The captain of a UK Elite League team has left his club and appears likely to quit the sport entirely after abuse on social media.
Matt Suderman, who plays for the Hull Stingrays of the EIHL, made what could be his final appearance for the club on Sunday against the Braehead Clan. He told a local newspaper that he was quitting due to sustained abuse on Twitter and the poor standard of officiating in the EIHL. In an interview with a local paper, Suderman let rip, to put it lightly.
“Some of the fans are the worst I’ve played in front of. They think they are knowledgeable, but they aren’t,” Suderman told the Hull Daily Mail. “Some send me personal messages and all sorts of stuff. There’s a lot of reasons for my decision, but those are the main ones.”
The 30-year-old Manitoba native, who was drafted 199th overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2001, also cited the poor standards of officiating in the EIHL. “The state of the Elite League officiating has got much worse, to the point where I am embarrassed to be a part of it,” he said. “I feel the officiating could stop the league being considered one of the top ones in Europe.”
EIHL players are not paid anything near to the salaries of their NHL counterparts, a point highlighted by Stingrays coach Sylvain Cloutier, who played 7 games for the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1998-99 season.
“Obviously the keyboard warriors have got to him and he’s decided to go home,” Cloutier told BBC Humberside. “It’s hard because these guys aren’t getting paid millions of pounds and they put their bodies on the line. It can affect anyone and to take the kind of abuse he took was totally unfair.”
The EIHL is the top professional league in the UK, but has seen a string of incidents that highlight the League’s problems with on-ice violence and standards of officiating. Two months ago another Stingrays player, Ontario native Derek Campbell, was banned for 47 games and released by his club after being cited for four charges in one game including kneeing and an attempted eye gouge.
Fans and referees have caused problems for ex-NHL players in the past. During his spell with the Belfast Giants in 2005-06, all-star veteran Theo Fleury frequently took issue with the officiating in the League, which he eventually cited as the reason for his decision to leave.
Fleury also attempted to climb out of the box to reach a Coventry Blaze during one particular game after sustained taunting from a fan, who appeared oblivious to the fact that one of the most exciting talents to ever play the game was playing in front of him.
EIHL club often recruit journeymen enforcers to toughen up their teams, providing those players with a paycheque they may be struggling to find in their native country. Forward Alex Penner, who in February was banned for the remainder of the season following this CHL brawl, racked up an astonishing 271 penalty minutes in 25 games while playing for the Nottingham Panthers in the 2010-11 season.
Violence over talent is an issue that plagues the league and arguably contributes to the British game’s standing in international tables. The United Kingdom is currently ranked 22nd by the IIHF, behind Hungary, Italy and Japan.