Matthew Gunstone is the current treasurer of the Bracknell Bees Supporters Club. The Supporters Club is made up of die hard fans who, you guessed it, support the team in various roles. The Bracknell Bees play out of an ice rink called “the Hive” and are a force in the EPIHL.
March Hockey: Where are you located and how did you get into hockey?
Matthew Gunstone: I actually live in the next town over from Bracknell: Wokingham, but I grew up for the first 11 years of my life in Bracknell. When I was in primary school we had a visit from Chris Brant and the whole class was given free tickets, but it kind of passed me by at that time. Then during my tenure at university Channel 5 in this country showed the NHL realllllly late at night and someone persuaded me to check it out; this was pre-HD and I found the action hard to follow so I missed out again. Finally, 4-5 years ago a Canadian friend introduced me to fantasy hockey (and in turn I conned him into participating in fantasy football/soccer), this led me to researching the game and eventually watching the NHL online – this triggered a long buried memory that we had a local hockey team and the rest is history.
MH: What makes you a passionate fan of the Bracknell Bees?
MG: I love hockey, it’s the most insanely dynamic sport imaginable. The next logical step is loving your local team; akin to loving local produce. The Bees are the scrappy underdog on the ice and there’s a family atmosphere around the franchise – the players are approachable, the coach is a fantastic guy, management are friendly, the fans are united. Also, the rink is actually warm whilst spectating (not so good for the ice, maybe, but saves wearing a coat in winter). I’m passionate about the Bees because they’re simply fun to watch, the current incarnation of the team can agitate, score, throw a check, throw a punch, dazzle with skill. It’s the complete package and balance between on and off ice shenanigans.
MH: What does the supporters club consist of? Are the Bees the only team to have this?
MG: The Supporters Club is an external organization symbiotically linked to the team, the essence of our existence is to help out with financial contributions by various methods of fundraising: social events, merchandise sales, raffles, that sort of thing. As far as I am aware every team in the league has such a Supporters Club – they’re pretty vital to the EPIHL because they’re exclusively run by unpaid volunteers and can provide thousands of pounds to their respective teams, such extra money is often very necessary.
MH: Who is one player to look out for on the team and why?
MG: I’m going to be a pain with this answer and actually single out two players. When I watch I’m fascinated by both of Lukas Smital and Sam Oakford. Lukas is our star, an import forward, he can thread the eye of a needle with a pass and has an underrated bullet of a shot, his skating is powerful and when he bursts down the right wing opposition defencemen must be terrified. Sam is a different kettle of fish, in my opinion he is the smartest player on the ice at any given time – his game is very nuanced and subtle – I’m sure from his perspective everything he does is very instinctive but he never misses an assignment, is never out of position and makes it look effortless; top class defencemen and the Bees are lucky to have him.
MH: If you were to change one thing about the league, what would it be and why?
MG: The number one thing that the EPIHL needs is its own official website and social media presence rather than just relying on a subsection of the EIHA website that is poorly maintained and not particularly informative. It’s a baffling oversight as we move deeper into the twenty first century.
MH: How do you think Bracknell’s season will turn out his year??
MG: I’m an optimist so I think our season will be good, not silverware good, but top half of the league and maybe home ice in the playoffs. We have addressed our most problematic position in net and with that added consistency our free scoring forwards should win us more games than in previous years. I’m going to go out on a limb and say we should be 4th based on the retention of our core players and the few amount of tweaks made. Individually, I see Lukas Smital being even better than last year – if possible – and Lewis Turner taking a huge step forward in his development. It’s going to be exciting and possibly successful.
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