George Royle is a fellow hockey writer and a friend of mine who I met while writing at Blackout Dallas. A die hard hockey fan and native of the United Kingdom, George gives me his look at how he got into the hockey world and a look at the upcoming season for the Swindon Wildcats and the major changes that were made in Texas with the Stars.
March Hockey: Where are you located and how did you get into hockey?
I live in a county called Wiltshire, which is located in the South West of England and about 80 miles West of London. I got into hockey about 13 years ago when my dad took me to watch my local team play live. A short time after, I caught my first NHL game which was aired on television over here, and since then I haven’t looked back. Up to this day, hockey is my favourite sport and I play/watch the game as much as possible.
MH: What makes you a passionate fan of the Swindon Wildcats?
GR: With the Swindon Wildcats being just a 20 minute journey away, they are the closest (semi) professional ice hockey team to me. They play in the EPIHL which is a league I thoroughly enjoy watching. Any team has the capability of beating anyone, which makes the majority of games entertaining and competitive.
I watch all of the regular season home games every campaign as well as catching the odd road game now and again. With all of the games being played at the weekend, my weeks during the winter are spent looking forward to going to watch the Cats play!
MH: Who’s a player on the team that stands out the most in your eyes?
GR: Without a doubt it is the Swedish import, Jonas Hoog! This guy has a lot of talent and should undoubtedly be playing at a lot higher standard, but his loyalty to the Wildcats has been pretty admirable.
Last season he bagged 120 points in just 54 games. Jonas isn’t afraid to pull some tricks out of the bag and he always plays the game with a smile on his face. With his favourable surname, whenever he touches the puck the crowd all cheer an elongated “hoooooooooooooooooog”!!
MH: How do you think the upcoming season will end up?
GR: I have high expectations for the Wildcats this season. They have made some great signings during the off-season, including securing the services of Great Britain international goaltender, Stevie Lyle. Stevie has a lot of Elite League experience and he will help out the team massively both on and off the ice.
The roster is looking a lot different to that of the last campaign, so it will be interesting to see how well they play together come opening night. With a lot of talent available and an import still to be signed, I think anything below a top four finish will be an under achievement.
MH: What makes you a passionate fan of the Dallas Stars?
GR: One player made me a fan of the Stars, and that is the great Mike Modano. He was everything a professional athlete should be; loyal, skilful and a true sports. As soon as I saw him play it made me think that the Stars should be my team. I went out a few days after and purchased a jersey with Modano on the back.
Several years later and I am one of the most passionate Stars fans you will find outside of North America. I stay up until a ridiculous hour in the morning cheering the boys on. Hopefully this season will bring some much-needed playoff action for the Stars!
MH: Who’s your favourite Stars players, past or present and why?
GR: Having already alluded to Mike Modano, my favourite current player has to be Kari Lehtonen. With Dallas having some pretty dodgy defense of late, Kari often ends up with a massive workload every game, yet still puts up very respectable numbers.
There is nothing I love more than a goalie producing a highlight reel save, and Kari seems to produce a fair few of them!
In professional sport the money can often take over, but one thing I notice with Kari is his desire to play for the Stars is huge whilst giving 110% every time he steps out onto the ice.
MH: What do you think of all the off season changes Jim Nill has made? Do you think they’ll help the team?
GR: Yes, yes, yes and yes!! With Joe Niuwendyk leading the team, nothing was happening. The Stars consistently fell short of the playoffs and the American Airlines Center was almost empty a lot of the time.
However, since Mr Nill has taken over I feel like the Stars are a new organisation ready to take the league by storm. He made a big decision is scrapping the traditional green and gold colours and going back to the old-school jerseys. This got a great reception and fans are eager to buy their new jerseys on opening night!
In terms of signings, I think Nill has made an instant impact. Although Loui Eriksson is a fantastic and proven player, Tyler Seguin is younger and could go on to huge things in the game. I think Dallas certainly came off the better in that trade. Sergei Gonchar is also a solid addition who will certainly help a struggling defensive unit.
MH: What would be your dream game to see? 2 teams from anywhere in the world.
GR: To be honest, my dream is to see the Stars play at the AAC in Texas, and I don’t care who they are playing against! However, it would be nice to see them play against the likes of Boston or Chicago where things tend to get a little bit feisty!
If you’re a passionate hockey fan and want to feature your team or league, I want to hear from YOU! Find me on twitter @MarchHockey or drop me a line on facebook, http://www.facebook.com/marchhockey