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September, 2012:

Giants Appoint Keefe As Chief

Adam Keefe, in his second season at EIHL level, has been made Belfast Giants captain. An unexpected, yet certainly not unwelcome appointment of a man who last season was prominent in his ability to lead from the front.

Christiansen’s squads in the last 2 seasons, and this season to boot, have been filled with leaders. Men with significant experience in the game along with time spent carrying a letter firmly on the front of their shirt. So the choice of Belfast Giants captain cannot be an easy one, not least after only a couple of weeks on the ice together.

Keefe’s appointment shows the development of the Belfast Giants, and possibly the league as a whole, over the last few seasons. The original acquisition of the 28 year old Ontarian was met with the typical excitement toward his ability without gloves as opposed to with them. Stepping into a Giants side that in the previous year had lacked the grit needed to pick the Elite League title, many Giants fans maybe hoped he would have even a pinch of hockey nuance to meet with his pugilistic skills, so fresh was the memory, and disappointment for some, of Sean McMorrow in many minds. Adorned with the monikers “AK47” (*wince*) and, alongside fellow new-comer Daryl Lloyd, “The Bash Brothers” (*double-wince*), pre-conceptions and expectations followed the #47 shirt onto the Odyssey ice.

What was received was a breath of fresh air. A physical yet intelligent game. A player willing to do his part for a team-mate but not at the cost of the team or the game. A player who entertains as well as undertakes his role. 13 goals in a 31 point season truly banished the memory of McMorrow and re-introduced a long forgotten ‘tough player’ role in Belfast, not seen properly since the days of Schulte or, to a lesser extent, Skihar.

To pick, as I have, on McMorrow may not be unexpected and some may consider it to be unfair, but in comparison to the product Keefe produced for Belfast last season, it really highlighted what a fish-out-of-water he was. Though not his fault, his ability and roles were not unexpected and one which the coaching and management staff obviously believed were required and of use. The appointment smacked of commercial desperation rather than sporting ambition. Memories will live long of McMorrow standing on the blueline frantically pointing with his stick toward the man he was picking up, only for said player to skip away easily. Likewise the look of amusement on Jay Latullipe’s face while a rampaging McMorrow met nothing but plexi as his intentions of a hit were lost in the vastly differing speed of the Cardiff Devil’s centre.

Keefe’s appointment and his performance in the Giants side last season may have once again redefined how the league recruited for this forth coming season. Of course this role is no stranger to those in South Wales. Brad Voth, sadly now retired, captained in such a way for many years. However in Sheffield, Coventry and certainly in Nottingham such a player has been sporadic in their influence on the ice in seasons gone by. So much so that an appointment such as that in Belfast would come with equal surprise.

Supported by Craig Peacock and Robby Sandrock as alternates, the new Giants captain will have both experience and youthful creativity at his side as the season begins. His public approach has been commendable, not least on social network Twitter where his banter, while not reaching the (admittedly humorous) abusive depths of new Devil “hard man” Devin DiDiomete, has been both entertaining and respectful in its approach toward fans, fellow players and nay-sayers alike.

I have to wish Adam good luck this season. There is no doubt he will be a fine captain. We look forward to him proving that the responsibility of captaincy is merely a feather in the cap rather than a weight on the shoulders.

Patrick Smyth

Look To The Sky…

Elite League Ice Hockey is to return to Sky for another season. However the question cialis online remains as to its value.

There is of course no doubt that media coverage is paramount in the successful promotion of professional sport. And while Sky Sports remains the leader of sports coverage in the UK, EIHL’s partnership with Televideo doesn’t come without some question as to its actual ability over the last 5 seasons to “pull in” the casual sports fan.

The main problem has been scheduling. I’m not so naïve to think that such a minority sport deserves primetime “front and centre” exposure, however over the seasons the magazine show in whichever form it has taken, has been sporadically scheduled and rescheduled across different Sky Sports Channels. A lack of scheduling consistency has led to the lack of regular viewing from many. ‘Jimmy Sports Fan’ may catch the end of one of the shows, and despite interest, return the next week to see that it no longer resides at the “same bat-time” on the “same bat-channel”, and thus the potential pull has gone.

What worth is a place on Sky Sports 3? The latest press release is full of platitude as to the “national exposure” the continuing deal provides. However, OfCom estimates there are 60million televisions in the UK, while SkyTV has only around 11 million subscriptions to the service, and around 6 million to Virgin Media, thus the actual subscription to Sky Sports package will only be a low percentage of that. So a 28% coverage of the UK with an *ability* to watch the EIHL does not take into account the uptake of Sky Sports, nor the actual viewership of Sky Sports 3 or 4 at a sporadic time on a Friday evening.

Would this time, money and effort (it’s not hard to see where I’m going with this), not be better served in an attempt to curry favour with the national terrestrial broadcasters? Be it BBC or commercial. Be that Radio, TV or Online. Yes it’s not as easily said as carried out. However such a prospect would no doubt give higher return. Of course scheduling slots are probably more in demand terrestrially than on subscription channels. But the frustration in loving a sport that is practically ignored by the nationwide media does not stop the dreamer from hoping for a better time and better way.

I do understand that despite my gripe, even a 1 hour magazine show for Aviva Premiership Rugby is relegated to 9pm on a Sunday night on ITV4, but even this has a larger potential audience than its Sky Sports counterpart.

It would be interesting for the EIHL to be forthright and upfront about the success of the Sky deal. With the renewed contract for a 6th season there must be some implied value in it that this blogger isn’t really picking up on. And while I’m not running down the content, my belief in the product is such that, like a lot of people, we hope for more.