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Welcome to The Firehouse, the section of In The Crease dedicated to the Manchester Phoenix.  Following the untimely demise of Manchester Storm in November 2002, the future of ice hockey in Manchester looked bleak but thanks to the efforts of the Friends of Manchester Ice Hockey group and the support of the fans, ice hockey is back in Manchester from the start of the 2003/04 season.

I have created the structure of this section to mirror those for the Manchester Storm and Pittsburgh Penguins on the site and will be adding relevant content as the Phoenix gets underway in September.  Until then, there may be one or two work in progress messages or empty links within The Firehouse!

Phoenix Squad

 - pretty straightforward this one, a list of the current Phoenix squad with details of previous clubs! 

Phoenix Cards

 - home made online hockey cards, a major feature of the site, featuring Phoenix players

Phoenix Images

 - any Phoenix related images will be found here including wallpapers and other general images

Phoenix Links

 - a list of links to Phoenix related websites including the official site and many others

Phoenix Features

 - anything that doesnít fit elsewhere relating to the Phoenix

Another Bump In The Road For Hockey In Manchester!

Following a public meeting at Manchester Town Hall earlier this week and a ballot of the fans of the club, it has been decided that the Manchester Phoenix will not compete in the forthcoming 2004/05 season of the EIHL.  Instead, the team will be Ďmothballedí for a season and will return for the 2005/06 season in their own home - a semi-permanent rink to be built in East Manchester.

You can read all about the decision and notes and transcripts of the meeting that took place over at the Official Phoenix site but the basic gist of it is that the low attendances last year and the cost of rent to play in one of the best arenas in Europe meant it was no longer financially viable to play out of the MEN Arena any more.  The options presented to the crowd gathered at the Town Hall on Tuesday was mothball the team or play a season on the road - 50% of games at Deeside and 50% of games at Ice Sheffield.

I was at that meeting on Tuesday and it was obvious that the overriding feeling in the room was for the team to go on hiatus in order to secure the long term future of the sport in Manchester.  The chances of the losses amounted by playing a year on the road leading to the enforced loss of another team were too great - particularly when the general consensus is if we lose this team, we lose top flight hockey in Manchester forever.

Some people at the meeting were willing to stand up and make their point of view and support for either option known then and there as well as ask questions.  Me?  Iím more of a person who prefers to reflect on things before making comments and now Iíve had a few days to reflect, here I go!!

Before I get started, I will confirm that I voted online for the Ďmothballí option as I felt this was the only way to safeguard the future of this sport in this area.  I also think that the planned rink and the youth development that it will bring is just what we need in British hockey, never mind the general lack of ice sports facilities in the area!  So, any comments I make are not out of bitterness for voting for the losing option, just my views on what has happened.

At that meeting, the fans of the Phoenix were asked to pick what they saw as the lesser of the two evils!  The first - playing on the road - would, for some fans, be the same as mothballing the team as the cost and practicalities of getting to the games would rule out some fans immediately.  For me personally, I am lucky enough that if they had played I would have been able to get to both sites pretty easily and would still have gone - but, as I said, that is not the case for everyone.

The second option of no team this year and coming back seemed even worse initially!  After all the hard work that had gone on last year to get the Phoenix going, would it be possible for them to survive a year out?  Would the fans and support still be there when they come back?

Throughout the meeting, Neil Morris (Phoenix MD) was adamant that the option of the team being mothballed for a year should not be compared to the situation a couple of years back when the Storm went bust and we were without a team.  Now, I agree with him on this, to a point!  For everyone in that room and all dedicated hockey fans the difference will be obvious - with the Storm the team went bust and never came back, this is simply a yearís hiatus chosen by the fans as the way forward.  However, for the casual fans out there - the ones the sport needs to attract and retain to grow - the bottom line is that there is no hockey in Manchester again and coming so soon after the Stormís demise this can only hurt the sportís, and by extension, the teamís, reputation in the city with those casual fans and this, in turn hurts the chances of them ever showing an interest in the sport again.

From a dedicated fanís point of view there is one key difference that Iím not sure that people have taken into account and thatís the fact that with the Storm we had no choice, we lost our team and there was no saving it!  Here, the majority of the fans have chosen to have no hockey this season in Manchester and that is a different kettle of fish all together!

Me?  After whatís looking increasingly like a hockey-less winter - traveling to watch a team that isnít Ďmy teamí doesnít do it for me and the possibility of a lockout in the NHL looms ever larger - I will be counting down the days to the start of the 2005/06 season, the opening of the new facility and the second rising of the Manchester Phoenix.

You never know, I may even restart skating (badly!) regularly at this new rink!

To finish, I would like to position the above article.  When I started In The Crease as part of a bigger site alongside Jedi UK (Star Wars) and Psycho Circus (Kiss, the rock band) my intention was to use it to reflect what being a hockey fan means and avoid the serious news-related side of things as there are other sites that do this much better and much quicker than I ever could.  And, although my ethos for In The Crease remains the same (but with better content and design I hope!) I felt it necessary to acknowledge the events of this week in some way.

My final thoughts on this is a simple message for the Phoenix fans who, like me, voted for this - when youíre about to sit down and watch TV on a cold, dark November Sunday evening instead of heading for the MEN Arena, remember that this is what we chose and that we are doing it for the right reasons - to safeguard the long term future of the game we love in the City of Manchester.   Roll on September 2005...........

PD - 10/07/2004