Lasse Uusivirt: Glasgow Clan crawl from signing backlash & reputational wreckage
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It goes into tonight’s tough game at home to Belfast Giants without coach Malcolm Cameron, or Gareth Chalmers, MD.
And there will be no Lasse Uusivirta, the player whose signing sparked a meltdown that could have yet a profound impact on the club’s entire season.
The 33-year old was at the centre of a rape allegation in 2013 while playing hockey at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
He returned to his native Finland - no travel restrictions were placed on him - and the charge remains open almost a decade on should he ever return to the USA.
Perhaps anticipating some backlash, Clan initially tweeted a short video interview with the player addressing the issue, albeit without actually saying anything of substance. The awkward silence at the end spoke volumes.
I can only guess the strategy was to deal with the elephant in the room and then get the focus back on hockey matters.
The very fact it had to be tackled underlined this was anything but a straight forward signing - one that quickly became toxic. What followed was car crash stuff.
First came the social media storm as supporters spoke out in anger and disbelief.
Clan are a family club with a loyal fan base. Already reeling from the worst possible start to the 2022-23 campaign - seven games, seven defeats - this simply horrified many.
Tweets announcing his arrival were pulled and a late night statement simply said “Lasse Uusivirta will not be signing for the club.”
Today’s update was even more direct. In just 43 words, Neil Black, team owner, changed everything.
“At 19:45 last night. I was made aware for the first time of a major situation which merits further internal investigation and this has led to the immediate suspension of both the Clan chief executive Gareth Chalmers and the Clan head coach Malcolm Cameron.”
It is hard to see Cameron surviving, while there must be serious question marks over Chalmers’ role which embraces management of the arena.
Tonight, the talk rinkside will be all about the signing, while a now leaderless, under-performing squad tries to focus on a tough game against Belfast.
If things go badly on the ice, there is every chance the anger from the stands will turn inwards, and that could make for a very long, difficult night.
Some players come with baggage but are worth it. It’s hard to see how Clan thought this was a decent punt given the instant backlash. Raith Rovers did something very similar and the club all but imploded.
This is a hell of a mess - one entirely of Clan’s own making.
And the people suffering most are the fans who pour their heart and soul into a fantastic club that sits so close to their hearts.
Some are staying away, others will go but won’t sport their club colours – and that is a significant and very visual statement of criticism – or buy raffle tickets.
These actions underline the sense of hurt at a genuine community club.
The Purple Army deserves better.