Fan Voice: Craig Summerton and the Coventry Blaze

Craig Summerton is a die-hard Coventry Blaze fan who also runs his own blog dedicated to hockey of the United Kingdom. It might be new but his post gives an in-depth look at Team Great Britain and the Blaze in general. He gives me a look at the Blaze, how they will cope with the loss of Captain Shea Guthrie, and how they continue to Bleed Blue.

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

Craig Summertown (middle) with Blaze players Adam Calder and Joel Poirier (Twitter: @block15blaze)
Craig Summertown (middle) with Blaze players Adam Calder and Joel Poirier (Twitter: @block15blaze)

Craig Summerton: Born and bred in Coventry, living and working in London. Coventry Blaze season ticket holder so every game is an away game for me. On recommendation from a friend I attended one of the first Blaze games at the Skydome and I’ve been hooked ever since.

MH: What makes you a passionate fan of the Coventry Blaze and the EIHL in general?

175px-CoventryBlazeCS: I used to be a Coventry City season ticket holder but after attending a few ice hockey games my passion quite quickly shifted to the Blaze. After my first season of ice hockey, the Coventry City season ticket wasn’t renewed (sorry for my part in the state that club are in today!) and I found myself travelling around the country following the Blaze most weekends. I enjoy being part of a fairly small community of UK hockey fans, I’ve met life long friends of all ages through ice hockey. One of the big attractions of the sport for me is how it breaks down age barriers. I’m 29, one of my best friends who I met through hockey is 82. It really makes no difference. I like the fact that fans of all teams, can make friends and come together after a game without fear of trouble. Can you imagine bringing ten sets of football supporters into one venue for a whole weekend like we do in the UK for the playoff weekend? Mixed with alcohol, it would be chaos. It’s a shame more ‘closed minded’ football fans won’t give ice hockey a chance in the UK.

 
FC41E0E0-B175-44F2-B6E7A758CC5D4ABC_H234_W407The EIHL has taken a lot of criticism over the years (deservedly so in the most part) but I certainly wouldn’t want to go back to the old British National League days in which Coventry used to compete or indeed for my club to move to the current EPL. Don’t get me wrong, the EPL has its merits & some of my best hockey memories come from the days when Blaze competed in the BNL. However, I feel that the EIHL as a ‘product’ is a major step up in quality over the old BNL and current EPL and that’s where I want my team to compete. The level of import being recruited to play in the EIHL seems to be improving each and every year. Many clubs have done a good job forging links with local Universities in order to offer high calibre pros the opportunity to study and play. Younger guys from across the pond seem to be using the league as a stepping stone to get into the higher paying Euro leagues and British players appear to be reaching levels beyond what we have seen in the past. The ever-widening gap between the rich and poor in the league is a worry but the introduction of the conference system (with the prospect of tweaks in future years!) has to be considered a success. Continue reading “Fan Voice: Craig Summerton and the Coventry Blaze”

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Fan Voice: Kevin Alcock and the NZIHL

The latest in our Fan Voice series features Kevin Alcock and his passion for the New Zealand Ice Hockey League. He is a proud hockey fan and takes me down under to the world of the NZIHL.

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

Kevin Alcock. Twitter: @kevinnz
Kevin Alcock. Twitter: @kevinnz

Kevin Alcock: I live in Christchurch, New Zealand. I played roller/inline hockey at high school. I went to my first NHL game in 1988 ( Kings v Canucks), soon after I found myself living in Vancouver, BC and started play social hockey. Survived the 1994 riot on Robson Street and I’ve been hooked for life.

MH: Does the NZIHL do enough to promote the league/teams and to involve the fans?

KA: I believe they do the best job they can with their limited resources. The Devils make the local paper after their games, which is very good as hockey is a very minor sport in New Zealand.

MH: Can you give a brief description of the Skate of Origin for our readers?

KA: New Zealand is made up of 2 major islands, North and South (yes us Kiwis have a great imagination). Skaters represent their home island in an annual game. As you imagine the rivalry between North and South is very intense across all sporting codes, so bragging rights are always sought after.

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

Trevor Linden (Photo: canucks.nhl.com)
Trevor Linden (Photo: canucks.nhl.com)

KA: After living in Vancouver for so long it is the Canucks, however I have a huge soft spot for the Leafs. People love or hate him, but I’m a huge Roberto Luongo fan, but Trevor Linden is my all time favourite as he represented what I believe a hockey player should be.

MH: Does New Zealand cover enough NHL? What would be your ultimate game to see?

KA: Hell no! Kiwi’s are great lovers of sport and if they actually could see more hockey it would give our local hockey a boost. I subscribe to NHL Game Center Live which allows me to see all the NHL I want or listen to radio broadcasts if I’m at work. Would love to see a Canada/Russia final in Sochi in 2014.

MH: Who are you pulling for in the NZIHL for the championship this season?

KA: The Canterbury Red Devils! Are there any other teams?!

If you’re a passionate hockey fan and want to represent your team or league, get in touch with me on twitter @MarchHockey or facebook, http://www.facebook.com/MarchHockey

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!