see.
Other than Mike Hammond’s blocked effort, it’s tough to think of another truly great scoring chance Great Britain created on Sunday, or were allowed to create. Even Matthew Myers goal was from a bad angle, the Cardiff Devils forward managing to bank the puck in off Rajna – one of the Hungarian’s few mistakes on the night.
GB seemed to fall back on pumping shot after shot on goal, hoping something would squeeze through, or a deflection or rebound would fall kindly.
Hungary meanwhile took the few chances they created, all of quality in one sense or another – not for the first time during the weekend, Ben Bowns found himself without a clear view of an opponents shot as the puck zipped by.
Equally ‘not for the first time’, an opposing forward found himself alone in the slot in front of the GB goal; where Estonia and Romania whiffed on such chances, Hungary did not.
You might argue Sofron should have been ejected for his high hit on Dallas Ehrhardt (a valid argument), but he wasn’t and when he saw an opportunity unfold in front of him, he took it.
Great Britain might be frustrated by the officiating, the ‘missed’ 5-on-3 opportunities that might have been, but the limited creativity on display through the rest of the game give little reason to think it would have made any difference.
A personal note;
After 105 episodes, over the course of six-years, I’ve taken the decision to ‘retire’ the One Puck Short Podcast.
With output becoming sporadic, and an acknowledgement that the drive which once propelled me to do the show had faded, this felt like the right decision.
One Puck Short has always been self funded, and self maintained, and it’s a hard thing to keep something like this going if your heart isn’t in it. It takes the investment of both time and money, and it would be unfair on everyone – myself, my family, my guests, and you, the listeners – to continue with something that wasn’t going to get the best of me anymore.
It may be that I dust the mic off again at some point in the future – to do something new, something different – but for now I’d like to thank everyone who has ever joined me as a guest on the show – I’ve been privileged to speak to some wonderful people since the podcast began in 2013, I’m even more privileged to call some of them friends now – as well as anyone who has ever listened, shared, contributed, or got in touch with the show.
Until next time.
Great Britain will play Poland and Kazakhstan next year as part of their preparations for the World Championship in Switzerland.
GB will meet Poland on Friday 17th April 2020 (7:30pm) at the Skydome in Coventry, before the two sides face each other in Cardiff’s Viola Arena the next day, Saturday 18th April 2020 (7pm).
Pete Russell’s side will then take-on Kazakhstan on Sunday 3rd May (5:30pm) in Milton Keynes ahead of the sold-out encounter with Canada two days later at the Motorpoint Arena Nottingham.
GB’s last meeting with both sides came during their successful promotion-winning campaign at the 2018 World Championship Division I Group A in Budapest.
Brett Perlini, Colin Shields, Brendan Brooks, Ben O’Connor and Jonathan Phillips were the goalscorers in a 5-3 win over Poland, while Luke Ferrara scored his first GB goal in a 6-1 defeat by Kazakhstan.
Russell said: “These are two more excellent opponents and they are sure to be three great matches as part of our World Championship preparations.
“We have had some terrific battles with Poland at both World Championship tournaments and in warm-up games – and I am sure next year will be no different.
“Kazakhstan are always tricky opponents for us so I am looking forward to seeing how we match-up against them.
“These games – and of course the match with Canada – are vital in getting ourselves ready for the World Championship in Switzerland.”
TICKETS ARE ON SALE NOW.
To buy tickets for GB against Poland in Coventry, please call 02476 630693 or visit https://iceaccount.co.uk/ice-events/coventry/home
To buy tickets for GB against Poland in Cardiff. please call 0800 0842 666 or visit https://www.cardiffdevils.com/tickets/book-online
To buy tickets for GB against Kazakhstan in Milton Keynes, please call 01908 540020 or visit https://planet-ice.co.uk/locations/milton-keynes/
Please note ticket prices will be subject to each individual arena’s booking fee.
Press release via Ice Hockey UK. Photo: Dean Woolley.