Stressful times recently, but thankfully the news that we had been hoping for came out of Monday’s Elite League board meeting that the Vipers would see out the season. It’s been a very turbulent season on Tyneside, since late November we’ve been battling to keep the club alive on a weekly basis and looking back I would say we were all skeptical that the club would last long after Christmas.
However we’re now in mid January, we’ve come through the worst period and we can now start planning going forward. Huge respect must go to Jaimie, Danny and all the players who have handled the situation very well. Jaimie has his critics and rightly so in some circumstances, however knowing where the club was five years ago and where it is now we wouldn’t have come this far without Jaimie. That’s testament to what he brings to the table. A lot of people will just look at the fact that the club have gone from winning the playoffs in 2006 playing in a 5,000 seat multi purpose arena to a struggling outfit who have seen attendances gradually drop season after season. No matter who was financing and running the club, this was going to happen, in reality the club should have folded after it’s first Elite League season. I am sure there will be more about that at Monday’s Fan Forum (7.30pm at the NewcastleGateshead Hilton).
At first I didn’t think Danny was doing a great job, but since early December he’s really bought me around. What a lot of people forget is the fact that he’s a first year coach, in the worst situation in the league, with no money, poor facilities and has been up against it on a daily basis from the start. When the financial issues raised their head in early December, a lot of coach’s would have buckled and jumped ship. Danny didn’t do this, we made him aware of the situation and respect to him, he dug in deep, wanted to make things work and got his players bought into what he wanted. That could be his making as a coach. There will be people reading this thinking well what about the four imports that left. All I would say to that is look at Edinburgh as an example, I don’t think they’ve handled their situation well at all internally and in the public domain, that’s why they are down to three imports this weekend – in addition the Capitals off ice issues aren’t anywhere near as bad as the Vipers.
The fans in Newcastle in the majority have been excellent during yet another period of uncertainty – I had hoped those days were behind us following the previous two occasions. I don’t have any issues with those that have taken the decision not to support the club or attend games, whether that’s because of Whitley Bay, past season’s, club communication, standard of play etc. Fans of Ice Hockey in Newcastle have been through their fair share of up’s and down’s as have Cardiff, Hull, Sheffield supporters. If you’re unhappy with something no one expects anyone to part with their hard earned cash, but for those that have supported the club in the past and the present it is appreciated. Personally I question whether hockey will ever work in Newcastle but for everyone who has stuck with it through the good times and the bad times hopefully a new investor is just around the corner.
Myself and Jaimie spoke to Scott Neil after last Saturday’s game at Whitley Bay and he asked how we’d managed to keep a hold of the majority of the team, we explained and even gave him some advice going forward so it was very encouraging to see that he’d spoken to the fans after Sunday’s home game against Sheffield. I respect Scott and the Capitals as until you’re in a position like the Vipers, Capitals, Stingrays have been in recent years, really you don’t understand. Scott has worked hard to make Ice Hockey work in Edinburgh but like the Vipers situation I personally feel there are a number of factors working against him and any possible success. Right now the Vipers and Capitals are not Elite League organisations and maybe their futures are at a more sustainable level.
I was very disappointed to lose Dale Mahovsky who decided to take up an offer in North America. Dale was a real find for the club coming straight out of CIS hockey and despite being in his first pro season had been a model player on and off the ice since his arrival. While it has been disappointing to lose imports, the club have never stood in anyone’s way if they wanted to move onto pastures new. Their employment in hockey is what pays for their bills, so no one should blame any players in these situations who decide to look after themselves. As a collective the players stuck with the club longer than some other would, so personally I would like to wish them all the best for the future.
Big weekend on a sporting front as I am putting myself through the pain of the Wear Tyne derby on Sunday. Like myself, a lot of Sunderland supporters are smarting still from the embarrassing 5-1 defeat to Newcastle at St. James in October. Newcastle are doing a lot better this season than I thought they would. Even as a Sunderland supporter, I am totally bemused still by their decision to part company with Chris Hughton and bring in Alan Pardew, in my eyes not a great decision. So off to the SOL on Sunday with European aspirations starting to grow, but knowing Sunderland it won’t go well.
Has everyone had their annual fix of the Ice Hockey Annual yet? If not get one today, well worth a read. Available here priced at £9.45 which is the cheapest price you’ll find anywhere on the internet.
Follow Gareth on Twitter: www.twitter.com/garethchalmers