A LITTLE piece of my ice hockey soul died on Saturday.
A sport which has the capacity to enthral and excite like no other reached an all-time low with a game that wasn’t what it said on the tin.
Imagine Raith Rovers taking on Queen of the South in a two-legged cup final. Game one is played at Stark’s Park, and Rovers win by two goals.
Match reports are published in the media and online, and everyone heads to the south-west in fine fettle for the second leg.
And then, when you get there, you discover the game is for an altogether different, one-off trophy to the one packed on to the team bus along with your kit -- and the first leg of the final you played in fact is no longer recognised as such.
Imagine the headlines. Chaos. Shambles. Joke. Feel free to make up your own using any, or all three, of those words.
Fife Flyers experienced exactly that scenario at the weekend. A farce.
How on earth has the sport reached such an embarrassing state?
Did non-one give a thought to the fans who paid full whack to see the first game? Or those who made the long journey to Dumfries on a brutally cold winter’s night?
How can two teams stage a cup final without the sanction of the game’s governing association?
And was there really no-one in the rink on December 27 who could have piped up ‘‘hang on a minute, this can’t be the Scottish Cup final ...’’?
Knowing ice hockey, I’m pretty sure we’ll now play the Blame Game in which everyone points to someone else and says ‘‘it was him!’’ To be honest I don’t care who was at fault.
The real loser is the sport at a time when it is all but on its knees. The fans I’ve known rinkside and in the bars for over two decades-- people who rotated family life around the hockey fixture list -- have all walked in disillusionment. There’s barely a soul left from the BNL days when Flyers Grand Slammed under Mark Morrison.
I know many good hockey folk who have tried so hard behind the scenes to keep the sport going, and done all they can to build bridges with the south which makes this complete cock-up all the more scunnering.
It should have been spotted. It should have been addressed. It wasn’t.
Reading the online comments on Saturday night I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. In truth there was more sorrow than anger.
But I do know that part of me decided, there and then, my own 24-year association with this sport was now over. I cannot sit and watch it wither like an old man left abandoned and forgotten in a grim care home.
I’ve been reporting on ice hockey since the late 1980s, I spent a decade with the Flyers organisation and have many memories of great hockey nights, legendary road trips and memorable celebrations.
I have nothing but admiration for those who lace up their skates, those who teach and nurture the outstanding talent on our doorsteps, and those who devote their own time to to managing and developing the game..
But so much of that good work was undone last weekend. They all deserve better. Much better.