It’s the game no player wants to take part in, and few fans have any great interest in - so is it time to scrap ice hockey’s championship finals third-fourth place play-off?
It’s often dubbed the ‘Hangover Cup’ and is very much the sideshow of the EIHL finals weekend.
With a midday face-off it requires the losing semi-finalists back in their dressing rooms for mid morning - giving them little time to recover from the previous match let alone a chance to unwind.
Sunday’s game saw Cardiff Devils ease past Fife Flyers 6-0, but few even noticed the scoreboard in a game that was played in a low gear and without a single hit from start to finish.
It was also staged to a backdrop of sing-songs among the fans, and even a mock fight between the mascots which diverted attention just as Devils scored their fifth goal on the other side of the plexi.
And when pro hockey players take second place to the antics of the mascots just the other side of the plexi then surely it’s time to stop and re-assess.
For the players it;’s a no-brainer - this game doesn’t resonate.
Danny Stewart probably spoke for them all when he said simply ‘’it’s got to go.’’
Flyers’ defenceman Kyle Haines summed it up:: ‘’I’ll forget about this game as soon as I leave the rink.’’
The bluer liner accepted the third-fourth place match was part of the weekend, and knew it’d be on the schedule if Fife lost to Nottingham Panthers in Saturday’s semi-final, but he added: ‘’The mood in the room was a little strange. This was the last thing we wanted to do, but we had to to do it.
‘’It’s a hard game to get up for, and there wasn’t much energy out there.
‘’It’s a tough way to go - you never want to go out like that, but it’s done with. We’re not going to remember our season by that last game
Todd Dutiaume, heads coach, accepted it the game was part of the weekend and teams had to do their best to put on a show, but he too saw little in it to get excited about.
His associate coach, Danny Stewart, who retired from playing immediately after Sunday’s game against Devils, caught the mood of every player facing a third-fourth place play-off - and he called on the league to re-think the whole concept..
‘’It’s a long season,’’ he said. ‘’We played 65 to 70 games and a half the guys are battered, and injured.
‘’You realise your season is done when you lose to the Panthers on Saturday and it’s a huge comedown. You see guys dejected in the dressing room, and they are upset that the season is over - then you’ve got to pick yourself up for a noon game the next day, which absolutely means nothing.
‘’I hope the league takes the time to look at this game and do something about it. There’s so many better opportunities that they could showcase. I know they’ve looked at it and it’s not such an easy decision to make, but this third-fourth game has got to go.’’
Alternatives floated by the fans include an all-star game of skills contest, or the return of a junior international … or simply do nothing and bring the showcase final forward from its current 4.00 p.m. face-off.