Behind the Mask #4 | Miika Wiikman: Nottingham Panthers

Title image credit: Panthers Images

Miika Wiikman is in his second season with the GMB Nottingham Panthers and is arguably one of the best net-minders in the Elite Ice Hockey League. This season he has won silverware for the club along with the rest of the team and secured the Continental Cup for the Panthers, making them one of the first British clubs to ever do so as well as qualifying for the Champions Hockey League for next season. Though as always, this interview seeks to take you Behind the Mask and into the mind somewhat of the man who wears it.

Continue reading Behind the Mask #4 | Miika Wiikman: Nottingham Panthers

Add a Little Hockey to your Instagram Feed with 8 of my Favourite Hockey Accounts

These are some of my favourite hockey accounts to follow on Instagram, but which accounts would you suggest I follow? Which players are your favourites? Which team posts the best content on Instagram? Let me know!

Continue reading Add a Little Hockey to your Instagram Feed with 8 of my Favourite Hockey Accounts

Them Over There | Getting to know the Sheffield Steelers Zack Fitzgerald (#OnFire Repost)

Zack Fitzgerald, or Fitzy as he’s so often reffered to as, is a player who divides opinion. Some fans love him (particularly those in Orange!) and some cannot stand him. To look at his stats he doesn’t look like much. Two goals this season so far and not quite as penalty minutes as his fellow Steeler Guillaume Desbiens, some might argue that he’s simply there to rile up the opposition and cause them to make mistakes.

Continue reading Them Over There | Getting to know the Sheffield Steelers Zack Fitzgerald (#OnFire Repost)

Let’s talk about Zebras

I don’t know about you but I’ve been a fan of hockey now for a few years. I started watching because a friend introduced me to it after I’d been watching NHL for a little while and I was looking for something closer to home to watch. It’s always been pretty casual up until recently, but more and more as I’m learning the rules and learning to watch for those infractions it’s becoming clear that there are a few problems… I wonder – do other people see them too?

1. Rules – What rules do the EIHL actually play using?

I’d love to be able to actually look through them – to learn them but I can’t actually find them. I’ve scoured for a while to try and find a definitive list but it appears not to exist. You go to the Elite League’s official website and try search for rules and it brings up a whole lot about the Department Of Player Safety (DOPS) but no actual rules. This I find deeply frustrating. How can the officiating staff all sing the same song if no one has a copy of the lyrics??

2. Consistency throughout British Ice Hockey – not just the Elite League, but across the board.

Players move through the ranks quite often, moving from the Steeldogs to the Steelers, the NIHL Blaze to the EIHL Blaze or from various other lower league teams to their EIHL counterparts. Should these players be expected to learn two different sets of rules – or at least the rules that are different between the two leagues. What happens if a player causes a penalty by doing something that would have been allowed under their previous team just because they weren’t aware of the differences?

Talk recently has been about cleaning up mainly the Elite League in the UK, but what about the rest. Personally I think that rules need to be the same across all of the adult leagues in the country. The minute you are playing for an adult team, you follow the same set of rules, regardless of the league. Isn’t that just straight-up common sense?

3. Accountability – Should the league be holding  referees accountable for poor decision making?

Now this one, this is quite tricky really due to the above mentioned lack of an actual rule book and the fact that I’ve come to believe the refs are volunteers? Not actually employees of the league. [please correct me if I’m wrong about that] In refereeing there is also the element of human error, no person is a robot. No one will catch every single infraction that happens in the fast paced game. However, of a referee makes a decision that the league or teams believe to be unfair or unjust, they should be called out on it and dealt with accordingly. After all DOPS is there to check on the calls that teams feel are unfair or incorrect but it is the player who is punished after the fact, rather than the referee who gave the wrong call at the time.

I know this one is a bit of a long shot though because as volunteers they don’t really have the same kind of code of conduct or rules as someone who would actually be employed. They give up their time to do this but it does not excuse the, at times, sloppy calls of the referees. Referees need to be held to a higher standard, they can’t be seen to be more biased towards one team or another. How can it be right for a referee to travel on a team bus for example to save money on travel and then not have their possible bias called into question by the other team? Who’s to know what goes on behind closed doors when everyone’s back is turned? To me, it just does not seem right.

Officiating staff need to be above reproach, so that accusations like that cannot be thrown at them because there is simply no evidence to suggest they are anything but unbiased and impartial.
4. The ban on being able to say anything against referees 

This one? This one really grinds my gears. Why can’t coaches and players be able to air their grievances against referees without the risk of a fine? Because it’s unprofessional?

If there is evidence to back up their claims why not let them air it? Let coaches grumble, perhaps there’s a reason for their complaints that needs to be dealt with rather than having them swept under the carpet and the speaker be fined for saying what’s on their mind. That is not good business. Don’t turn a blind eye to bad calls and expect no one to notice. Fines to those who speak out is simply not the answer. Sure it lines the pockets of the league top bosses, but it doesn’t solve the problem of dubious refereeing.

Referees need to be accountable. They are not Gods who’s decision is final, they make mistakes just like all us meer mortals and should be called out on it. Just like anyone else. If they make a stupid decision they should have to justify it. Not just have it brushed off and under the carpet simply because of the colour of their shirts.

These are basically a few things I have been mulling over for a while. Is there anything else you think should be discussed?

#BellLetsTalk – Raising Mental Health Awareness

Mental illness is not something to be taken lightly. Regardless of what disorder or condition anyone suffers there should never be a reason that someone doesn’t feel comfortable to talk about it. It’s not a dirty word, it certainly isn’t anything to be ashamed or embarrassed of. Yet every single day people all over the world are suffering in silence, terrified of the repercussions that might come from opening up.

Today, across the internet you have probably seen people using the hashtag BellLetsTalk. It’s to raise awareness and to try and dampen that stigma that means that approximately every 2 hours, someone in the European Union (including the United Kingdom & Ireland) commits suicide.

Suicide is the leading cause of death among young people aged 20-34 years in the UK and it is considerably higher in men, with nearly four times as many men dying as a result of suicide compared to women. Those at highest risk are men aged between 45 and 59 years who have a rate of 25.1 per 100,000 population.

Some of the biggest stars of the EIHL are doing their part to raise awareness as well, including GMB Nottingham Panthers enforcer, Brian McGratten and the Coventry Blaze’s Barry Almeida. Sheffield Steelers tough guy, Guillaume Desbiens has previously participated in an awareness campaign for suicide.

It's day 12 of 20 common myths, misunderstandings or misconceptions about suicide and i'll say that this one particularly resonates with me. Believe me when I say that your friends and family are NOT better off without you. #askforhelp #20daysofawareness MYTH: If you take your life, people (family, friends, loved ones) will be far better off without you. TRUTH: An attempted or completed suicide has a profound and devastating impact on people left behind. Someone considering suicide may feel that they are a burden to others around them, and be unable to recognise the effect that their death may have on loved ones. Stay Alive App: CANADA: US:

A post shared by Guillaume Desbiens (@gdesbiens) on

According to statistics, men are more likely to suffer in silence owing to the way that the media often tries to make men out to be weak if they share how they feel. Recently, campaigns have been more active to try and reduce the stigma and encourage men to speak out. Hockey players all over the world are trying to break that stigma and encourage those who are suffering to speak out.

Mental illness isn’t new in Ice Hockey, owing to the real risk of head injuries, concussion is always a possibility. This is why player safety and education is key to the progression of the game going forward and if players are speaking openly about struggles they have had owing to their injuries it might be the encouragement a fan might need to talk about theirs.

So perhaps jump on Twitter if you have it and share your story with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk and let’s start a conversation about mental health.

If you or someone you know is suffering with mental illness, please don’t suffer in silence. There is always someone there to help you and to listen without judgement.

Scorch the Dragon back on the job! 

Following a disastrous incident with a bubble ball during last weeks first period break action Scorch the Dragon has resumed his duties tonight at the Skydome tonight against the South Wales rivals, Cardiff Devils.

The incident involved the poor Dragon being stretchered off the ice after he was hit and couldn’t get up. Following speedy treatment by the emergency responders on site, Scorch was sent home to rest up and recover.

But tonight folks, he’s back! All be it a little bruised and battered, but in good spirits regardless as he warms up the crowd at the Skydome arena. What a warrior!

Keep it up Scorch! Get well soon!

Feature Image courtesy of the Coventry Blaze Facebook Page. 

Celebrating the NHL Centenary #ShowYourColours

So… I’ve had a super crazy idea to try and create a video full of hockey selfies! The selfie is a staple for going to a game, getting a photo of you and your friends rocking your team colours or perhaps you with your favourite player! I want to make the longest video possible and cover as much of the hockey world as possible.

Hockey fans are a family, everyone is connected by their love of the sport of ice hockey. I’m aiming to create a huge video album of that family, regardless of your team colours, the language you speak or the country you come from we are all a family.

Let’s celebrate the centenary of the NHL and show them just how much they have inspired us and our love for our teams!

Continue reading Celebrating the NHL Centenary #ShowYourColours

… For all things Ice Hockey

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