The Angry Budgie Live

Thursday, 16 July 2015

The Phoenix Summer Rollercoaster - Glass Half Full

Ok, so yesterdays post was a glass half empty kind of deal. Let's get the sunnies out, enjoy the sunshine and fill that glass up. There be silver linings to those clouds! 

You will have seen on social media, in the days after the Stingrays went under a fan launched a kickstarter campaign to bring back hockey in Hull. Those efforts have seemingly been rewarded and, an ownership group lead by Shane Smith (of the Steeldogs) has stepped in to run an EPL team in Hull. Welcome the Hull Pirates! Out of this messy summer it looks like the EIHL and EPL will run with 10 teams each this coming season. This is great news for the guys in Hull, many fans I have got to know over the years they will make an EPL team a success I know it! As of writing the Pirates had announced their first signing in Sam Towner, GB under 20 international, Hull native and a player who had signed with the Stingrays for the coming season joins player coach Dominic Osman on the Pirates roster. 
Another brief titbit, Red Hockey continued their investment in British Ice Hockey by purchasing a 100% stake in the Deeside Dragons. The team who will share their ice with the Phoenix for the 15/16 season. Red Hockey's aims with the Dragons is to strengthen them and, possibly, work them up to becoming an EPL team. 

Finishing off this post, in a positive way, its time to talk about the Phoenix 15/16 squad which, despite the off-ice issues is being built a pace. It must be said that, every play who has signed and, talking to a player earlier in the summer. The prospect of playing a season in Deeside has not been an issue in signing on the dotted line at all. 
Anyway, onto the roster (correct as of 9th July) 

#31 Stephen Fone - A stalwart of the Phoenix now, a player icing his 7th season for the Phoenix between the pipes, Fone is established as one of the best goalies in the EPL. Despite his GAA increasing during last season, he actually had his best save % since going full time with the Phoenix. That leaky defence obviously letting through more shots! Having Declan Ryan as competition will have helped push Fone on during the season. I hope for 15/16 he can carry on his form and backstop the Phoenix to further success. 

#4 Luke Boothroyd - Captain Fantastic, #Bootherscoringmachine, just a few ways Phoenix fans like to describe their captain. Luke is returning for his 8th season in Phoenix colours, being named Captain for 6 of those seasons. Luke is one of the few EPL British players who could probably hold their own in the EIHL. A cool head, immensely strong despite his size, you notice his influence on the ice and off it. A freak off ice injury ended his 14/15 season early and you could see the Phoenix struggle on the ice without him. 14/15 will be a season he wants to forget, 15/16 should see the return of the captain we know and love. 
#5 Benjamin Russell - Ben comes to the Phoenix from three seasons with the MK Lightning and some junior hockey in North America. He seems to be excited to play in Manchester and, Tony Hand obviously sees promise in him so, I will be excited to see what he can bring to the Phoenix blue line. 
#12 James Neil - James Neil has been around forever it seems so, it is amazing to know he is still only 25! 15/16 will be his 7th season in Phoenix colours, a player who is loved by the Phoenix fans and a guy who always has time to talk to anyone about anything. Despite his small stature Neil is a damn hard worker on the ice and a very competent defenceman. He's one of those players you always expect to be there but, always miss when he is not. Another player on last seasons Phoenix roster who lost games to injury, hopefully 15/16 will be better on that front! 
#15 Ben Wood - 'Gino' has been playing hockey in the North West since 2002, now a 'veteran' of 27 and one of the Phoenix longest serving players, Ben returns to the Phoenix to ice his 8th season. Speaking to the guy off the ice, signing on for another year was  a no-brainer for be. Ben has worked his way up through the junior levels to establish himself as an ever reliable defenceman for the Phoenix. Possessing height, an awesome ability to hit the body and a wicked wrist shot Ben has been slowly proving his worth to the Phoenix. More of the same please Ben! 
#44 Mark Thomas - Mark is a stellar signing for the Phoenix the Stockport native returns to his roots in signing for the Phoenix for the new season. Starting his career with the Altrincham Tigers, rising up to ice for the Phoenix in the EIHL, Thomas has played much of his recent career over t'hills with the Sheffield Steelers. During his time winning the EIHL title and playoff trophies amongst others, Thomas brings a wealth of experience, skill and leadership to the Phoenix blue line. Thomas will be in the top line D pairing, possibly with an import D or, with Boothroyd would be my guess! Looking forward to seeing him in Phoenix colours. 

#2 James Archer - Currently filling his summer playing for Team GB in the inline hockey championships Arch returns to the Phoenix for his 6th season. Arch has usually filled the 2nd line winger spot and been very productive in that position. He works hard, is skillfull and has a good shot. When Michal Psurny's season was finished Arch did see some time on the top line with Tony Hand. Yet another player who lost games to injury im sure Archer will want to put 14/15 behind him and have a good new season. 
#62 Jacob Corson-Heron - He has only played a season and a half for the Phoenix, much of his 14/15 season was lost to injury but, in the games he did play. The Phoenix faithful saw his qualities and worth to the team. Despite his small stature, Croson-Heron has speed to burn and a complete disregard for his own safety! He is a player I didn't expect to see back this season so, am really happy he is coming back! 
#66 Robin Kovar - After hearing rumours about Kovar towards the end of his first season in Manchester, it will always surprise me when he signs on for another season in Manchester. Robin is hugely talented, ridiculously strong and all you want in an import forward. Possibly a little selfish at times but, you could argue, the best forwards often are! Over two full seasons with the Phoenix Robin has put up consistent numbers and with, perhaps, more of a staring role on the Ice (due to Tony's retirement) I expect Robin to have an excellent 15/16 season. Who needs Batman, we've got Robin........indeed! 
#TBC - Gareth O'Flaherty - A guy Phoenix fans are familiar with, despite the 15/16 season being his first offical season for the Phoenix. Gareth spent the 14/15 season on a three way deal with the Blaze EIHL and ENL teams and the Manchester Phoenix. He iced twice for the Phoenix and, I remember being impressed with him. He brings some new blood into the Phoenix locker room, im looking forward to how he plays this coming season. 

So that's the Phoenix summer so far, I hope it has been an interesting read. I know you will disagree with some or all of it, that's ok. Like I said, its just how I feel, I make no apologies for that! I hope to do a few more posts throughout the summer as the Phoenix roster becomes clearer and, hopefully, we get more clarity on the future of the Phoenix. All that's left to say is, enjoy the summer, enjoy your holidays, before you know it, it will be september already!

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

The Phoenix Summer Rollercoaster - Glass Half Empty

Well, hello again everyone! I do apologise for the lack of updates on the blog so far. Its really been a combination of things since the end of the 14/15 EPL season. Mainly holidays, home life priorities, work and I just wanted a bit of time off after the season to un-plug and reset if that makes sense. This is a long post which im splitting in two to make it a little more palatable!
So, since the end of the 14/15 season.....have I missed much? Anything? 

I guess a few things have happened in the world of the Phoenix, in fact things started happening the saturday night of finals weekend! It's kind of been non stop since then. I think I put it out on twitter that I claimed film rights for the Phoenix summer story, it really has been worthy of a block buster. Controversy, back stabbing, claims and counter claims, homeless ness and finally a home from home. I will never claim to know the full details, how could I? But, i wanted, in this post at least, just to talk about what it's been like for this particular Phoenix fan since the final buzzer sounded in Coventry. 

I will preface what im about to say with, I am a Manchester Phoenix fan and, in my experience, do have trust in Neil Morris/Wayne Scholes and the Phoenix back room team. This is based on my experiences/dealings with the Phoenix as a fan since their birth in the Manchester Arena. I have heard stories about Neil Morris being a bit ruthless and not the easiest person to work with. Hey, how many successful business men are sweetness and light? Anyway, that's my disclaimer out the way, you can take what I say with a pinch of salt if you like....that's totally up to you! 

This is the summer so far.....................Angry Budgie style. 

The summer of 2015 for the Phoenix really began during finals weekend in Coventry last April. Going into the weekend the Phoenix had played all season with a short roster due to injury, Heading into that last weekend, in addition to injuries the Phoenix had also lost import forward Michal Psurny. A short bench, down an import, claiming the Playoff trophy would be one tough ask. Despite the odds being stacked against the Phoenix they won through their semi-final to take on the Phantoms in the EPL Playoff final. In a summer of bombshell's the first was dropped on the Phoenix not long after the final whistle went saturday night. A statement put on the Hockey Forum by someone connected to SilverBlades in Altrincham, words to the effect, that the Phoenix were being booted out of the Ice Dome. Whether you believe either side of the story, making the statement on a forum? That's bad form! 
So heading into the final, the Phoenix were tired, injured, short benched and now homeless, brilliant preparation. Despite all that the team performed as best they could, the Phoenix fans in full voice behind the team. In the end the Phantoms were just better! Koulikov, with a bit of a budget behind him, is an excellent coach and had turned the Phantoms into damn fine team. Hard working all over the ice and, in Auzins, have a fantastic base to build on to win games. I doff my cap to the Phantoms...well done! 

Im not going to bore you will all the details in the saga between the Phoenix/Red Hockey and SilverBlades, there are plenty of podcasts and statements out there concerning it. As a fan of the Phoenix its just frustrating, I know both sides are trying to win the PR war, that's only natural. Being a Phoenix fan of course I will have a bias to their side of the story. My argument would be, at least the Phoenix have stuck with making statements via their official website, and keeping them short and to the point. I do not like how SB have gone about arguing their side from behind a username on the Hockey Forum. That's not how you do business. 

Anyhoo, for the 15/16 season Phoenix will be playing out of Deeside while a new arena is built in the city centre, more than likely out by the Etihad stadium. There was, as you will have seen a few weeks ago, a big announcement due by the Phoenix, which was then delayed a day, then put out very late at night. The announcement confirming 15/16 in Deeside, 16/17 in an Arena in Manchester. Free buses being put on to transport fans out to Deeside. As I mentioned in my 'disclaimer' paragraph above, I do trust the Phoenix, in my interactions as a win with the club they have given me no reason not to. I must admit, that announcement left me a little flat. I had been lead to believe we had an 80% chance of starting the new season in Manchester. I kind of expected the move to Deeside but was still disappointed to have that confirmed. The aspect that disappointed me the most though, was the lack of clarity on the new rink in the announcement.  What would have softened the Deeside blow, would have been, yes ok were playing in Deeside but look, here are our plans of the new rink and construction will begin ..........etc.. 
Anyway, Deeside it is, I have renewed my season ticket and, at least for me, Deeside is not a strenuous journey to make. Plus, the rink does look good actually! 

The second bombshell of the summer happened about two weeks ago. It was confirmed one early morning that, due to a major sponsor pulling out and, the Hull council deciding to charge for ice time. The Hull Stingrays owned had liquidated the team, the Hull Stingrays were gone. While you could argue the writing was on the wall for a long time for Hull, it does not make up for losing your team. Blimey, I've been through that enough following Ice Hockey in Manchester! 
You may have already guess but, I don't hold I high opinion of SilverBlades...shock horror I know! The third bombshell of the summer followed just hours after the demise of the Stingrays. SilverBlades would be resurrecting the Manchester Storm to play out of the Ice Dome in the EIHL. An announcement that would piss off a huge group of hockey supporters in Manchester and, rub the Stingrays fans in the dirt. It was poorly timed by both SB and the EIHL. Given the first few signings of the Storm have been former Stingrays players, it seems more and more the EIHL have lifted the Stingrays franchise out of Hull and plonked it in Altrincham. Given my personal anger with SB over the way they have seemingly kicked the Phoenix out of the Ice Dome to have their own team I will wish them well. Manchester and the North West is/should be big enough to sustain two hockey teams. I have seen alot of infighting within the Phoenix fanbase and, old Storm supporters now appearing since the announcement. For me, it's not worth it, you cannot dictate to people how to spend their sporting ££'s. For me, I supported the Storm, I lost money when the Storm went bust, I am a Phoenix fan and, in the long run, the Phoenix will be so much better placed when the arena in the city opens up. Good luck to the Storm but, even though Altrincham is closer to where I live than Manchester and Deeside, I will not be attending your games. 

My other main frustration of the summer has been, the emergence of old Manchester Storm fans now appearing and declaring their love for the Storm. When the Storm arrived on the scene they were a big deal, playing out of the Nynex/MEN Arena the Storm would regularly attract crowds of 8-10k in the early days, I was one of them! However, as success died away and, the free tickets were not as freely given out, crowds fell and the club began to lose money. So, it was no surprise that, playing in front of 2-3k crowds in an Arena of 17k the Storm went bust. The question has been asked many many times, where did all those 17k plus fans go who watched the Storm tank Sheffield all those years ago? Many of those Storm fans at the end are the very same that went on to form FOMIH (Friends of Manchester Ice Hockey) who then set up the Phoenix. A big frustration for me is, SilverBlades cashing in on the history of the Storm when, the Storm (original) legacy is the Phoenix (current) history. The Phoenix came from the Storm, the new Storm (v2) have no link to that legacy despite their attempts to claim it. My second big frustration with all the 'rebirth' of the Storm is, on social media so many hockey fans coming out to declare their love for the Storm name and it rekindling their interest in Hockey in Manchester. My points would be:
  • Where were you in those last days of the Storm?
  • Suddenly declaring your interest in Hockey in Manchester, there has been hockey in Manchester for the past 12 years, the Manchester Phoenix.
  • Many of these fans never took to the Phoenix because of playing in Altrincham, why does having the Storm back now make hockey in Altrincham all ok?
  • Bear in mind, this is the same rink other fans have slated the Phoenix for playing in the past few years. It will have the same poor sightliness and malfunctioning toilets!

Reading all the above, you may call me bitter/deluded what ever you like. The point of this post was just to talk about how I (as a Phoenix fan) have been feeling this summer. Its not a perfect description of everything, it will be biased but, I just want to try and set out what I am feeling and why. Like I have said before, good luck to the Storm and, if you want to support them, please do! 

So, that's the glass half empty side of the post, come back for the glass half full post!