2017: Fines and ban as player physically confronted fans at Fife Flyers' game

It never ends well when a sportsman clashes with fans.

Friday, 8th January 2021, 5:51 pm
The incident involving Manchester Storm player Eric Neilson and a Fife Flyers fan. (Pic: Steve Gunn)
The incident involving Manchester Storm player Eric Neilson and a Fife Flyers fan. (Pic: Steve Gunn)

Four years ago this month, one such flashpoint erupted at a game between Fife Flyers and Manchester Storm.

It was a night the visitors brought a huge travelling support to Fife for the first time and, it is fair to say, they were shell-shocked by the atmosphere as things turned sour.

For old-time hockey fans, it was one of those crazy nights when things kick off, and the rink simply rocks to a wall of sound and fury.

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Eric Neilson,. Manchester Storm, confronts the Fife Flyers fans behind the team bench (Pic: Steve Gunn)

Flyers won 4-3, but the sole memory of the match was the moment Storm’s Canadian import forward, Eric Neilson, physically confronted fans sitting behind the team bench.

The close proximity of home fans and the away team means that the chirping lasted most game nights - more than one team has been psyched out over the years, and fans have got under the skin of many players.

Storm’s bench complained of sustained verbal abuse all night - a claim the fans rejected.

Eric Neilson,. Manchester Storm, confronts the Fife Flyers fans behind the team bench (Pic: Steve Gunn)

But as the game was in full flow, Neilson turned to berate the fans directly behind the bench.

Words turned to actions amid claims of players squirting water at fans - an old trick used by more than one visiting team over the decades - a beer being thrown, or poured over or down him, and punches thrown.

Team-mates hovered on the fringe of the drama as coach, Omar Pacha, tried to restore some calm. A steward eventually intervened as a wall of noise roared round the rink.

Neilson was thrown out of the game, and the fan who poured the beer was ejected - although, in a “you couldn’t make it up moment” he also won the 50-50 raffle and returned to an empty rink to collect his £500 winnings!

The EIHL’s Department of Player Safety (DOPS) fined Storm £5000 for failing to control their players and Fife £5000 for similar in regard to their fans.

They also ordered the club to put up plexi-glass behind the away team bench.

Neilson somehow escaped with a three-game suspension, with a further six suspended - a remarkably lenient punishment for any pro sportsman who gets embroiled with a spectator.

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