Why banning Riley Emmerson is a dumb move

4281786111
That’s a big man in the middle there. (Photo: edinburgh-capitals.com)

Sigh.

It’s way too early in the season to be writing something like this.

The “Department of Player Safety” (who nobody knows really is) of the EIHL came and suspended Edinburgh Capitals blue liner Riley Emmerson 10 games for a two minute minor infraction from last week’s game against Belfast.

Let’s back up a little bit here.

Riley Emmerson was the Capitals key signing for this year. You could say he was the big name to draw some fans to the seats of Murrayfield Ice Rink. At 6’8” this towering presence of a man has already had stints in the AHL, ECHL and CHL and has some impressive opponents on his fight card including Jon Mirasty. He’s not a goal scorer. He’s there for toughness. He’s here to put on a show if you will.

Edinburgh and Belfast clashed last Saturday at home in Murrayfield in what was the Capitals FIRST game of the season and Challenge Cup at that. At 1:04 of the first period, Emmerson was called for boarding on Belfast’s Kevin Phillips and given a two minute minor. Pretty simple and even though fans have said it was a big hit, refs didn’t seem anything more was warranted.

Phillips however did not play in the rest of the game and was later diagnosed with a concussion. Fair play.

The “Department of Player Safety” went to review the altercation but subsequently could not because Edinburgh did not have video of the play.  Now that in itself is uncalled for. Teams should have video of every game that should be sent to the league within a half an hour or an hour of the game ending. At least that’s how it’s done on this side of the pond. The league has fined Edinburgh $1,000 for not having video and rightfully so. Nothing wrong with that.

This “department” also threw down a 10 game suspension to Riley Emmerson for his hit. Correct me if I’m wrong but, how can you suspend a player for a play you’ve never even seen? Not only that, why are you undermining your referree’s judgement? They clearly didn’t think anything more than two minutes was warranted so why step over them? That would put a sour taste in my mouth if I was an official.

Wanting to set a precedent? With what? A fourth liner who has a tough guy reputation but hasn’t even played two games in the league? Come on now. I could point out a million other things that happened in games last season that warranted more of a punishment then this one. Want to really set one? Catch one of your star players in a skirmish then bring the hammer down.

Edinburgh-capitals-logoBasing it on the injury of Phillips? I’m all for protecting player’s safety but if the concussion became an after effect a couple days later then there’s not much to enquire about a suspension. Yes, it could have been caused by Emmerson’s hit but why wait a full week to lay out your suspension? You don’t need video to prove he’s concussed.

Wanting to set a precedent concerning the lack of video footage? By all means, go right ahead. That is definitely warranted. However, don’t take it out on the player. It wasn’t Emmerson’s fault for not having video of his hit. Fine the club more and downgrade his suspension. If anything his ban should be nothing more than two or three games if it was even a dirty hit.

As a new player to the league, this is going to leave one bad taste in Riley Emmerson’s mouth.

Sure left one in mine. Goes to show you that money talks.

One on One with Hull Stingray/Peterborough Phantom Scott Robson

wmXZrvnO
(Photo: Tom Scott)

Scott Robson is one of the young British lads who are making their names known on the British hockey scene. First suiting up back in 2007 with the Junior B squad of the Manchester Phoenix, the then 12 year old was making an impact from the very first time he stepped onto the ice. At 18 years of age, he suited up and made his debut for 37 games with the Elite leagues Hull Stingrays proving he could ice with the best of the Brits that were out there. This season he is on a two-way contract, spending his time between both the EIHL’s Stingrays and the EPL’s Peterborough Phantoms. Here’s a bit of a look into the mind of young Scott Robson.

March Hockey: What made you get into hockey and why?

Scott Robson: Both of my parents and family played a big role in getting me started into ice hockey and I couldn’t thank them enough for it. I grew up watching the games as far back as I can remember; whether it be Humberside Seahawks or the Manchester Storm. I can even remember watching my current coach in Peterborough (Slava Koulikov) play in Hull when I was little!. I’ve been fortunate over the years to travel to all sorts of countries like Canada, America, Sweden and the majority of Europe to watch hockey which made me become addicted to it before I even hit the age of 10.

MH: How do you describe your style of play? Who do you look up to as a player, if anybody?

(Photo: Allan Foster)
(Photo: Arthur Foster)

SR: I’d describe myself as a very offensive D-man who loves to join the rush but capable of looking after the defensive zone first. Over my years with Hull I’ve been able to learn so much from each defenseman on whether they’ll be a offensive or defensive style of player which hopefully solidifies my game. I love watching Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators with the way he jumps into the rush and makes a big play.

MH: What are some of the advantages of playing for both an EPL team and an EIHL team? Are there any disadvantages?

SR: The main advantage is that I have two teams and two sets of different players in which I can learn from and develop further. Also having two different styles of coaches that are looking out for me and my best interests. They are giving me an opportunity every night to play consistently and making me reach my full potential. There isn’t a disadvantage to me being on a two way. I think its great for me and both Peterborough and Hull.

MH: What do you feel you can add to this year’s Hull Stingrays lineup?

SR: I feel I can add a bit of an offensive jump from the defensive zone and give a more attacking style of play. I’d like to give off a capable attitude of playing in the EIHL. It’s all still a learning curve for me and I’m just grateful for the opportunity. After the first weekend playing in both games for Hull,  I already feel I’ve been taught valuable lessons so to speak.

MH: This will be your first time in the EPL as a member of the Peterborough Phantoms, what do you see for them in terms of how the season will play out?

SR: I’m excited of course.  I’ve been really impressed with Peterborough and how well run and co-ordinated everything is here. We’ve been together for three weeks now where other teams are just getting to know their teammates. I think that will make a big difference to the way we start early in the season. I think we have a strong team; from our goalie, to our defence and forwards. I think we are a hardworking team and going to push teams to the full 60 minutes each night on a constant basis. We are going to shock teams no doubt.  I’m really excited and ready for the opening weekend. I’m sure the boys are too.

MH: Where would you like your career to take you?

166769_156259717866252_2144511560_nSR: I’ve never really thought about it too much as in “what’s my top goal in hockey”.  Just play it year by year, improve as much as I can every year and enjoy it. The realistic goal of winning a championship with both Hull and Peterborough this year I think is possible with what looks to be both strong teams. I’ve always liked the idea of playing in Australia for a summer  just to experience something that would be a unforgettable. I’ve talked to a few guys who have played over there and they’ve all said how great, wonderful and passionate the fans are!

MH: If you could watch any game with any two teams, who would they be and why?

SR: That’s a tough one. I’d think I’d have to go with the 1997-1998 Vancouver Canucks team with the likes of Pavel Bure, Alexander Mogilny, Mark Messier, Markus Naslund, Trevor Linden, Jyrki Lumme, and Gino Odjick. Purely because it was a team full of spark and speed. (Noteably I was only 2/3 years old!). They’d be up against the more modern 2005/06 Vancouver Canucks team with Naslund, the Sedin twins, Morrison, Bertuzzi, Jovanoski, Kesler. It’s probably the team I liked the most just because of the style of play. Obviously I’m a big Canucks fan!

Special thanks to Scott for taking the time to do this one-on-one! All the best for the upcoming season! I’ll be keeping an eye on you buddy! 😉

Coventry Blaze set fire to opening weekend

(photo: Scott Wiggins.)
(photo: Scott Wiggins http://www.scottwiggins.co.uk)

When Marc Lefebvre took over as bench boss towards the end of last season, he was inheriting a beaten and banged up squad. Some wondered if he’d be able to light the match to get the team to compete. As the season came to a close it started to become clearer that he was.

Coaching is 85% who you are able to recruit as players. At the beginning of the offseason questions were asked as to whether or not Lefebvre had the knowledge or willingness to ice a competitive team. Those questions were all put to rest over opening weekend.

The squad that Lefebvre has put together in such a short time is nothing less than brilliant. Yes, I know it it’s only been a couple of games but just take a look at the box score from the game at home against Fife. Same with the home games in the pre-season. The scoring depth on that chart is nothing short of remarkable. It’s not your usual suspects that are coming out of the woodwork. If this Coventry team can stay healthy, there’s no reason they can’t have a shot at being one of the top teams in the league.

New starting goaltender Brian Stewart is a huge welcome addition. Aggressively cutting down his angles with his hybrid style, he’s going to be a tough man to beat and is just what the team needs when coming down the stretch. A career East Coast leaguer with a couple of stints in the AHL, Stewart has always been above .900 save percentage. Decent head on his shoulders and you can’t be displeased with a shutout on your first EIHL game.

(Photo: Scott Wiggins www.scottwiggins.co.uk)
(Photo: Scott Wiggins http://www.scottwiggins.co.uk)

 

Blaze fans should be extremely excited for the rest of this campaign. Last season’s woes seem all but forgotten with this new blue squad. That’s the key though. Stay healthy.

The Coventry Blaze are back home again on September 13th as they welcome the Dundee Stars to the Skydome. The next night they head to down to Cardiff against the Devils for their first Challenge Cup appearance.

Come “March Across The UK” with me!

I have teamed up with Chris Frank and Hockey Players Assemble to start a fund raising campaign to get me over to the UK! The goal is to visit every rink in the EIHL and write a book about my experience. Of course, I’ll be blogging and capturing pictures and videos as I go but the ultimate end is a book. Here’s the summary of my campaign taken straight from the site and you can find my campaign  page by clicking here: MARCH ACROSS THE UK 

Hello hockey world!

Some of you my know who I am as I’m pretty much everywhere on the internet in hockey circles. I am the opinionated hockey woman from Canada who happens to spend an awful lot of time writing about the sport. Call me crazy if you want.

MarchAcrossTheUKAnyway, what you might not know about me is I live and struggle with liver disease. I was 21 when I was diagnosed and being a young non-caring woman, I didn’t think too much of it. Fast forward to recent times. In the past two years I’ve had four surgeries to help correct my liver. I’m 27 year old and have the liver of a 70 year old alcoholic. I barely drink.

You can just imagine the kind of stress that goes through your body not just physically but mentally as well. I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and social anxiety on top of this. While my depression is very much in control, I find the need to speak out about it. If I can help one person through their mental health issues just by being there to talk too then I can sleep soundly at night. It’s time to end the stigma.

During my depression and while recovering from surgery I turned to hockey for my enjoyment. I found a passion writing about it and in turn it has opened up doors for me that I never thought was possible. There’s one league though that pulled me through everything the most however; the Elite Ice Hockey League.

Watching the games, conversing with fans, coaches, referees, and players on Twitter meant the world to me as I was struggling. Along with my family, these new found friends became a reason to keep pushing and conquer my illness. I am forever in the UK’s debt and would love nothing more to able to pay back what was given to me.

hpa-logoFor the past 6 months or so I’ve been toying with the idea of touring the teams of EIHL and writing a book on my experience. Basically an Elite league experience from the eyes of a Canadian. I’ll interview players, personalities, anything that surrounds the league. I don’t even care if anybody reads it; I just feel it’s something I have to do.

This is where Hockey Players Assemble comes in. Needless to say this bout has left me out of work without income. After talking with Chris Frank, I made my decision that Hockey Players Assemble could help me in my journey and dream to document the teams of the EIHL for a few weeks.

I am going to aim for the beginning of the 2015/2016 season in order to give myself some time to heal and to plan the trip accordingly. I will document it my experience through the blog too with pictures, video and words.

Hope the hockey world can make this one girl’s dream come true. Who needs the NHL? Not me.

I have my EIHL family.

Of course, I will be forever in your debt for any donation given! Let’s make this happen #hockeyfamily!

Once again, here is the campaign page: MARCH ACROSS THE UK 

Building Awareness: Edinburgh Capitals Supporters Club

EdinburghCapitalsHockey in and around Edinburgh has a storied history. From the Murrayfield Racers to today’s Edinburgh Capitals, from players like Tony Hand and Scott Neil to Sean Beattie and James Wallace, the game in Scotland has seen almost everything there is to see. Starting out as a grassroots movement and moving towards a professional association, it has never been an easy task to keep the attention on the game moving higher. However, that could be said for the whole of the United Kingdom, not just Edinburgh itself.

The Murrayfield Racers also has its legacy but it’s been built in the past. The Edinburgh Capitals are looking to create a legacy of their own for the here and now. A new generation of fans have emerged and are trying to help the team take it to the next level. With the right mix of awareness, promotion and of course the product on the ice, the Capitals have nothing to fear but fear itself.
Enter Steve Salvini.

Salvini has been a hockey fan since the 1980’s following the aforementioned Murrayfield Racers but when the club went bankrupt so did the following. In October of 2012, Salvini was offered a discount ticket for the Caps. With his two daughters tagging along, he once again became hooked with the hits, saves and goals of the game of hockey. Even his one daughter Lorna became a die hard fan and started going week after week with him.

Noting that he wanted to help the club and create more promotion for the team, Salvini reached out to Scott Neil to see what he could do to help. Neil mentioned that the Supporters Club was dormant and well, it was Salvini’s to take if he wanted. The rest is history.

As the current interim chair, I spoke with Steve about some of the trials the Supporters Club is facing and threw in some good hockey chat for good measure.

March Hockey: Do you think that with time the Edinburgh Capitals can capture the reputation that the Murrayfield Racers once had?

Steve Salvini: The Racers had a great sponsor in Smirnoff at a time when the league was sponsored by a rival brewer / distiller in Heineken.  This meant that Smirnoff were both generous and disinclined to give up their foothold in a league where sponsorship by any new alcohol companies was now disallowed.  Caps need a similarly large and generous sponsor before the can hope to emulate the Racers success.

 

The Caps also need to grow their fan base.  AT present there are probably 300 hard core fans who turn up to everything and another 300 who are fairly regular.  After that, there are anything up to another 500 who are at best fickle: their attendance depends on the success of the team and/or discounted tickets!  That said, most of these fans are already into hockey.

Steve Salvini 

The all-new supporters club are reaching out to a wider audience and reach those who do not know the sport at all or simply do not know it is played in Edinburgh.  The latter group may include the large groups of Eastern European’s now living in Edinburgh, for example.  They might both be missing their usual hockey and fix and respond well to a team with a large proportion of players from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, etc.

 

MH: Breaking the old school mentality aspect of the fans (I.E. the Racer fans) is a tough task. How do they see the Caps in general? Do they give them the respect they deserve?

SS: I’m not sure I completely agree with your comment about the “old school mentality”.  The way I see it is that the Racers operated in a completely different environment to the Caps.   In the Racers heyday there were limited numbers of imports and so they may have appeared to be some much better than the majority of players around them whereas nowadays most of the players are full-time professionals.   The game has also become much more professional in its approach.  For example, I am sure you have read the part in Tony Hand’s autobiography where he makes reference to players drinking BEFORE games.  Nowadays that simply would not be tolerated, by management or even other players.  Similarly the shorelines are different.  My first game was a 12-12 draw with Durham Wasps – today’s equivalent might be a 3-3 draw as teams are more balanced in their approach to defence.  In Racers heyday every team just went all out to out-shoot their opponents, back-checking was, err, something of a rarity. Also, net-minding was left to British players again leading to higher scoring games.   Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Racers days but I also love the game today.  It was/is all hockey – nether approach is right or wrong, both are simply the product available at the particular time.

 

Racers days were a big party for fans and players, now it’s a professional sport – flip side it that it more impersonal, there is much less chance that the team’s star defenceman lives in the next street so there’s less of a local attachment to the team.
MH: How does Edinburgh develop their local talent? Which teams do they draw from for reinforcements, if any?

SS: Well-develop junior setup – teams at under 10, 12, 15, 18 plus Scottish National League (SNL) team – sort of second string team including youngsters knocking on the door of the Big Team plus old hands who are helping the young guys develop.   There is also an Academy System for those thought possibly able to make the step up from Junior / SNL level to the EIHL.

 

No “farm teams” as such but recruit from own Juniors set up and that of others (including arch-rivals Fife Flyers!) plus attract players from other SNL teams for example James Wallace from Solway Sharks and Callum Boyd from Kilmarnock Storm.
1319473523533MH: Most of us here in Canada never hear about the greats from non-hockey countries. Scottish guys like Tony Hand and Scott Neil helped put ice hockey on the map to not only create a following in Scotland but the U.K. as well. Who are some of the current up and coming stars that we should keep an eye on?

SS: “Non-hockey” country???  Hockey is the second most popular indoor sport in the UK! 

 

Yeah, Ok, that doesn’t mean much really.

 

The up-and-coming stars from Edinburgh include Sean Beattie and Jay King.  Both are in the Edinburgh Capitals Academy System and play for the EIHL and SNL teams.  Plus both play age group for Scotland.

MH: Has Edinburgh adopted a rivalry with any of the other EIHL squads?

SS: Ever since a team played out of Murrayfield Ice Rink the big rivals have always been Fife Flyers.  In fact, it’s interesting how many Fife fans have said how much they want Edinburgh to improve so they can start “hating” them properly again!   The rivalry is definitely there but also the camaraderie of the “hockey family” that I think makes our sport unique.

Edinburgh-capitals-logoMH: How can fans get involved to help the team grow?

SS: Join the Supporters Club and work together to build the fan base – bring along a new person to every game – stay positive and keep behind the team even (especially?) when they are going through the inevitable bad patches.  Talk up the Caps at every opportunity – word of mouth is the best advertising we can have.   The company running the team need more income – that will come from, a larger fan base – but they also value the various professional and technical skills we can donate to them – everything from helping paint the changing rooms to writing programme articles to helping provide jobs or work experience placements for players to introducing potential sponsors to the club.  Enthusiasm, energy and support for the players we can all give.   Keep the faith!

 

For more information on the Edinburgh Capitals Supporters Club including how to help out and become a part of the movement, check out their website at www.edcapssc.co.uk and follow them on Twitter: @EdCapsSC

The “Scottish Gretzky”: How Tony Hand kept hockey in the minds of the UK

3797 Tony CVRI’ve always known there was hockey played in the United Kingdom in some aspect. It would just be downright ignorant to dispute that claim. However, at what caliber and level the game was being played at remained a mystery. From here in Canada, we knew players of all levels were recruited to play for teams abroad. When it came to the United Kingdom everyone had their eyes locked on mainland England.

The advent of social media (while some say is a curse), is a wonderful invention. Every little bit of information on any topic one could want is at the tips of your fingers. When I started to dig deeper into the hockey world of the UK, a name was constantly thrown in my direction. Not only from different sites on the internet and historical hockey pieces concerning the sport in the 1980’s, but from many UK hockey fans. That name was Tony Hand.

I chalked Tony Hand up to just be a hockey great from England. I had no idea he was actually a hockey powerhouse from Edinburgh, Scotland. Now that’s no disrespect to Scotland at all. That’s just pure ignorance from yours truly; a young Canadian hockey historian. Hell, I was just being born when Hand was starting his dominance.
All throughout my life I’ve been fascinated by all the different countries and cultures of the world. I even collect flags for fun. So having another nation to add to the ever growing list of hockey lovers to research brought a smile to my face. Either I’m obsessed with the game or I have no life. You be the judge.

 

But I digress.

A fellow hockey friend by the name of John Oxford reached out to me to say he’d be willing to send over Tony Hand’s biography for me to read. Along with sending Paul Thompson’s “Benched”, I have been enamored with the words and world of UK hockey in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Tony Hand’s book feels like I’m going back in time to my own childhood looking up to the players I idolized at that time in the NHL. It’s a bit of an eerie feeling reading about someone you know absolutely nothing about but can relate instantly to the topic being written.

Within the first 16 pages of Hand’s book I stopped. I stopped and took a moment to reflect at how similar his hockey upbringing and the upbringing of kids in this country are. If he didn’t name drop places and teams, you would swear he was Canadian. From the graciousness of Willie Kerr keeping the rink open after dark to Hand walking miles down the road to just be able to play showed just how in sync and how comparable the game was.

Playing for and having loyalty to his hometown team of Murrayfield reminded me how much the game has changed. Loyalty is no longer a factor concerning the players today. It is all about the coin. Money. The game of hockey in the 1980’s was a fragile and odd kind of sport. Trying to grow itself but yet not wanting to sell themselves out provided a slippery slope for most players as the old guard still had not retired yet.

TonyHandThe Murrayfield Racers also reminded me of my hometown Cornwall Royals. While the Royals were a junior the team, the fans and talk surrounding both cemented them a legendary place in the world of hockey. I knew that there was something special about them that not many on this side of the Earth’s hockey world would ever hear about. As I continued reading it was clear that Hand was, had been, and still is an elite caliber player. Having over 100 point seasons and then over 200 is nothing short of brilliant. Case in point his being drafted to the Edmonton Oilers.

Former NHLer Garry Unger had been a scout for the Oilers in the late 80’s. He was still playing the game though over in Scotland and happened to play against Hand a few times seeing his greatness. A little phone call to Glen Sather made Tony Hand the 252nd pick in the 12th round of the 1986 NHL Entry Draft and gave him a shot at that years training camp. Of course, this was all unbeknownst to Hand as he was all the way in Scotland. Phone tagged was played and he eventually headed over to Alberta.

Icing the training camp alongside the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri and Dave Semenko, Hand was put up against a daunting cast of characters. However, he didn’t let the pressure get to him and had a good camp. Good enough for Sather to offer him a contract that would send him down to the minors while still in the Oilers system. Sather even remarked that Hand had the best eyes on the ice, second to Wayne Gretzky. At the same time a friend also had an offer waiting for him at the Victoria Cougars in the WHL. As the story goes, Hand did not feel comfortable. He was suffering from exhaustion from suiting up for 3 games with the Cougars and along with homesickness he flew back home, denying both contracts.

While some think that Tony Hand blew his and the chance to put UK hockey on the map, I have the upmost respect for his decision. He was young, in a new place, dealing with players who trained much harder than him and everything was just uncomfortable behind his means. Some people just can’t adjust. Also, being in the minors, there was no guaranteed way he’d ever come back and crack Edmonton’s lineup. It was a no brainer decision.

Although when I think about it some more, I firmly believe that his tune might have changed had he been drafted to another NHL team that was not stacked with talent. He would’ve no doubt made the roster right away and would be playing night in and night out. Sadly, that’s just how the cookie crumbles.

As I continued to read, the book got a bit dry in a sense that Hand would massacre the point totals year in and year out. In some ways it doesn’t even seem fair to a player of his caliber but just goes to prove what kind of character he really is. Playing for the sake of the game and his hometown team rather then grab a large contract and take off to Europe.

The story about Glen Anderson made me laugh. Showing up in a limo to play with Cardiff and demanded a wealthy pay cheque. The money I can understand but how demeaning is it to your teammates to flaunt your priviledges around.

(Photo: Manchester Evening News)
(Photo: Manchester Evening News)

When I reached the middle of and late 90’s, you could see how Hand’s hockey mind progressed. Maturing to the business side of things. It’s essential for hockey in the United Kingdom to keep minds and people like Hand around for the progress of the sport. (Yes, that’s including David Simms.) Hand is right on the money when he starts talking about the import limit and how to grow the game domestically. He’s also on the money with teams and their budgets. Of course we can talk about all of this until we’re blue in the face. It will take a big shakeup for something of that magnitude to change.

I hope that I will get the chance to meet Tony Hand one day. It would be weird for me to say that his contribution to the game is monumental. I mean, coming from little old me it would be. I don’t have to tell him that. Without him and a few others, the game might have died and been completely washed out in the U.K – Who knows.

What I do know, is you’re going to be hard pressed to find another player come out of Scotland and compete at his elite level.

Message to all the Scots at this present time: Prove me wrong.

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.

Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald.

 

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.

One on One with 2013/14 CHL Bodychecker of the Year, Kyle Bochek

By Ed Kimberley
Coventry, England

kinfdn02The next interview lined up for March Hockey’s partnership with the EIHL’s Coventry Blaze, is former Kingston Frontenac and 2013/14 Central league bodychecker of the year, Kyle Bochek. Bochek will bring the old school vibe to the Blaze lineup as he is a one of a kind pest. Pleased with Marc Lefevbre’s latest acquisition, Blaze correspondent Ed Kimberley caught up with Bocheck during this lengthy offseason.

EK: Kyle, I’d like to extend a huge welcome to the Coventry Blaze and thank you for taking the time to be a part of this series of interviews. How have you been spending the off season

Kyle Bochek: This off season I have been spending a lot of time in the gym conditioning using crossfit to improve my explosive power and strength. I have also been skating with a group of local pros near my hometown. In my off time I have been fishing, golfing and enjoying family and friends and am currently enjoying The Open.

EK: The EIHL/Central League have a lot of shared alumni, how did the move to Coventry come about and in doing your research did you ask advice from any former EIHLers?

KB: The move to Coventry came about by fielding offers from many European leagues. Through talking with my agent and Marc Lefevbre we gladly made the decision to sign in Coventry. The style of play in the EIHL suits my game and after researching the roster and the city of Coventry it made my decision very easy. I talked with a few friends who have played in the EIHL and received nothing but positive feedback on the hockey and Country.

EK: Playing the style of hockey you do, when it comes to the rivalry games (Nottingham in particular) is there a difference in how you view/approach these games?

8171341152_a0fc218c57
Photo: Daniel Russell)

KB: Personally I approach every game with the same mentality and focus. In rivalry games the intensity factor gets me a little more fired up. To me rivalry and playoff games are the most exciting and fun ones to play in. But as I have learned in talking with Coach Marc every game is so important during the season and should be approached with the same intensity.

EK:Tell us about the Checker of the Year award, growing up did you idolize a Scott Stevens type of player? How did this part of your game evolve?

KB: Receiving recognition for my physical style of play was a big honor for me last season. Growing up I idolized and fashioned my play after my favorite player Wendel Clark. The leadership, hard work, intensity, skill and willingness to not back down is something that I have tried to bring to my game my whole career. The passion and physicality he had playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs as captain when I was younger really influenced the way I play. Through my minor and junior hockey career I was always counted on to play physical and mix it up and as I moved on to professional hockey those assets of my game proved to be invaluable.

EK:Who was the toughest guy you have fought in your career so far and why?

KB: To be honest the toughest guy I ever fought was none other than new Blaze defenseman Craig Cescon. He throws hammers.

EK: You are coming off the back of a career year in points, are you looking for increased responsibility offensively?

KB: The coach has put together a team of players with different strengths that should compliment the teams play. I think that my style of play adds a physical dimension as well as the ability to create and finish offensively. Each year I strive to improve my offensive output and look forward to the challenge this season to continue to produce offensively.

Kyle Bochek (15)
Bocheck on Star Wars night. (Photo: Les Stockton)

EK: In your 2nd Press Release you mention you set a team goal of silverware but also a personal goal, what are your personal goals for the year?

KB:For me team always comes first. But personally, to gain the respect of my teammates and strive to improve in all facets of my game. The measure of success is how deep we can take this team in the later part of the season.

EK: With the roster almost complete what do you know about your teammates and how do you see this team’s style?

KB: From what I have seen of the team on paper and from what I have heard and read we have a very fast ,hardworking, physical and experienced group of players not to mention a monster between the pipes.

EK: Once again a big thank you Kyle, do you have any parting words for the fans?

KB: Thank you Ed. I hope that my style of play excites the Blue Army and let’s bring back a championship to Coventry.

One on One with former NHLer Steven Goertzen

(Photo: Trixie Larue, flickr)
(Photo: Trixie Larue, flickr)

Steven Goertzen has had a pretty impressive pro career. After a major junior run with the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds, the man from Alberta was drafted in the 7th round, 225th overall in the 2002 entry draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets. He spent time bouncing back and forth between Columbus and their AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. Goertzen had a brief stint with the Phoenix Coyotes and Carolina Hurricanes before heading overseas. After two seasons with M1 rival, the Sheffield Steelers, Goertzen has made the trek to Coventry to suit up for the Blaze for this coming season. March Hockey EIHL correspondent, Ed Kimberley caught up with Goertzen for a little chit chat.

By Ed Kimberley
Coventry, England
Ed Kimberley: How will you be spending your offseason?

Steven Goertzen: We spend our off season split between New York where my wife is originally from, and Edmonton, where I am originally from. Summers are usually very busy especially now that we have kids and everyone back home wants to make the most out of the short amount of time that we are back. I will be completing my dissertation as well this summer and I also run many different power skating camps around Edmonton. Needless to say, summers are pretty busy!

EK – I’d like to backtrack a few years to your days in the NHL, every kid growing up that plays hockey dreams one day they will make the show, can you describe how it felt?

SG – It’s obviously an amazing feeling and something that is difficult to describe. I think when you dedicate your life to something and you are fortunate enough to experience playing against guys that you idolized growing up it is extremely rewarding. I look back and I am just very thankful to be able to have those experiences and it is something I will never forget.

EK – What have you taken from your time in the biggest league in the world that is still in your playing style?

SG – Well I like to think that I am responsible on both ends of the ice. I take pride in doing a good job defensively and trying to play the game the right way. The biggest difference in the NHL is the players have an amazing ability to be consistent every night. I might not always have a great game but at the end of the day you want to prepare for each game to give yourself the best chance to be successful night in and night out.

EK – In the press release Coach Lefebvre said you and your agent contacted the Blaze, what attracted you to playing for Coventry?

SG – I have worked with Marc before and Ashley Tait as well, so it is always nice to know a few familiar faces when you come to a new team. I have heard a lot of good things about the organization from many different people so that was a big reason for coming here as well. I think that there is always a great atmosphere in the arena and hopefully we can put ourselves in a position to win some trophies.

(Photo: Trixie Larue, flickr)
(Photo: Trixie Larue, flickr)

EK – Marc made a big impact last year coming in mid-season having played for and against him tell us what kind of coach he is?

SG – Well when he was in Sheffield as the assistant coach he was in a different role, but as a head coach and in talking with him he is going to hold guys accountable. I think that Marc has a good feel for when to push guys and when not too which I think is extremely important in this league and I am sure he will get the best out of all his players.

EK – Would you say he’s building a team that matches his own personal attitudes of hard work and with a direct approach?

SG – Yes I am sure that he has been very busy and will continue to look to sign guys that are willing to come to play every night. It is obviously still early in the summer but I am sure Marc will do a great job putting our team together and steering us in the direction that we need to go.

EK – Having won the playoffs last year, can you describe what it takes to get there, what kind of team you need and how you think the Blaze are shaping up in comparison?

SG – There are obviously many challenges and ups and downs throughout a season and I think last year with Sheffield we were able to battle through some tough situations and stick together throughout the entire season. With the way that the playoff format is and the importance of every game you need to be playing your best leading up to the playoffs. I think that next year it will be important for us to trust the process and make sure everyone is on board and I think it will be an exciting year.

EK – Both Ryan O’Marra and yourself have spoke to former Blaze players who they’re friends with before signing…any chance you can help lure any of your former Columbus, Phoenix or Carolina team mates into coming over?

SG – Ha ha well I am sure that Ryan or I would not hesitate to put a few good words in here or there! Having said that, Marc knows what he is doing and I am sure he will put together a great team.

EK – Jokes aside, do you/expect to have much involvement in the recruitment process outside of giving references to players on the coach’s radar?

SG – I have been in contact with Marc and obviously if there is anything he would like me to do I would be more than willing to try and sway a guy to come and win with us if it would help.

(Photo: Trixie Larue, flickr)
(Photo: Trixie Larue, flickr)

EK – With the new rules regarding EU passport holder and dual nationals essentially allowing more imports to play in the league, how do you think this will change the EIHL?

SG – I am not sure to be honest, I know that it is an area of debate and it will be interesting to see how it plays out and I don’t pretend to be an expert on the matter. However, I think that in reality, there is a lot of quality British hockey players in this league and a lot of them make up the core of the teams that they are playing on. In my opinion I think that it would be a mistake for teams in the future if they were to undervalue what the British players bring to this league both on and off the ice.

EK – Do you have any words for blaze fans before we see you in September?

SG – I hope you guys enjoy your summer, and are looking forward to what looks to be an exciting season ahead!

One on One with former NHLer Ryan O’Marra

750px-Ryan_O'Marra_2011
(Photo: 5by7, Flickr)

By Ed Kimberley
Coventry, England

Ryan O’Marra might catch the name of some Canadian fans. The 27 year old center who was born in Tokyo, Japan was drafted 15th overall by the New York Islanders in the 2005 NHL entry draft. Electing to stay with the OHL’s Erie Otters, O’Marra exploded for 77 points in 61 games. He also racked up 134 penalty minutes. The team you might remember from however, is the Edmonton Oilers. After becoming well versed with the AHL, Edmonton came calling and O’Marra picked up more then a handful of games for the big club.

Here, March Hockey UK correspondent, Ed Kimberley caught up with O’Marra for a little chit chat on his recent signing with the EIHL’s Coventry Blaze.

 

Ed Kimberley: Firstly with a player of your pedigree, a former 1st success in European leagues, it looks like winning silverware follows you around. What would be the highlight(s) of your career so far and why?

Ryan O’Marra: The highlight of my career would be winning two World Junior, under-20, gold medals with Team Canada. As a young kid, I used to get up every Boxing Day and watch the first Canada game with my Dad. It’s something many Canadians can attest to doing. The World Junior tournament is something all young players in Canada aspire to be a part of. I was fortunate enough to play with two incredible teams and players like Jonathon Toews, Kris Letang, and Carey Price.

EK – You’ve been described as a player with an excellent two way game that can win key face-offs, kill penalties and ice during difficult shifts. Coach Lefebvre has already highlighted you will be looked to for these roles, how difficult was it to transition to this style of play when turning pro?

RO – It was an adjustment for sure. It is difficult to change roles leaving junior hockey in the OHL to pro hockey in the NHL/AHL. I was always an offensive player in the OHL and adjusting to the new speed of the professional level and attention to detail required was challenging. It took me two years to adjust to the role and earn the ice time necessary to be successful as a defensive centreman and penalty killer. Once that happened I experienced some success at the AHL level and earned some NHL time, especially in my fourth year.

(Photo: Bridget Samuels, flickr)
(Photo: Bridget Samuels, flickr)

EK – You’re not the first former NHL player to have signed for the Blaze this year, with former Columbus Blue Jacket and Phoenix Coyote Steven Goertzen also joining the club, who also is known for his two way game and work ethic. Your styles seem to match each others, so what type of players would you expect on your line to compliment your style?

RO – I have played with probably every type of player and a vast array of skill levels. I try to make the players around me better, no matter what skill-set they bring to the table.

EK – You spoke to former Championship winning Blaze Defenceman and fan favourite, also a former junior teammate of yours Brian Lee prior to signing. You touched on this in a previous press release, but what exactly did he tell you about the club, city and fan-base?

RO – Brian was my assistant captain my rookie year in the OHL, and then I served as an assistant captain when he took over the ‘C’ my second year. We also played together in my rookie year of pro hockey in the ECHL, during my brief stint with the Stockton Thunder. He is the kind of guy who exudes leadership and is someone who everyone likes being around. His on-ice work ethic was incredible. So it was natural to ask him about his time with Coventry. He raved about the fan base, city, and organization. He told me in no uncertain terms that I would not regret signing with the Blaze. His opinion is certainly one I value.

EK – With rosters throughout the league starting to take shape who do you see as being the main challengers so far? The proof will undoubtedly be in the pudding, but the Blaze last season were accused of being inconsistent, with the return of coach Lefebvre and a new look roster, to what extent do you think these accusations have been addressed?

RO – The past is in the past, I can’t speak to what went on last season. Its a new-look team and I am excited for the new season. As far as challengers, I have no idea. I think its more important that we come together early as a team and take each game as it comes. It’s better to focus internally rather than externally.

EK – While in the World Junior Championships you took part in some fierce rival games with neighbour nation the USA, the Blaze have a few hot rivalries throughout the league particularly the Nottingham Panthers, what have you heard about this rivalry, do you approach these games differently and do you look forward to them?

omRO – I played with David Ling last season in Italy. He gave me some insight into the rivalry. I have always enjoyed playing in games with a lot of emotion. So I am looking forward to our first meeting.

EK – With the contract signed and next season set, what do you do to prepare for the new season?

RO – I just do what I always have, train and skate throughout the summer.

EK – Do you have any final words for Blaze fans before you see them in September?

RO – I am looking forward to seeing, in person, the passion and support I have heard so much about from the Blaze fans.