The Monday After: Sadly, still the ‘best kept secret’

The Devils are top of their CHL group with two games to go, but you probably haven't seen much about it in the mainstream media (PHOTO: Helen Brabon)

SADLY, STILL THE ‘BEST KEPT SECRET’

Last week, I got an email and a text message from two different media outlets to tell me my input would no longer be required.

One was a radio station, who would call me on a Saturday for some reflections on a night and have decided to revamp the show, therefore ice hockey would no longer be featured.

The other was a newspaper I did regular bit and bobs for last season and while that kind of regularity has been cut back due to ongoing budget cuts, they would be happy for the odd feature.

While I’ll always be grateful to these and every other media outlet who have printed my work or had me as a guest on a podcast or radio show or have me head up media, it’s disappointing the sport has been shunted to one side again.

It let me thinking back to Tony Smith’s words a few years ago when he said: “I feel the sport itself is one of the best-kept secrets in the country.

“For me, it is always a hard sell, but the thing I love about ice hockey is once you’ve shown people what the game is all about and they’ve had a couple of visits to the arena, they either love it or hate it.”

It would be easy for me to bemoan the lack of coverage in the mainstream media and while we should always be grateful for the coverage of FreeSports – and believe me, we are – the fact ice hockey continues to be ignored to a wider audience is baffling and disappointing in equal measure.

Local news outlets are all over their respective clubs and we’ve seen the BBC covering Challenge Cup and Play-off Finals in recent years, not to mention great coverage of the GB national team.

Now, I know full well, especially living in the West of Scotland, persuading newspapers and broadcast media to give ice hockey to sort of eye-watering coverage football gets is a non-starter.

Even sports such as rugby union, golf, tennis and horse racing are well ahead in the pecking order and even this cynical 40-something is not naive enough to think that could change.

But, you only need to see the attendance figures on the EIHL website and the figures following each of the teams in social media (Belfast and Cardiff have almost 100K between them on Twitter alone) to see there’s a platform

Therefore, I want to call on all the mainstream media to follow Tony Smith’s advice about visiting an arena once or twice and deciding if you like it or not.

Put it this way, having introduced some friends and family to the sport, I can’t recall one of them having never gone back.  Ice hockey does that to you.  It draws you in and you can go from a curious observer to berating an official for a wrong decision in a matter of minutes.

There aren’t too many sports that will do that to you so come on, BBC, ITV, Sky etc, start giving this sport a bit more love than there is.  Come and see what all the fuss is about.

Blackburn Hawks and Widnes Wild in pre-season action (PHOTO: Blackburn Hawks)

GOING ONLY SO FAR

We’ve had a few message and posts in recent weeks about the lack of NIHL North and South and SNL coverage recently so I thought I would address them here.

The reason why we don’t have coverage at the moment is we are very low in resources to cover those leagues so with few people available to scribble something up, it has to go on the back burner for the time being.

Rest assured, we’re slowly building ourselves up after coming back late last year and over time, we hope to be in a position to cover all the leagues with regular coverage in the long term.

If anybody wishes to come on board and help us out with this, we would love to hear from you so don’t be shy.  We’re always on the look out for anything we can post up.

I hope you all understand our reasons for this and once things can be better resourced, your league will get the love it hugely deserves.

Fife’s double win this weekend has put them top of the Elite League for now (PHOTO: Jillian McFarlane/Fife Flyers)

A BRIEF CHANGE FROM THE NORM

How good is it to see Fife Flyers and Manchester Storm sitting top of the Elite League standings in the top two positions?

It was a great weekend for the Flyers with wins over Coventry and Nottingham have given them the best possible league start, while Manchester claimed a big win over Belfast to take two points on Sunday.

While I’m not expecting it to last, once a couple of other teams start finding their rhythm, it’s certainly enjoyable for their fans, even if it only after a couple of games.

As I’ve said, below the supposed top two, its going to be a dogfight among those other eight teams from here until the end of March.

LEEDS CAN’T QUITE HOLD DOGS

Well done to Sheffield Steeldogs on their opening victory in the NIHL National League, which began yesterday and for the next few days, find themselves at the top.

The day was all about Leeds Chiefs in their inaugural and by all accounts, showed some great moments in the 3-1 loss to suggest they could make a decent fist of it.

Our social media was full of so many people excited to be witnessing this particular piece of history and the result, while disappointing, I don’t think dampened their spirits.

There’s going to be lots more to come when the other eight teams join the party next weekend.

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