It’s been a year to forget – but here are the 10 most read stories on the site this year.
The biggest story of the year was one of the first – as the future of ice hockey in Ayr faced an uncertain future due to ageing facilities. Ayr Bruins vice chairman Alex Strachan warned: “The future of the sport is looking bleak at this moment in time and the kids are leaving to go to other clubs. That’s why we lost the under 14’s and under 16 teams. It’s my fear that unless things are addressed and quickly, you won’t see ice hockey to the point it could even cease to exist.”
Tragedy struck in February as former Coventry Blaze, Newcastle Vipers and Sheffield Steelers defenceman Jerramie Domish died at the age of 40. Tributes poured in from across the league, including from Clan chief Gareth Chalmers, who said: “We’ve lost a character of ice hockey, a fantastic guy and we absolutely loved him during his time with the Vipers. RIP my friend.”
Despite playing the majority of the season, it was decided that there would be no champion of the Elite League for the 2019/20 season, after it was ended early. Cardiff were top of the table, and had three games in hand on nearest rivals Sheffield Steelers. At that time, there was still hope that there may be an alternative play-off weekend – though of course that didn’t happen, and instead we had to turn to mainland Europe for live ice hockey, such as the action featured on speletajiem.com in Latvia.
There was a stir around fighting and Belfast Giants back in February, as BBC Northern Ireland presenter Stephen Nolan tried to create controversy around the issue. That led to this popular comment piece from Craig Anderson blasting the nonsense.
While we’re still gripped by the coronavirus pandemic, some hope has been created by the introduction of a vaccine, and also the relaxation of some restrictions which has seen sports fans return, albeit in small numbers. That has led to hope that maybe a shortened 2020/21 Elite League season may well be possible – but in this piece from last week, Dundee Stars coach Omar Pacha said that they would not be part of it.
After losing the end of last season, the prospects of the 2020/21 season looked bleak in August – with even the estimated start date of December looking increasingly unlikely. This comment piece from Craig Anderson preceded the inevitable cancellation of the campaign, and who knows when we might see elite hockey again.
In March, Staffordshire Police urged the public to be on the lookout for former Newcastle Vipers and Hull Pirates director Andre Payette, who had gone missing. A popular figure, Payette also played for Coventry, Manchester Phoenix, Sheffield Steeldogs and Whitley Warriors. He was found safe and well days later.
Five-time Elite League winning coach Paul Thompson declared his interest in the vacant Glasgow Clan coach role, having left DEL side Schwenninger Wild Wings in December. The former Coventry Blaze and Sheffield Steelers boss said: “You’re always flattered to be linked with clubs and for me, the Glasgow job is a great job so I would definitely be interested.”
The year had started in such positive fashion, with Manchester Storm defenceman Zach Sullivan revealing he was bisexual, to coincide with the Elite League’s first ever pride weekend back in January. He said: “I’ve been battling with this internally for around nine years and if me doing this now helps anyone and helps them on their journey, then I’ve done something good.”
Glasgow Clan set themselves up for another summer hunt for a coach, as they confirmed the departure of head coach Zack Fitzgerald at the start of April. Their former player had only taken over from Pete Russell at the start of the 2019/20 season, which of course was curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic, with Clan embroiled in a play-off scrap with Dundee, Manchester and Fife. As it was, the ongoing situation has meant no successor has yet been appointed.