Why Not Speak Up Before?

It’s rare to hear anything majorly ‘controversial’ from the upper echelons of the British game. So when Craig Summerton (@block15blaze) spoke to former Coventry Blaze coach Paul Thompson for On Fire magazine, the line “And drop the god damn import limit. Just do it” was bound to catch people’s eye.

You can read the full interview here – but the long and the short of it is Thompson, now Head Coach of Troja-Ljungby in Sweden, said what a number of people within the British game have been saying for years – something has to change.

Various ‘pats on the back’ have been doled out for telling it like it is. What bothers me is that this is someone who held a prominent position within the sport, and yet only now seems to speak up?

I understand the argument that you wouldn’t bite the hand that feeds – but it seems so very ‘British hockey’ for self preservation to come ahead of the greater good.

Thompson was not only Head Coach of the Coventry Blaze, one of the countries most successful teams during his tenure, but he was also part owner (and part owner of Hull Stingrays for a time) and the British national team coach.

He was one of the most high profile people in British hockey – and yet this view has only come out now?

The disjointed nature of British hockey makes change hard, very hard. That isn’t Thompson’s fault. But if anyone ever had the standing to speak with authority and weight on the subject, surely it was him? A successful British coach at the top level (basically the only one…), with a financial interest AND an interest in the national program.

Heck, he stood to benefit personally from a change.

The import levels in the EIHL, and the British game in general, is always a hot button topic. Comments like “drop the god damn import limit. Just do it” will always be popular. But that’s just it, it’s popular. There’s no underlying structure there. No thought for what it means for the wider game.

Thompson referred to the ‘buying in to’ the development of British players to fill the gaps created by reducing the import limit. But there doesn’t seem to be any plan for how, or any consideration for the holes it would leave further down the chain as EIHL clubs need to go out and grab an extra 20 or 30 players from across the lower leagues.

To be fair to Thompson, he did ask the question in a sense – when his son reaches 18, where does he go? What’s his development path?

There isn’t one…It’s a well known issue. He’s not the first to highlight it. He won’t be the last. But he had the chance to say something about this and perhaps even do something about it. Even influence other to forge the links between EIHL clubs and the junior sections in their respective towns. Now he’s a thousand miles away…

It does sound like his time in Sweden has been something of an eye opener, which is great in a sense – maybe the lessons he learnt get fed back here, and the little bubble British hockey lives in will get a glimpse of the world outside, realise we aren’t as good as we think we are, and actually do something about it.

On the flip side, that’s what is a little depressing about this whole situation – its taken someone like Thompson going abroad and being interviewed by a club magazine to realise that. I mean that as no disrespect to Craig or On Fire, but it doesn’t exactly speak highly of the EIHL, IHUK or the EIHA that this kind of thin is coming out in this way.

Even the idea of learning from another country, again not a new idea, one has to ask why that is coming out in this way; and not an active project for IHUK or the EIHA

Perhaps I’m being a little harsh on Thompson. He is, or was, one man in a disjointed scheme which will take years to fix. But having been one of the most prominent players in that setup for so long, it would have been nice to hear this 5 years ago and to have a plan for the future already in place.

Instead, while we’re suddenly cottoning on to what the best do, the rest have already learnt from them and will soon over take Great Britain in the hockey world.

I for one would be pretty damned disappointed to see us slip even further down the totem pole.

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About Rob

Software engineer by day, Elite League Media man by night, Rob also blogs about cricket for One Stump Short, hockey for In Goal Magazine and video games for Outpost Delta as well as hosting the One Stump Short Podcast.

Posted on March 2, 2014, in British Hockey, Hockey and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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