Why you shouldn’t count out the Scots this upcoming EIHL season

More than ever, the Scottish EIHL teams are showing just how much they belong in the world of competitive hockey. Not only that, they’re proving the need of junior development in their ranks. While I’ve written about in the past that they were starting to make waves; it seems like the rest of the EIHL is starting to keep an eye on those lads to the north.

The newly appointed partnership between the Braehead Clan and the Scottish League’s Solway Sharks is one of the best things to come out of this offseason. Keep the junior wheel rolling and in time there will come a day where a team will ice a roster of pure Brits.

All the bickering and need for money is clouding the judgment of how British hockey should be developed in mainland England. While I can’t knock them for the needing money pretense, the overpowering need to win is putting a hold on junior development. We want our hockey and our teams to flourish. Why always the need to depend on imports? It’s time to start embracing the teams of the EPIHL and create lasting partnerships. Sadly, it’ll never happen while the old guard is in place.

Back to our friends in the north. Time to take a bit of an in-depth look at how these squads are shaping up. They’ll be a huge force.

Dundee Stars

dundee-starsFinishing third behind the Belfast Giants and Sheffield Steelers in 2013/2014 is nothing short of amazing work done by the lads in blue and red. Not only have they gained a respect that was much-needed but a boost of confidence to improve the moral. This season is proving to shape up to be no different. Among securing a huge sponsorship deal with Coors Light, they’ve managed to tackle signing a big 6’0 forward by the name of John Mitchell.

Before you start freaking out, no it’s not the current Colorado Avalanche player. This John Mitchell has spent his entire pro career in the AHL; having his best year with the Tampa Bay affiliated Syracuse Crunch in 2010-2011. He’s not afraid to throw the gloves off either. In fact, during that year with Syracuse, he threw punches in five different fights.

RobRicciSCOn the flipside of things, another import for the Stars comes in the shape of not so physical Rob Ricci. (I would die if he skated out with a Mike Ricci mullet but that’s another story for another time…) Ricci had a couple of huge years with the South Carolina Stingrays in the East Coast league before taking off to Europe. The guy knows how to read the puck and will come in handy as a young mentor to some of the other players.

Do I think Dundee will do as well as last season? Considering the roster of the other teams; on paper, it’s not likely. But this is the Elite league and stranger things have happened.

Also Dundee, I love ya but ask Coors Light to help you update your website. I feel like I’m stuck on a 1990’s Geocities site.


Edinburgh Capitals

Edinburgh-capitals-logoOkay, everyone get your laughs out now. This team is the hockey version of “The Little Engine That Could” but I love every single things about them. I’m about to love them even more.

The Caps have signed themselves a little enforcer by the name of Riley Emmerson. Emmerson has been playing pro since 2006 and has a fight card of 120 fights. Hell, two years in the WHL put him at 24. At 6’8 and 250 pounds, this left winger is definitely going to throwing his body around and this might just be what the doctor ordered for Edinburgh.

What better way to get fans out to the games then a hockey fight? Everyone loves hockey fights! Even your grandma! Emmerson will easily turn himself into a crowd favourite not only at home but across the league. This is Edinburgh’s chance to develop a bit of a cult following. I’m not saying turn all goon squad but marketed right, it could be huge.

Unless he gets knocked out in the first game and throws my theory into submission. Lovely.

I don’t think much will change for the Caps this season other than having the best jerseys and photo marketing in the league. Chins up though! Times are changing!



Fife Flyers

FlyersI don’t know if it’s just me but I haven’t heard much from the blue and gold this offseason. Other than Matt Nickerson returning (with that glorious beard…am I the only woman who doesn’t like it? Anyways..) there hasn’t been much on my radar. Maybe I’m not following the right people on Twitter. That means Fife fans, you need to get at me!

After doing my research, it’s come to my attention that Fife has signed former Wellington Dukes Junior A star Chris Auger. I’ve seen Auger play live and if he’s still anything like he was in Junior A then Flyers fans you’re in for a treat. This kid can go on a tear like nobody’s business. He was drafted in the 6th round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks. Interesting to note, he was drafted higher than Leafs superstar Leo Komarov and Braehead’s Chris Frank. Keep that handy for trivia night.



Braehead Clan

Clan_LogoOh you Purple Army. What will I ever do without you.
The black and purple are going to be on tough squad this season. Not just with skill but with the mitts off as well. Signing one of the biggest enforcers going in Zack Fitzgerald, the Clan has somebody to do battle with on the blue line. As a Philadelphia Flyers fan, I’ve kept an eye on Fitzgerald as he’s spent the past two years with our AHL affiliate. Easily going to turn into a crowd favourite and might even be able to give the aforementioned Capital, Riley Emmerson a run for his money. He has more on his fight card, I know that much.



On the skillset side, the Clan have already locked Chris Frank, Leigh Salters, Neil Trimm and Tristan Harper but joining them is 31 year old Matt Keith. Keith might be on the down slope of his career but he’s going to be a huge presence not only on the ice but in the dressing room. Someone to keep the boys level-headed is a much-needed ploy in this league.

Also, Braehead signed themselves a couple of Brits in Zach Sullivan on defence and forward Ben Davies. There’s that need to add to the homegrown talent.

The Clan should definitely be a team to watch this upcoming season. On paper they’re coming in exceptionally strong and might ruffle a few feathers on the way to the top. I could easily see a top 3 finish.


Braehead Clan add to their arsenal

By Ed Kimberley
Coventry, England

Clan_LogoIt’s been an active fortnight in the EIHL in regards to transfers with Braehead being at the centre of action.

Last week they brought in Neil Trimm, a versatile Canadian forward who had a career year last season in terms of goals with the Wichita Thunder of the Central Hockey League. This week they have added a pair of players in Dan Nycholat who will help shore up the understrength Clan blueline, who are without Kenton Smith and Ray Macais for the time being.

The other addition is a very exciting one bringing in Joe Cullen who can play on the wing but also has been used as a centre, giving Ryan Finnerty many options going forward. Cullen is quite the capture, having spent come to the Clan following some successful years in the Italian Serie A winning the Italian Cup and the SuperCup. He has comparable numbers to Sirianni and DiCasmirro in Italy. The pair who recently signed for Sheffield have had a massive positive impact in the ‘House of Steel.’ Cullen has strong hockey lineage, his brother Matt is a career NHLer, currently with Nashville and won a Stanley Cup back in 05-06 with Carolina. His lineage goes back further, his Grandpa played for the Toronto Maple Leafs and his Uncle John was a two time NHL Allstar and Masterson Trophy winner.

The Clan and Ryan Finnerty are under pressure. They are behind their conference rivals the Dundee Stars who were quick out of the blocks however have 4 games-in-hand while being 6 points behind, adding Nycholat and Cullen will go a long way towards closing the gap. Winning all the games in hand will help Braehead leapfrog the Stars to the top of the conference and lofty heights in the EIHL league table.

This weekend the two teams will duke it out on Sunday, a game that will set the tone between the two rivals going forward, with Cullen and Nycholat in the side, it looks like Braehead will be ready for the toe to toe battle that will ensue.

One on One with Braehead Clan’s Chris Frank

By Ed Kimberley
Coventry, England

(Photo: www.sheffieldsteelers.co.uk)
(Photo: http://www.sheffieldsteelers.co.uk)

EIHL fans first saw Chris Frank during the 2011-2012 season when he joined the Cardiff Devils. Frank has a reputation as a hard hitting, no nonsense defenceman and a fierce competitor. Chris is also an ambassador for “Hockey Players Assemble” and he is currently hosting a ‘Movember’ event for the charity, more details are available by following the link: http://www.thehpassemble.org/projects/movember/. Chris took the time to catch up with me and chat about his hockey career thus far.

Ed Kimberley: You’re known as a physical defenceman. What was it like playing in the NCAA where there is traditionally less hitting than the CHL and Junior leagues?

Chris Frank: Playing NCAA hockey was great. It gave me four extra years to develop and and mature before I headed off to play professionally. While the NCAA doesn’t have any fighting the league is known for their huge hits. We had to wear cages and without fighting people just ran around 100 mph trying to crush people; because there was no repercussions.

EK: You were made Captain of Western Michigan University, how did the leadership role affect your game?

(Photo: wmubroncos.com)
(Photo: wmubroncos.com)

CF: I was honored to be a captain of WMU. I met so many great people through that organization, many of which I am still great friends with. Over the past few seasons the program has seen some real success and I’m proud to say I was at one point part of that top caliber program. Playing wise, my game stayed the same. Off the ice I had a lot more responsibility. Continue reading “One on One with Braehead Clan’s Chris Frank”