The Chelmsford Chieftains are a team located in Chelmsford, Essex and after a few seasons of play in the EPIHL, the decision was made to have them play in the English National League. Since that decision in 2008 they’ve been a dominating team.
March Hockey: Where are you located and how did you get into hockey?
Pete Lewis: I am based in Harlow, Essex and I follow the Chelmsford Chieftains. I originally watched the ISL’s London Knights, but when they folded I needed a new team to follow and having been to a Chieftains V Knights friendly, I naturally turned to follow the Chieftains. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs in the last 10years or so, but the recent seasons have seen things settle down and we’re regularly winning trophies now.
MH: What makes you a passionate fan of the Chelmsford Cheiftains?
PL: It’s such a great club to be a part of. The players are completely accessible to anyone, the club is passionate and dedicated to their fans and giving them all the news first before the media get the news. We’re out in the community as often as possible and we also work tirelessly with the local ice hockey Academy to bring on local youngsters into the senior side. This year I believe we have about 65% of the squad have come through the junior system in Chelmsford.
MH: Who’s one player on the team to look out for and why?
PL: It’s really hard to pick one player from the team as all of them stand out for one reason or another. If you did a straw poll of 100 fans of the club who their stand out players is/will be then you’d likely get the whole squad mentioned at least once! We lost arguably the best player to come out of the junior system in Chelmsford ice hockey history in Danny Hammond this summer, but his more than capable replacement is the return of Matt Turner from London Raiders. Matty is a fine two-way forward and is exciting to watch and should probably be one of, if not the, leading scorer this season for the club. Honourable mentions, on a personal level, also go to Alex Green, Michael Ranby, Ben Clements, Ross Brears and Alex Staples.
MH: Does Chelmsford or the league in general get enough support? How about with fan interaction?
PL: We have a really good following for our team with an average of over 450 a game at the Riverside in Chelmsford. We also normally have around 50-60 fans who go to away games regularly and depending on opponents we have been known to have 180-200 in opposition rinks. The other big guns in the league (Invicta, Wightlink and London) all have good support as do Streatham Redskins, but sadly some of the other teams seem to struggle to get into treble figures for some games, but those figures are on the increase, so it’s really great to see. The league is getting stronger and stronger each year, so it’s definitely a league on the rise.
MH: How do you think the upcoming season will play out and why?
PL: We are defending league and play-off champions and we’re generally being tipped as favourites to retain those two titles and possible take the cups on offer as well, but I don’t think it will be as easy as some people think. There are huge strides being made by Invicta Dynamos and they’ll push all the way and I genuinely think they may take at least 1 piece of silverware this season. Wightlink will always be in the mix as will London, although I think they have dropped off a lot this summer with the loss of key players, but they have brought in a number of young and hungry youngsters who will bring a new dimension to Danny Marshall’s team. I don’t see them being title challengers, but in the cups and play-offs I can see them being contenders.
Our player coach, British ice hockey legend Gary Clarke, has kept the core of the team and only made a few changes but they have been upgrades I feel on a player-for-player basis, apart from Turner replacing Hammond where I rate Hammond a shade better as a goalscorer, but Turner has better back-checking skills, so it’s a bit ‘swings and roundabouts’ with those two. The two imports will be key for us though. Tibor Schneider had a slow start last season but established himself as a standout (And in more ways than just his pure size!!) defenceman and the other D men at the club clearly were learning off him. Daniel Volrab has a huge pedigree having been a Dallas Stars draftee and has had a largely successful career in Europe so he should be good for 100+ points this season, as will Clarkey. It’s sure to be really exciting though!!