Matt Richards is a six year veteran with the Cardiff Bay Lightning of the British Hockey Conference; a six team league in the United Kingdom. I was eager for him to give me his take on the state of hockey on his side of the pond.
March Hockey: How would you consider the style of play different in the UK or Europe in general compared to that of North America?
Matt Richards: “The style of play in the UK is fairly unique in Europe, being similar to that of North America, in terms of physicality and build up play. The other European leagues play a more patient, less physical passing game. I would place the EIHL (Elite Ice Hockey League) average skill level around ECHL standard, perhaps AHL/ECHL in the top teams.”
MH: As a goaltender, who was your inspiration growing up?? Favourite current goalie??
MR: “Growing up, I loved watching Dominik Hasek, Chris Osgood, Marty Brodeur and Marty Turco. I play a fairly different style to all of them but some of their save choices have leaked into my game. For example, i will freeze the puck with my blocker hand if its that side (Hasek), I’ll stack my pads more than a “normal” goalie would (Hasek, Brodeur) and I love playing the puck (Brodeur, Turco – I use the ‘Turco grip”). My current favourite goalies would be Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Quick and Tuukka Rask. They’re all quite technical in their approach to the game but can pull off the sprawling saves when needed.”
MH: Is there a lot of support for UK hockey? A lot of support for Cardiff?
MR: “Support for UK hockey is growing all the time, however I believe it needs better management from the top in order to be more successful. The governing bodies need to be totally independent from the EIHL teams and do more to promote the sport within the UK. It has the potential to be huge, it’s the perfect sport for the UK considering our changeable weather! Cardiff has always enjoyed a very strong fan base and there are actually so many teams below the top league playing out of our temporary rink right now that ice time is very limited!”
MH: Who’s shot would you be most afraid of saving?
MR: “I really enjoy stopping the hard shots, especially with my glove, but I’d have to say Zdeno Chara. I always get out as far as possible when I see a player winding up for a shot but i’m not sure I’d come out as far for his!!”
MH: And finally, if you could play with anyone, past or present, who would it be and why??
MR: “Well honestly, I’d love to have the chance to play with any of the NHLers; I’ve practiced with the pro guys over here a few times and that’s been great. But if I had to pick, I’d say for a goalie it has to be Brodeur. He’s a legend; his numbers say it all and to still be playing at the level he is today is phenomenal. Non-goalie wise, I’d love to play with Datsyuk. In my opinion the greatest hands the NHL has ever seen. Penalty shot practice would be interesting!”
Cardiff Bay’s next game is July 13th against the Sheffield Squeelers, who sit above the Lightning in first place. Puck drop is 8:30 pm, UK time!