EPL vs NIHL or Fruitcake vs Chocolate Fudge Cake

 

Firstly, let me clarify … this is an original ‘off on a tangent’ alternative, lighthearted view.

In the last couple of weeks, the NIHL (3rd tier ice hockey for the uninitiated), which is currently a stable and nicely competitive league has been rocked by the shock announcement by the Chairman of the English Ice Hockey Association that the 7 remaining EPL teams (2nd tier hockey which is financially ‘in a bit of a pickle’) have been advised to apply to the NIHL for next season.

Just like that. No clear plan or structure as to how it might work just a cheeky shove in a downward direction for the existing EPL teams. Annoyingly for NIHL followers the statement from the EIHA casually pointed the finger at the NIHL where teams have stood firm of late in refusing to meander carelessly upwards into a precarious premier league and potential financial ruin.

So I thought I’d write about it. Everyone else seems to be. From each team’s fan base on Twitter to the endless hijacked threads on The Hockey Forum – we all have an opinion and this, such as it is, is mine.

So let’s digest what has been suggested. The cunning plan so far is to take something that doesn’t work and isn’t financially sound and dump it unceremoniously into a league that is perfectly fine thank you. Terrific idea, well done and worthy of a slow hand clap and an eye roll.

On the one hand we have the premier league. A league above the NIHL and rightly so. The crowds are bigger (both home and away support), the entry price is higher, the numbers of imports are greater, the standard of hockey is superior with quality players and higher wages … there are numerous sponsors and therefore substantially more money is involved. And it hasn’t worked. The league is crumbling for a myriad of reasons.

And then on the other hand we have the NIHL. A league split into two divisions complete with a North/South divide that actually seems to work. It’s not perfect but it’s sustainable, has teams striving to join the first division from the second and it’s completely different to the premier league. Fewer imports, less sponsors, lower prices, less training sessions but competitive hockey pitched at the right level and it works. It isn’t crumbling.

So here’s where the cake analogy comes in. Bear with me – it will sort of make sense in the end. Possibly.

Imagine the EPL is a fruitcake competition. Each fruitcake is made up of slightly different ingredients or combinations of ingredients. In order to win the competition you have to have the best fruitcake. You work with your ingredients, tweaking it as you go to ensure that your fruitcake outshines the rest and beats the others when judged. Each fruitcake is the same but different. Each has the same constituent parts but they look different and taste different and so it is with EPL teams. To all intents and purposes they are different fruitcakes in a fruitcake only competition each vying to be the best.

And then let’s say the NIHL is a chocolate fudge cake competition. For chocolate fudge cake fans it is the only cake and the fruitcake competition is irrelevant. Again, within the chocolate fudge cake competition each cake is made up of similar ingredients although each competitor makes it slightly differently in order to reign supreme and so it is with the NIHL. The teams are all structurally similar, some have slightly altered ingredients but the recipe is fundamentally the same.

So each year there’s a fruitcake competition and a chocolate cake competition. They are separate. They are meant to be separate. They are both cakes but they are different cakes and can’t be judged against each other.

So if you have guessed where I’m going with this or have managed to stay with me to this point without glazed over eyes you’ll guess what’s coming next.

Where we’re at with the EPL vs NIHL debacle is this. A crazy person has suggested putting the fruitcakes into the chocolate fudge cake competition. Yikes! Along the way, they’re keeping their fingers crossed that the cakes will somehow gel; they will come together and miraculously create a hybrid that works for everyone. A ‘frocolate cake’. How mad is that? As separate entities, each looks different; each performs differently and is made up of different things. Surely combining them can never work?

In order for such a bizarre plan to come even close to working one will have to compromise so much that it no longer looks like it did before. EPL and NIHL hockey are two different things. Ultimately yes, it is all hockey but each one is too different to be slung carelessly together with little regard for the consequences.

For many of us we simply support our local team, we are in it for the loyalty factor. We love the team because it’s OUR team and most of us are probably not thinking about the future sustainability of hockey in the UK we just want to see our own team flourish and cheer the lads on to winning and that is why we all have an opinion. They are our soldiers in a valiant battle to win OUR league. So please, let common sense prevail for simple souls like me. Remedy the EPL separately. Find a solution for the 7. Leave the NIHL be and don’t fix what isn’t broken.

 

St George & The London Marathon

Happy St Georges Day! And what a great day it has been. For me, a run of the mill kind of Sunday where I rolled out of bed, wandered into town in the sunshine with hubby for a coffee, walked the dog, watered the garden and then spent the vast majority of the afternoon, like millions of others, sat on my backside watching TV. My most major achievement today has been not succumbing to the temptation of drinking wine and eating chocolate whilst watching other people running the London Marathon.

So there are few facts about our patron Saint. Famous mostly for slaying the mythical dragon and saving a distressed maiden, Richard the Lionheart apparently also adopted him as the protector of his army whilst on crusade. St George is typically depicted as fearless and courageous and therefore it is kind of fitting that his special day falls on a day where an army of over 40,000 embarked on the annual 26 mile grueling run through the streets of London.

Alongside the elite racers – those heroes of world championships and Olympics, the Bekele’s and David Weir’s of this world, were club runners challenging themselves to be the best athletes they could be. Following on came the life and soul of the London Marathon, the fundraisers and the fun runners.

Year after year ordinary people rise to the challenge of running, walking and staggering the historic route around our incredible capital city. They turn from ordinary to extraordinary in front of our eyes. Their stories melt our hearts and bring tears to our eyes.

We chuckle at the clown outfits, the giraffes and the rhinos. We watch incredulously at a man carrying a tumble dryer on his back and we begin to care. We hope that each and every one achieves his or her goal. They run for lost friends and family, to say thank you for the heroic deeds of others, to raise much needed funds for charity or as a personal struggle in a fight against illness.

We watch as those who are completely spent, whose legs have finally given way are helped to the finish line by others showing the incredible generosity of spirit the London Marathon engenders.

Today I watched with special interest. Months ago, my dear friend Keeley (yes mate it’s all about you) threw her hat into the ring and volunteered to run for the charity MIND. So, Keeley is a 40-something mum of two who works for MIND and is the sort of friend that we all should strive to be – a ‘do anything for you’ kind of girl and today she fearlessly embarked upon the enormous challenge of her first ever 26 mile run. In recent weeks family and friends have watched as she has embraced her relationship with running, boldly overcoming each injury with her trademark sense of humour. We shared her training experience from our armchairs and nudged her on through her ‘maranoia’ phase when injury not only slowed her progress but brought her to a standstill.

Today she lined up with 40,000 others, all with their own personal challenges and battles, like Tori, the former Wightlink Raiders ice hockey physio, fighting her own personal battle with cancer and countless others with brave stories of overcoming adversity, being courageous and finding strength they didn’t know they had.

So St Geroges Day felt special today. It was about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Thousands of people ran, jogged or walked through the pain barrier. They were fearless. They were courageous. They were a bit mad in my view. Today they put others first in the name of charity. Marathon runners I salute you and I’m pretty sure St George would salute you too.

And Keeley, I might not have managed to catch your epic finish on the BBC live feed but I’ve seen the photographic evidence and am so proud that you made it. You didn’t have to crawl over the line, your make up was still intact and you raised a bunch of cash for MIND. Big congrats mate, now go eat bacon crispies, drink wine and put your feet up.

Broadchurch …. racing towards the grand finale!

The third series of award winning drama Broadchurch will draw to a close next Monday evening (17/4) and we will all no doubt ooh and ahh with surprise as the identity of the serial rapist is finally revealed.

This corker of a drama has focused on the shocking sexual assault of Trish Winterman (Julie Hesmondhalgh) and the ensuing police investigation. With the rape scenes and immediate aftermath portrayed with enormous sensitivity by the cast, writer Chris Chibnall has amassed considerable praise for the way the drama has been written.

Trish’s rape is revealed via flashbacks as she is coaxed into recalling as much detail as she can so that Miller and Hardy (Olivia Colman and David Tennant) can uncover the perpetrator. Blue fishing twine used to tie her wrists; a condom wrapper and a football sock that was stuffed into her mouth become central components of the investigation.

Over the course of several episodes suspects are identified and include a significant proportion of the male residents of the village. So who are they?

Ed Burnett. Ed is Trish’s boss at the local shop and her greatest admirer. He sent flowers anonymously after the attack and was discovered with hundreds of photos of Trish on his phone. His daughter DC Katie finds the bag of twine outside the shop at the end of episode 7. Initially he’s the most likely candidate but seems so obsessed with Trish he’s unlikely to be a serial rapist with multiple victims.

Ian Winterman. Trish’s estranged, meek, polite but slightly weasely spy of a husband who has nothing good to say about her at the start of the series but towards the end declares his continued love for her. Is the character too weak to be the culprit though?

Clive Lucas. Lucas is the rather shifty taxi driver who is never where he is meant to be and appears to have keys to Trish’s house (again episode 7). He is well known to her and went for a drink with her. He has a downtrodden, sad wife whom he treats badly and a penchant for porn.

Aaron Mayford. Mackerel catching, creepy IT guy and ex con. Possibly involved with the distribution of porn which is a continuing theme throughout but whether he’s central enough to the plot to be the perpetrator remains to be seen.

Jim Attwood. Jim is the garage-owning husband of Trish’s ‘best friend’ Cath. He’s an all round baddy with a mean streak and a nonchalant attitude to the investigation. Likes porn (don’t they all?) and puts it about a bit. OK a lot. The evidence all too clearly points to him at the moment, which means it probably isn’t him.

Leo Humphries. Leo started off as an annoying, arrogant little pipsqueak but has shown himself to be manipulative and devious. Runs his father’s fishing supply firm (blue twine). A friend gave him a fake alibi and he is guilty of setting up the spyware on Trish’s laptop. He coaches football (remember the sock) and he’s another one in what is potentially an actual porn ring (that’s porn not prawn) and I for one, think it’s him. Unless I dreamed it he was watching Trish the morning after the rape and he’s a character that has been in the background all the way through but seems to be involved in pretty much everything. IT’S HIM, IT’S HIM! (possibly)

Finally there are less likely ‘possibles’ that I suspect will be mere red herrings or possibly only in the frame in my mind because ‘someone must have done it and quite frankly at this point it could be anyone’. There’s Tom Miller (son of Ellie and yes you guessed it, into porn), Michael Lucas (son of taxi driver Clive, also into porn) and maybe, just maybe (because this is Broadchurch and anything could happen) even the grief stricken, driven to the brink of suicide, Mark Latimer.

The crazy good acting performances have been the highlight with Julie Hesmondalgh leading the field with her poignant portrayal of a woman in crisis. This show’s big strengths are that the crime is believable and the characters are real. Writers will say that actors bring the characters alive and actors will often credit superb writing. When you have both great actors and great writers the magic happens. So I will be tuning in to the last ever Broadchurch to find out who the sock DNA belongs to next Monday evening at 9pm …. will you?

Changing Seasons

Welcome to the first post from Off On A Tangent. I hope you enjoy todays offering and if you do please comment. You can comment using the little envelope that appears at the foot of the post when you select the individual blog post title. There’s more to read on the whys and wherefores of the blog if you visit the Home and About pages so feel free to pop there for some background.

So let’s get started. With summer waiting in the wings and the change of the seasons in evidence so clearly in the garden today it’s fitting that I start here with a topic close to my heart. This weekend the ice hockey season draws to a close and enters a period of reflection and transformation.

As lawns need tending and the garden emerges from the cold and into the light thus do ice hockey players emerge from the chill of the ice rink and back into the arms of their families for the warmth and nourishment of a relaxing summer.

The off season is a period of reflection and building, when coaches across the leagues vie for players who will fit their style of play and their budget in the quest for silverware as a new season approaches.

But as a new story is in the making, another has just ended and last weekend we watched from the edge of our seats with bitten nails and clenched jaws as our battling ice warriors, the Streatham RedHawks tumbled out of the 2016/17 playoffs. Heads bowed and bones aching they fell into the waiting embrace of loved ones for the last time. Battle scarred, weary and misty eyed they formed a guard of honour as two of our most loyal and committed RedHawks left the ice for the final time.

In a scene replicated no doubt up and down the country, three players who have shaped the very heart of our club will be unavailable for selection next season. For Streatham’s long standing Captain Joe Johnston and long serving local boy Liam Rasmussen, life is on the change. Parenthood and family take centre stage as each of them bow out of hockey and begin to shape the lives of the next generation. For net minder and club favourite Will Sanderson the season ended more abruptly as he made the heart wrenching decision to resign. A casualty of change, it was simply too hard to watch from the sidelines as his brothers fought for glory. So with great dignity he said goodbye as fans chanted his name from the stands.

For each player a tough decision, made particularly poignant as the team enters a new era. While Streatham evolves with a determined new coach at the helm focussed on leading the team to victory next season, three club heroes bow gracefully out like leading actors in a play.

So as the seasons change, as the cherry blossom blooms, daffodils sway gently in the breeze and the leaves on the trees abound, I’m thinking of our guys both old and new. A hard working, loyal and committed bunch who will rest their weary, aching bones for a few short weeks before starting all over again, delighting the fans and fighting for the right to be crowned champions.