Good evening and welcome to tonight’s final home game of 2012/13. It’s been a rapid season I think, doesn’t seem that long ago that we started a brand new fresh team in September full of excitement for another season.
How do you rate the season? We finished a place lower than last season in the league but we qualified for the cup competition that we didn’t manage last year. We’ve beaten every team this season and we’ve lost to every team as well. We started with a tiny nucleus at the start of the year and we’ve built a solid foundation for going forward.
The season now, as it did last season, depends on two good performances against the Milton Keynes Lightning. Last year we had the home advantage for the second leg, this year it’s the other way round. We play the first game tonight and it’s our opponents who have the advantage tomorrow night so we’ll be wanting to put in a good performance tonight and take a lead to the Thunderdome tomorrow, where we beat the Lightning just last week.
We played the cup final a few weeks back and had a good turn out. We also played the play-off quarter final last year with a great turn out and we come in with a four point weekend under out belts so every indication is that we should have a good turn out for the final tilt at the Hangar this season.
Tonight will obviously be the final chance to see the team line up at the Hangar this season and the final time to make home advantage count. Win, lose or draw tonight there’ll be one more guaranteed game this season, that’s on the road tomorrow and then if we succeed this weekend we will play at Coventry any remaining games.
We’ve had some off-ice successes this season too. For the first time since 05/06 we’ve had a sizable increase in our average attendance which is great. We’ve welcomed some new fans and made the new regular supporters. The job isn’t yet done, there’s much more work to do and I will continue to work hard along with everyone else to try and achieve this. I know, and you know, that hockey is a great sport and a great way to enjoy socialising as well as watching the Jets so I will continue trying hard to get the word out and about and then when we do get new people in we can work hard to convince them that they’ve made the right decision in becoming Jets supporters.
Also, there is our charity work this year. We’ve had quite a few SPICE games this season, we’ve worked with Sainsburys Taplow for Comic Relief and we’ve worked with Age Concern too. Again this is something that we can look to step up and continue next season as well. We’ve got some good successes in this field to move forward with for the next season and hopefully with our name and players we can continue to be a help to other local charities as well. Being a part of the community is also something good to be proud of as well.
On the ice I know there are some that are unhappy at what we’ve achieved so far this season. We have a new coach this year, we had the most changed team in the EPL over the summer. Slava has come in and re-built from the very small core that we managed to keep from last season and we’ve got the solid foundations to build from looking forward. In truth it’s not often we’ve iced the full intended team this season. We had players missing through injury, Josh Bruce decided he didn’t want the travel and time away from home and Terry retired to take up a brilliant career opportunity. We’ve experimented with 2 import forwards and 2 defence and we’ve had 3+1 as well. The one thing that we should bear in mind is unless you have the budget of some of the EPL clubs it’s impossible to just buy in an instant success in this league and it will take time to build together this team. But consider, we’re still top half in the table, we’ve qualified for the play-offs and we were the losing Cup Finalists, better than 8 of the other teams managed this season. Losing to Guildford was hard but it’s no disgrace to lose to the Flames. They are the most successfully organised team in the league in terms of commercialism and this does allow for a generous playing budget. The Flames, as they did last year have secured the double this season but who was it who ended their treble hopes last year on the way to winning the play-offs?
Not strictly related to the Jets but I was honoured to be involved in Mo’s testimonial at the start of the season. It was a great night to end a distinguished career, part of which was spent with us and it was great to start the season a part of that event.
In the summer I was also looking forward to the long awaited introduction of the electronic gamesheet which started this season. We’re still doing the paper sheet too as the e-sheet is still in a mandatory testing phase but the league’s definition of mandatory and mine differ greatly. Two months into the season an email was sent to all clubs stating the same fines that apply to non completed paper sheets applied to electronic version too. I’m assuming the EIHA fine account is very rich now with all the £50 fines collected from the five teams who haven’t bothered completing the mandatory test phase. On a serious note it does show how hockey fails to help itself. Here’s a fantastic opportunity to make game data more accessible to the fans and the media, and yet only half the teams in the league have adopted it. Directives from the league have been ignored and I’m now told next year will be a mandatory trial phase for it! Let’s hope that trial phrase is better adopted than this one has been as there really is no excuse for it not being done. It’s an annoyance for those of us who learned the procedure, completed every game and are ready to move away from the outdated and slow paper sheet that we can’t for another year due to half the league just ignoring the trial!
For the last few games it’s been nice having the skating back after the game. It was always a part of the family atmosphere we enjoyed at the Hangar and I’m certain that given a decent run, well publicised it would be mutually beneficial to the Jets and the rink as a permanent feature. I don’t know whether or not it’s planned for next season but you can skate after the game tonight!
Before I finish I’d like to take the time to say some thanks. Firstly of course to you guys, the supporters for turning up week in, week out to do your bit. Also of course to the team of off ice officials, without whom the game wouldn’t run. We have a dedicated team who do the goal judging, the penalty box, the clock and the scorer and there’s people who are always on stand by as well to fill any voids that are left over. Steve and Sean, Richard (and the future Mrs Brown) on the gamesheet (electronic and paper), Vic on the clock and Jon in the penalty box are here silently going about their job and thanks to Maggie, Helen and Sharon who’ve stepped in to help also.
Also our multi-media team who bring pictures and videos. Lewis, apparently the scariest photographer in hockey and of course Ben our regular Jets TV camera man. We’ve also had help in that department for the games Ben couldn’t video so thanks to Timo, Aaran, and Ben. Videoing is one of the hardest jobs on the night, following a tiny black puck on a 3 inch LCD screen all night long is a tricky job and it means that your view of the game is what that screen shows. It’s a tricky task and one that’s been done well to enable us to bring you Jets TV every week.
Speaking of Jets TV I’d of course like to extend thanks to our sponsor once again, Jay-Cee Coaches who after tonight’s episode will have completed a hat-trick of episodes sponsoring our media outlet channel. Thanks of course to John Miles who brings sanity to the proceedings and edits out a lot of rubbish from his head of editing chair as well as writing down all the highlights in the game itself so we actually have content to edit between the two of us.
Thanks of course to the management and owners for their support all season long and for one final time in 2012/13 here we go at the Hangar. Remember the excitement and drama of the play-off quarter final last year and it was the same match up, jus the other way round in terms of home games, so I’m certain we’ll have a cracker this year as well.
Let’s bang the drums, bang the glass, chap and cheer and sing and chant all night long.
My team, your team, OUR TEAM.