Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Below Average SportBLOG #3 - Mark HOWLS his sporting views!

Following on from Joe's column on this very blog, I thought and with some encouragement from helmsman Peter, I would contribute my own ramblings. This will be different to my own blog's musings, but will try to encompass a wider look at sports other than hockey......wait there are sports other than HOCKEY......I hear you cry! There are, as it turns out! The Angry Budgie will continue to cover the Manchester Phoenix in depth, while this page offers the chance to freestyle a little! 

Phoenix Thoughts....... 

'But first let me take a....'oh wait wrong thing, let`s kick off this new wide ranging sporting view with a look at the Phoenix! I know, I know, but you have to kick off with something you know well! At the time of writing we have had the first weekend of regular season hockey in the EPL and the early EPL table does not mean a great deal with only two games in the books. So, I wanted to talk a little about the Phoenix so far, including the War of the Roses series against the Steeldogs too. 

If you visit the Phoenix forums you will have seen a certain amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth over the series loss to the Steeldogs. Some fans seeing the Phoenix lack of desire/effort and the club treating the weekend as a pre-season warm up, as an affront to them spending money to watch the games. I fully support a fans right to an opinion and the right to voice it, you pay your money after all. All I would question, is that those fans expectations going into the series. These were two games, yes against a rival, which were PRE-SEASON!!! The fans should know, the way the Phoenix structure their season, is to have the team come together the week before and so the War of the Roses games are their first time together and have only had some players arrive in the country a few days before. 

This is in stark contrast to Sheffield who, by the time the puck dropped in Sheffield Friday night, had already played 4 games! My fellow fans need to realise that and unless the Phoenix change their budgets or Pre-season plans, we will always come into the WOTR undercooked when compared to Sheffield. The weekend for me, has always been about enjoying hockey again after a long summer and Yes, of course I'd rather we won the bowl but, it's not the end of the world. It's nice seeing Sheffield celebrate something! ;) In the end though, the fans always have a choice, you are not forced to fork out your hard earned money to attend, if they don't like how the Phoenix approach the weekend? Don't attend! It really is as simple as that! 

The defence of the EPL title began with a trip to the Bracknell Bees and the visit of the Swindon Wildcats. The away trip to Bracknell was a good one for the Phoenix, as they came back up North with a win. The home game versus Swindon was very entertaining it has to be said. The performance was hugely improved to that against Sheffield and it certainly showed what a difference a good week of training can do! Phoenix dominated the 1st and 2nd periods,while Swindon controlled the third and OT.  I do hate losing on penalty shots, but Swindon were just better! They worked Fone well in the shootout and deservedly won the extra point! My take away`s from the game were, that the Phoenix looked good and will improve more too, with their fitness improving and will be able to take the game for the full 60 mins. Swindon will, again, have to rely on their 1st line and Stevie Lyle in goal this season. As with that combination, it will give them a chance, but should a team shutdown their top line, then they will struggle! 

Are you Local? 

I live in Cheshire.....for some people that means i`m nailed on as a United or City supporter! For me, while I have red leanings for the UK's industrial birthplace teams, the team I really care about is the one where I live. Macclesfield Town or `The Silkmen`. They are long time members of League 2 and I moved to Macc while the club enjoyed their last full season in the football league. Now members of the Vanoraman Conference (catchy) the Silkmen have found their level, Much like the Phoenix, they exist at a level that is appropriate for their level of support. 

Last season the club struggled at times, both on and off the pitch. The riches of the premier league being a world away from local clubs in the lower divisions. There was a few points where the club came close to extinction, but all those behind the scenes, deserve a lot of credit for keeping the club going. 

This year, with a much smaller budget, many a Macc fan was predicting relegation. But the club and players are proving many people wrong so far, as with 9 games gone into the season, it sees Macc Town, having only lost one game so far and that was away to Chester,but remain unbeaten against teams in the top half of the table. It has been a fantastic start for Macc, who has seen many of the players this season having stood up and been counted. Luke Waterfall on loan from Scunthrope, has been a rock at the back, while regulars like Chris Holroyd and Waide Fairhurst, have scored crucial goals when needed for the Silkmen and with Manager John Askey installing a good team ethic into the side, it has made Macclesfield a better team all round! 

So plenty of reasons to be cheerful at the Moss Rose so far! 

Phoenix? No not that Phoenix! 

I`m betting 99% of people reading this blog and listening to the podcast, are Hockey fans. 99% of those 99%, will have an NHL team in addition to their hockey team in the UK. I am not different and what may make me different is, i`m a fan of a less 'trendy' team. Definitely when compared to my BASC (Below Average Sport Cast) fellows in the Rangers, who Peter and Joe support ! I am a Coyotes fan, latterly of the Phoenix variety, now of the Arizona variety! 

The 2013/14 season was, in the end, a bit of a disappointment on the Ice for the Coyotes. After having won their conference a few seasons ago and then not qualifying for the post season playoff, it was a big let down. Even allowing for the super competitive division, in which the Yotes find themselves, they still had a roster capable of extending their campaign into June, But it wasn't to be. Pleasingly though, the Coyotes enjoyed a great year off the Ice,with attendances going up, sponsorship moving up and the club enjoyed numerous sold out nights including selling out in the premium boxes etc...which led to a few record revenue games for the Yotes. The new ownership group saw them reaping the rewards of their hard work, after years of rudderless NHL ownership, the Coyotes now finally have a focus and direction on which to move ahead from. Off ice is improving too, with fans enjoying the new ownership and the on ice product will come of leaps and bounds, it will be also new kind of start too in the 2014/15 season, with the name change of the Arizona Coyotes being used from now and leads to exciting times for the men from the desert. 

Roster wise, there has been some turnover, with Popular Czech player Radim Vrbata heading towards 'The Great White North' as he joins the Vancouver Canucks and Mike Ribero, who never really clicked for the Coyotes, he has gone to the Predators in Nashville. Coming the opposite way is goaltender Devan Dubnyk ,as he`ll act as back up to Mike Smith. Joe Vitale joins from the Pittsburgh Penguins, Sam Gagner arrives after a deal was struck with the Tampa Bay Lightning and also saw a move for BJ Crombeen heading to the desert too. Max Domi son of former NHL star Tie, should see him stake a claim for a full roster spot on the team, in addition to a first round pick in British born Left Winger Brendan Perlini. Overall the Coyotes roster is looking good and is led of course, by the evergreen Shane Doan, who will icing in his 18th NHL season of his career.

Mark Woodcock is the founder of the Angry budgie Blog:

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