Fan Voice: Mark Woodcock AKA “The Angry Budgie” and the Manchester Phoenix/Phoenix Coyotes

Mark Woodcock comes to us from the United Kingdom and happens to be a rare breed of fan. By that I mean, a fan of of the Phoenix Coyotes. I had to get into the mind of a Phoenix fan. (No disrespect to Manchester haha).

March Hockey: Where are you located and how did you get into hockey?

ced8ffbe97f0a638714f6d94f231820aMark Woodcock: I live in a small town called Macclesfield not too far from Manchester Airport and really got into hockey from birth, by my parents. My mum was a physio for our local Ice Hockey team the Trafford Metro’s so, my brother and I, went to hockey games in the pram! It was natural that I began to play the sport too, have loved the game ever since!

MH: What makes you a passionate fan of the Manchester Phoenix?

MW: They are my team, I have been a supporter of Ice Hockey in/around Manchester since my birth and, the Phoenix are the current incarnation. I have been their since the birth of the current Phoenix and, through the two years the team were put on ice while a new Ice Rink was built. There is a real community and fan orientated passion about this club. A shared sense of pain through the years that stands the club in a good place for the future.

MH: Who is the one player that really stands out on the team and why?

TonyHandMW: I was going to say one of the import forwards, you know the guys who score all the goals. But at this level players don’t usually stick around for multiple seasons. There is one name, however, that has stuck around, possibly the greatest hockey player our small island has produced, Tony Hand. While he may be the wrong side of 40 this man still puts up multi point games every season. He is the lifeblood of the club, any player who is on the same line as him, will have a career year in points! I’m sure I could score 100pts a season if he was assisting!

MH: How does the EPIHL do in terms of fan interaction?

MW: The EPL is largely a development league so is only really semi-professional. That goes for the off-ice staff as well as the players, as a result the fan interaction can only go as far as a small budget will allow. That being said clubs do their very best. Everyone will do a meet the players event, Christmas parties and end of season parties. Along with numerous player signings after a game for example. So, I guess, there is quite a good level of interaction. Continue reading “Fan Voice: Mark Woodcock AKA “The Angry Budgie” and the Manchester Phoenix/Phoenix Coyotes”

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Fan Voice: Mike Walls and the Milton Keynes Lightning

Milton_Keynes_Lightning_LogoThe Milton Keynes Lightning are a bright team in the English Premier League. One of their passionate fans, Mike Walls,  took the time to answer some questions about the team and league for me! Their season gets underway this week.

March Hockey: Where are you located and how did you get into hockey?

Mike Walls: I am located in the new town of Milton Keynes, which is pretty much right in the middle between Birmingham and London. I got into hockey supporting the MK Kings and then the MK Lightning, after the Kings relocated to Solihull. A friend at school played junior hockey in MK, and his dad was involved with the team, and they took me to my first game, MK Kings v Telford. I don’t remember much about the game, except the Kings won. I went to a game a few years later (Kings v Basingstoke) with my dad, then the rink shut. Two years later it reopened and I spent most Saturday nights of my teenage life watching hockey.

MH: What makes you a passionate fan of the MK Lightning?

Twitter: @Mike_Walls_esq
Twitter: @Mike_Walls_esq

MW: Without wanting to sound too cheesy, being a MK Lightning fan is like being in a family. The players are great with the fans and always chat to supporters, they are also really appreciative of the support, the fans are close and home or away always get behind the team. The management are open and honest, and we have a fantastic supporters club that raises a massive amount of money for the team every season. The MK Barmy Army are known throughout UK hockey as a loud bunch, which suits me fine, as I normally found chanting and banging the drum. Also, as a MK born and bred lad, I can relate to this team made up of local players who love the town and team that started in Milton Keynes, rather than the MK Dons football team which moved to MK from Wimbledon. Continue reading “Fan Voice: Mike Walls and the Milton Keynes Lightning”

Fan Voice: Matthew Gunstone and the Bracknell Bees Supporters Club

1236115_10151904777665407_2000159742_nMatthew 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?

1017001_10151904785725407_661376059_nMG: 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. Continue reading “Fan Voice: Matthew Gunstone and the Bracknell Bees Supporters Club”

Fan Voice: George Royle and the Swindon Wildcats, Dallas Stars

(Twitter: @george_royle)
(Twitter: @george_royle)

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?

Swindon_Wildcats_LogoGR: 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?

Jonas HoogGR: 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”!! Continue reading “Fan Voice: George Royle and the Swindon Wildcats, Dallas Stars”

Fan Voice: Matt Freedman and the Manchester Phoenix

The Manchester Phoenix were originally apart of the EIHL before moving over to the EPIHL. Matt Freedman is a die hard Phoenix fan who volunteers his time on game nights and tries his best to promote the game of hockey and recruit new fans.

March Hockey: Where are you located and how did you get into hockey?

Matt Freedman.
Matt Freedman.

Matt Freedman: I live in Manchester and got in to hockey as a result of playing hockey games on my old mega-drive (we all know which game I mean!). I decided I had to see this sport and went down to the old ice rink with my brother to watch the Trafford Metros, who were in the BD1 league back in 1993. I was blown away by the whole thing, and became hooked instantly. I fell out of love with the sport when the team became the Manchester Storm and moved to the arena. This may sound strange but I’d got so used to being really close to the action, and being around people who knew their hockey. The Storm just didn’t feel that way and I stopped going regularly.

MH: What makes you a passionate fan of the Manchester Phoenix?

New-phoenix-logo07MF: The same as makes any fan passionate I think. It’s a great sport played by proper sportsmen who know how to behave off the ice. The club has a great fan base, management team, product and atmosphere and I look forward to each game of the season like a kid on Christmas Eve! I volunteer on match nights and try to make the match night a great experience for all the newbies. It’s very satisfying to see a family come down time after time when you were part of their first game night. Continue reading “Fan Voice: Matt Freedman and the Manchester Phoenix”

Fan Voice: Anthony Russell and the Basingstoke Bison, Third Tier German Hockey

(Twitter: 84arussell)
(Twitter: 84arussell)

Anthony Russell is a passionate hockey fan with incredible hockey knowledge. We all know my obsession with Germany (if you don’t, now you do and don’t ask why.) and I jumped at the chance to learn more about the game there when Anthony asked to lend me a hand. Even if it is third tier, it’s a good look at seeing where hockey fits in Deutschland.

Along with giving me a great look at another EPIHL team, the Basingstoke Bison, Anthony runs his own blog covering the team and league itself. You can find that here.
March Hockey: Where are you located and how did you get into hockey?

LogoBasingstokeBisonAnthony Russell: I’ll take the second part of that first; I studied German at university which necessitated living there for a bit and I moved over in 2004. I lived in Rostock which is a town on the coast of the Baltic Sea and used to be part of communist East Germany. I walked to the end of the road and saw a poster that said “Neue Futterzeit, Sonntag 19 Uhr, REC Piranhas, Eishalle Schillingallee”. I went along, fell in love with Rostock Piranhas (and I still am) and it’s a love affair that’s lasted 10 years. When I left Germany to come back and finish my degree I realised I wanted to keep watching ice hockey. I had two choices; either get a bus to a train to a boat to go to the Isle of Wight and watch the Wightlink Raiders or get on a train to Basingstoke to see the Bison. That was November 2005 and I’ve been a mutual Piranhas and Bison fan ever since.

MH: What makes you a passionate fan of the Bison and of Rostock?

rostock_piranhasAR: I’m a sucker for punishment? In all seriousness I’m passionate about both teams for different reasons. I’m passionate about Rostock because they were my first connection to the sport. I fell into that and this weird English speaking dude has been embraced by people and the club. Basingstoke was my choice. I had a choice of a couple of places and that was the one I chose, albeit for convenience because I was a poor university student at the time but I chose them and stuck with it. We have won a sum total of zero trophies (sorry folks, the Oliverra 4on4 tournament doesn’t count) been in 2 cup finals that we lost, been to one finals weekend where we got knocked out in the semi final on sudden death penalties, nearly been bust twice but I keep going back. The sport and this club and the people I’ve met keep me going back. Continue reading “Fan Voice: Anthony Russell and the Basingstoke Bison, Third Tier German Hockey”

One on One with Peterborough Phantoms’ Nathan Pollard

(www.peterboroughphantoms.co.uk)
(www.peterboroughphantoms.co.uk)

Nathan Pollard is a fiesty defenceman who’s been playing with the Peterborough Phantoms of the EPIHL for the past 3 years. At 20 years old, he’s a definite force on solid player on the team.

March Hockey: Growing up, what player was the biggest influence on your style of play and why?

Nathan Pollard: There isn’t really any players that I based my style of play on, because when I was younger like everybody else your favourite player most of the time would either be the big goalscorer or the fighter! However 2 coaches have helped my progress as a player throughout my hockey career which are Jon Kynaston and Stevie Johnson. These guys have coached me since I started playing at the age of 9 and still now, Jon is teaching me ways to better my game every time I step on the ice.

MH: What was it like to be a part of the U18 championship?

NP: It was a good experience for the team and for me as a player, we didn’t play as well as we had first hoped. But we had a great team that year and played well all season to get there.

MH: Where would you like to see your hockey career go from here?

NP: I haven’t really thought about it to much, having just turned 20 I still (hopefully) have many years of playing ahead of me, so I’m just taking every season as it comes! I’d love to become a Peterborough legend and get my shirt on the wall with the other greats that have played in Peterborough colours! However it would be a dream to play in the EIHL or another top European league. Continue reading “One on One with Peterborough Phantoms’ Nathan Pollard”

Fan Voice: Paul England and the Sheffield Steeldogs/EPIHL

The latest in our Fan Voice series where we feature passionate fans from across the globe on what makes them cheer for the teams and leagues that they do.

Paul England (who also resides there) is a die hard Sheffield Steeldogs fan. He is also a proud supporter of the AIHL and NZIHL. He gives me an in-depth look at the tier 2 league in the U.K.

March Hockey: Where are you located and how did you get interested in hockey?

(Paul England. Twitter: @inges245)
(Paul England. Twitter: @inges245)

Paul England: I am from the UK and live in a town called Huddersfield which is in West Yorkshire. I first got interested in hockey when I was at high school. My PE teacher was Canadian and always went on about the sport. So one day I phoned up my local Ice rink to get some information about the local team. A few days later I went to see my first hockey game. It was the Bradford Bulldogs v Haringay Greyhounds and the year was 1985. From then I was hooked and watched and helped out at the Bradford Bulldogs games.  I was the DJ for the junior games for a few years which was really good fun. I left the club after 4 years but to this day the Bradford Bulldogs are still going strong and have a really good junior system that is doing really well.

MH: What makes you a passionate fan of the EPIHL compared to the EIHL?

(www.sheffieldsteeldogs.co.uk)
(www.sheffieldsteeldogs.co.uk)

PE: For me the fact that the EPIHL is a league that is mainly of British players really is the key. The teams are only allowed to ice 4/5 imports which really helps the development of the British players. Even though it is a semi professional league, the standard of hockey is really good and it keeps improving every year. The other thing about the EPIHL is I like the style of hockey that is played. It’s  more of a British based style of hockey compared to the EIHL which is a more North American style. I think the EIHL is also very overrated. They have 11/12 imports per team which dosen’t help the sport develop over here at all. In my view they should be working with the EPIHL teams in order to bring the British players through to play in the EIHL which in turn would bring better results for the National team and more coverage on the TV and Radio. Continue reading “Fan Voice: Paul England and the Sheffield Steeldogs/EPIHL”

A Fan’s Perspective: Ben Thompson and British hockey

Along with getting a player’s perspective on the game, it’s usually more interesting to get a fans point of view. The fan is the most integral part of hockey. It keeps the business of hockey thriving. Without the fans, you have no team or league. And without the league well, there’s no game.

This is the first of what I hope to be many features on fans of the game throughout the world. It intrigues me to know how they got hooked onto the game and if you haven’t figured out by now, how the game thrives in their area of the world.

My first installment is with Ben Thompson of England. Follow him on twitter, @BenThompson84

Ben Thompson. Twitter: @BenThompson84
Ben Thompson. Twitter: @BenThompson84

March Hockey: Where are you located and how did you get interested in hockey?

Ben Thompson: I live in Doncaster, England, around 20 miles from Sheffield. My interest in hockey started in 1996 when we were taken to see the Sheffield Steelers on a school trip; totally hooked from there. (March’s note: Pretty kickass school. Never did that here in Canada!)

 

MH: What makes you a passionate fan of the EPIHL compared to the EIHL?

Jeff Legue. Sheffield Steelers.
Jeff Legue. Sheffield Steelers.

BT: Well, as I said, my first team were the Steelers, possibly one of the top two biggest clubs in the UK. I saw them win titles & beat a team 18-1. In 2010 I saw them beat Cardiff 4-2 in a game where NOTHING happened in the 3rd. I needed a change. I went to see the Steeldogs in the division below; a hard working team packed with local players, only 3 imports…fights, high scores; cheaper tickets, cheaper beer, more passion, a family club…I was home. Although there are a few teams with big money in the EPIHL, it doesn’t effect the result of the league half as much as the EIHL, which makes the top division predictably boring.

MH: Who is your favourite EPIHL team and player? Why?

Greg Wood. Sheffield Steeldogs.
Greg Wood. Sheffield Steeldogs.

BT: Sheffield Steeldogs. Local team, home grown players, hard working ‘blue collar’ mentality. We’re hated for our physical tactics, which I love. Player wise, Greg Wood. Leader, Sheffield lad, skillful & brave. Reflects the club.
(Quick mention for Andy Hirst; from my hometown, ever improving, without a doubt a future ‘A’ & ‘C’)

MH: Does the EPIHL or the teams of the league in general do enough to incorporate fan interaction or to keep fans interested?

BT: I feel like an integral part of my club; the owner knows me on first name terms. The club look after their fans & work hard to engage people in the brand, but have a tough job with the Steelers been 500 metres away. Other EPIHL have good websites & Twitter but the EPIHL must work harder to push the league by incorporating a relevant EPIHL website & push media through YouTube or maybe even TV.

MH: If you were to change one thing about the league, what would it be and why?

BT: Usher the Guildford Flames into the EIHL. Financially they make the league a bit disjointed.

MH: Let’s talk NHL. Who’s your favourite team and player and why?

 

Jarome Iginla. (Photo credit: Hockey Broad. flickr.)
Jarome Iginla. (Photo credit: Hockey Broad. flickr.)

BT: I have a soft spot for the Calgary Flames (Not covered in glory last season). It all goes back to NHL 94 on the Sega. I also have Canadian relatives in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan,  so it has to be a Canadian team. Favourite player – Iginla (See career..Haha)

MH: How do you think the NHL could market itself better for fans over in Europe?

BT: More TV coverage – maybe Sky or BT Sport. Adopt an NFL style UK game, maybe at the MEN arena in front of 18,000.

Thanks so much Ben for giving your perspective on the game in England. If you are a passionate hockey fan, I want to hear from you! Send me a tweet on twitter @MarchHockey or a message on facebook, http://www.facebook.com/MarchHockey!

EPIHL – The Teams of the English Premier Ice Hockey League

A few weeks I profiled a team from this league, the Sheffield Steeldogs. Now it’s time to have a look at what the whole league has to offer.

The EPIHL is 10 team professional league situated in England that is second to the EIHL. The league allows it’s teams to dress 4 or 5 imports per game in a 54 game season. Here’s a bit of background on each team:

Basingstoke Bison

LogoBasingstokeBisonFormed in 1988, the Basingstoke Bison play in Basingstoke Hampshire and plays out of the Planet Ice Silverdome Arena. They didn’t join the league until 2009. The club has 2 Canadians signed up for this coming season so far as they continue to build their roster. Their logo is very similar to the old Buffalo Sabres logo of years past.

Bracknell Bees

Bracknell_Bees_logoThe Bracknell Bees play out of the John Nike Leisuresport Complex (also known as “the Hive”) and wear black and gold. Another long time club that was formed in 1987, they have won numerous championships.

Guilford Flames

LogoGuildfordFlamesThe current EPIHL champions, the Guilford Flames have seen NHL talent amongst it’s roster. Retired goaltender Jamie McLennan and retired forward David  Oliver called Guilford home during the 2005 lockout. A few members of Great Britain’s national team also play for the Flames. They play out of the Guilford Spectrum in Guilford, Surrey.

Manchester Phoenix

New-phoenix-logo07The Manchester Phoenix were originally formed in 2003 as apart of the Elite league (EIHL). They play out of the Altrincham Ice Dome after their original spot of the 17,500 MEN Arena proved to be too much financially. Former Kingston Frontenac and New Jersey Devils draft pick, Brett Clouthier holds the record for most penalty minutes.

Milton Keynes Lightning

Milton_Keynes_Lightning_LogoFounded in 2002, the Milton Keynes Lightning were originally apart of the EIHL but choose to compete in the EPIHL instead. For the 2013/2014 season, they will be playing out of Coventry. The team has won numerous titles over the years as well.

Peterborough Phantoms

LogoPeterboroughPhantomsThe Phantoms were formed in 2002 and were the winners of the first Premier cup. Former Florida Panther Chris Allen spent two years with the team. Another fun fact: while with the Kingston Frontenacs, Allen was the first ever to score in the CHL Top Prospects game.

Sheffield Steeldogs

Steeldog Logo sand latest

Headmanned by a guy from my hometown, Andrew Payette, I dedicated a whole entire post to the Steeldogs! Go take a look here.

Slough Jets

sjThe Jets were the 2012 EPIHL champions and play out of the greatly named Hangar. Gary Stefan (older brother of former Detroit Red Wings netminder Greg Stefan) holds franchise records for most points, goals and assists. A feat that may not be matched.

Swindon Wildcats

Swindon_Wildcats_LogoThe Swindon Wildcats play out of the Link Centre and formed in 1986. They hold two regular season titles under their belt. Canadian player Daryl Lipsey, coached and played for the team for 8 seasons. The Wildcats honoured Lipsey with the retirement of his number 14.

Telford Tigers

Telfordtigers_logoThe Tigers are one of the newest teams in England having formed in 2001. Although they have struggled, they have knocked off some wins against some of the stronger teams in the league, proving that they can and will be a successful team in the future.