The Problem with DoPS & the EIHL

February 18, 2019

The Problem with DoPS & the EIHL

John’s Thoughts on DoPS and the EIHL

For the last few seasons, the Elite League’s Department of Player Safety (DoPS) has been the cause of more controversy than the latest Brad Marchand licking incident.

After the debacle of the 2017/18 season’s Belfast Giants’ Spiro Goulakos vs Sheffield Steelers’ Colton Fretter, we all thought that we had seen the back of the unaccountable and shadowy DoPS of the past. This however was a fallacy, and we of the EIHL fan contingent now find ourselves at the mercy of a once more inconsistent and anonymous body.

The appointment of Lyle Seitz as the Director of Player Safety (notably also the serving Director of Hockey Operations for the Austrian EBEL) in November 2017 and the removal of former chief of league discipline Simon Kirkham following what was a very public and damaging course of events for the league, left many of us in the hope that the days of the closed-off and somewhat unaccountable body were over.

Lyle Seitz – Getty Images

Fools, all of us to a person. 

Only some fifteen months later, we have been party to a handful of decisions from the league’s safety supervisors that leave many to question not only the ability of the panel to remain consistent, but also to question whether the new DoPS as it became known, even still exists?

The EIHL website’s own DoPS section still refers to Lyle being in charge, along with a body called the Player Safety Committee. 

Who are these individuals?

What are their credentials?

Why is it so difficult for the league to tell us who they are?

When, if ever, will be be given any details?

Frankly, I don’t expect to ever have any answers on any of the above points, but I’m an optimist, and I live in a state of perpetual hope. I’m a Fifer by birth after all, and sometimes that’s all we have!

Whilst I’m on the subject of Fife…the recent DoPS handling of that incident in Kirkcaldy has cast the eyes of the British hockey public back to the accountability of the department and it’s self-anointed purpose to “control the disciplinary process in the league” (anyone else note the lack of the use of the words player and safety there?). 

DoPS’s own assessment of the incident lies in stark contrast to what many held to be an open and closed case of Manchester Storm players being both culpable and accountable for their actions, with perhaps some small blame sitting at the doorstep of Flyers players. Indeed, the assessment of the incident and the reasoning behind not only the allocated bans and team fines (seriously, £3,000 to both teams?!) has led to yet more discomfort with the whole system and the complete lack of critical analysis and reasoning behind them. Let us not forget that this was not a rushed job by DoPS; this was a three day decision. 

Other recent decisions, and non decisions such as the ban to Belfast’s Jonathan Boxill for fighting in the last 5 minutes of a game however not having done so earlier in the season with Cardiff Devil’s defenceman Mark Louis. 

Write-ups are becoming less detailed, videos less useful and accountability is slipping away all the while…

DoPS contradictory nature aside, there is something that goes deeper in the EIHL, and it is something that’s has sat poorly with me for many seasons as anyone who has listened to the podcast for any length of time will know, and it is the severe lack of transparency allotted to the fans by the holders of the keys of the Elite League – the directors. 

Now, don’t get me wrong here. There are those amongst this group, who breath that rarified air, that do on occasion perhaps let slip more than some others would like. These instances are so unusual however, and not something that we can rely on to gain any real insight into how the league is administrated. Indeed, not even meetings of the board and decisions around the structure, competing rules and internal appointments are minuted and made public.

Now, what I’m not asking for here is a video or audio recording of these meetings to be made immediately publicly available. What I am asking, no begging for, is a little bit of respect in the form of any kind of update from these meetings. “A meeting took place”, “a decision on matters X, Y and Z were made”, “we got together at a bar and got wasted”, anything at all, ANYTHING!

Is Lyle Seitz still in charge of DoPS? Is a twelfth team on the horizon? Is there a development strategy for the league? Will the Challenge Cup final be broadcast on TV? Will Cameron Hughes be invited back to Playoffs this season?! 

Have any of these issues been discussed at all by the board? Who knows, certainly not us.

I know that these are not questions that all fans ask, indeed I see myself in the minority and it would be a significant move for the league to even produce a single tweet of 280 characters to update us on its goings on, however as I said earlier, I live life as an eternal optimist; its in my nature!