One on One with Dunedin Thunder captain Andre Robichaud

By Casey Lucas
Dunedin, New Zealand

The 2012-13 NZIHL season was a big one for the Dunedin Thunder. The team has yet to win a Birgel Cup and last year’s heartbreaking loss to the Canterbury Red Devils was their first NZIHL Final appearance since the team’s inception in 2008. Aside from the obvious, the reason why this loss was so gutting was because their regular season went so well. Their 8-4 regulation record was tied for best in the NZIHL, and when it came to OT wins, they actually had the tiebreaker over Canterbury, as the Thunder didn’t lose a single overtime game in ‘13.

Dunedin_Thunder_logoFortunately for the Thunder, a new year brings with it new opportunity. The majority of the team’s roster is set to return this season, which is promising given their on-ice chemistry last year. New additions from Canada and Finland will augment the team’s roster on the front and back end. The team has lost talented young goaltender Aston Brookes as he returns home to Queenstown’s Southern Stampede, but other than that their core talent was retained. Thunder fans have a lot to look forward to.

I caught up with Thunder’s Captain Andre Robichaud to discuss the past, the future, the roster, and more. And while he was hesitant to make any Claude Giroux-style prognostications about the season, he is optimistic about his club.

He told me via email that expectations are high but the team are under no illusions that winning is a given. He’s instructing his young team to take games one at a time, one weekend at a time, and his personal strategy is to “control what you can control with preparation and commitment and put yourself in a good position come the tail end of the season.”

A physical forward who doesn’t shy away from battles along the boards, Robichaud has played for the Thunder since moving to Dunedin three years ago. Though he was born and raised in British Columbia, Robichaud is Kiwi-Canadian by descent and as such doesn’t count as an import for the New Zealand league. This makes him a special bonus by NZIHL standards, as the limit of four import players per team means that teams must choose carefully when dressing international players.

(Photo: Gerard O'Brien)
(Photo: Gerard O’Brien)

As far as his hockey pedigree goes, Robichaud’s resume definitely reads more Canadian than New Zealander: he played in BC with the Tri Port Minor Hockey Association, growing up in the North Island Eagles peewee, bantam, and midget hockey programs. He also has BCHL experience under his belt as a member of the Merritt Centennials and the Victoria Salsa.

When I asked about his NHL preferences, Robichaud admits he’s a Vancouver Canucks fan, although “that has been tested over the last few years.” His age shows a bit when he talks about the players he admired growing up, but in the best way: “I’ve always liked the complete players, guys who can play in any situation. Steve Yzerman, Rod Brind’Amour, Mike Peca. I guess these days its your Toews, Bergeron type players.”

After his final year as a player with Victoria, Robichaud tried his hand at assistant coaching for a season. Then life and a relocation to New Zealand got in the way of hockey for a while, but the 39-year-old says that after he moved to Dunedin, he “walked into the rink, got straight onto Craigslist to get some gear and started playing again.”

His twelve-year hockey absence must not have had too damaging an effect, as he was named NZIHL’s Rookie of the Year for 2011-12.

I asked him what he brings to the team aside from just his physical game, which is something Thunder manager Drew McMillan praised in our correspondence. “As I’m turning forty this year,” Robichaud writes, “I bring the average age up from seventeen years to twenty-six.” Obviously a joke. “No, seriously, I do bring it up.” Well that counts for something!

But in all seriousness: “I guess [I bring] some life experience to our dressing room, a bit of experience around the game and systems to complement coach’s systems, and a good honest effort each game.”

When asked about the biggest leadership challenges he’s faced so far as Captain, he had this to say: “The NZIHL is an amateur league with thoughts and dreams of becoming a professional league. So trying to balance work, family, and sometimes five nights a week at the rink can be quite challenging for all players. You always want 100% commitment from yourself and other team members but the realities of life come into play and expectations/goal posts need to sometimes be moved.”

Further along this line, we discussed the unique challenges of playing in New Zealand, especially as someone who has experience with the Canadian system: “My own views are that the greatest challenges will be with participation numbers and affordability. In Canada the smallest town will have an ice rink so you don’t have to live in the city i.e. Aucks [Auckland], CHCH [Christchurch], Dunnas [Dunedin] or Qtown [Queenstown] to be able to play. Hearing that Hamilton (New team name the Hamiltoes!) is getting a rink is a good thing, but the game will always be a minor sport for funding and participation until this changes.”

Of course, it isn’t all bad. New Zealand’s unique location and league make-up gives players a chance to play hockey during a time of year when most import players would otherwise be simply training or making plans for next North American season. Robichaud says one of his favourite parts of playing away games in Auckland is taking import players to see palm trees, singlets, and jandals in the winter. What’s a jandal, Canadian readers might ask? That’s the New Zealand term for flip-flops. Don’t ask.

Paris Heyd (Photo: Stephen Jaquiery.)
Paris Heyd (Photo: Stephen Jaquiery.)

Robichaud is grounded when he describes what fans can expect to see from the Thunder in 2014: “The 2014 Dunedin Thunder are definitely a deeper team than last season. I hate to make guarantees as such because you have zero control on other teams additions, subtractions, etc. We are well coached, have great goaltending, we’ve got a couple game breakers on D and up front.”

One of those game breakers is teammate Paris Heyd. “Gino [Paris] in my opinion is the most complete player in the league, import or Kiwi, and at times can take a team on his back,” Robichaud writes. The stats back him up: last season Heyd tallied 8G and 20A for a total of 28 points in only 16 games. He and Robichaud both scored goals in the Thunder’s NZIHL Final loss to the Red Devils last year.

The Captain is also impressed with the progression of Thunder’s younger players: “… the development of some of the young fellas, Jacob Hurring, Joe Orr, Tristan Darling in particular. Watching the local talent maturing is great for Dunedin and NZ hockey.”

That is important as the NZIHL has existed for ten years now. Many of the League’s longest-serving veterans are into their thirties, and Queenstown’s Southern Stampede recently lost their veteran Captain Simon Glass to retirement. The U18 and U20 development programs in New Zealand are an important source of new players for the NZIHL just as the NZIHL itself is an important place for development and training for the country’s national team, the Ice Blacks.

In addition to the homegrown young players from New Zealand, Robichaud had great things to say about Dunedin’s newest imports, Kolten Fyfe and Jesse Kantanen.

He describes Fyfe, a forward who hails from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan as a quality fella with great hands, good at finding open ice to fire off shots. Fyfe is a product of the Prairie Junior Hockey League and spent three years with the Saskatoon Westleys. He also spent some time in the FCHL with the Dalmeny Fury and was a greater than point-per-game player in every single one of his PJHL and FCHL regular seasons. This year marks his first in the NZIHL, and the Thunder are thrilled to have him.

jfHPFdSMJesse Kantanen is a Finnish defenseman and Robichaud is impressed with his professional mentality and approach. And also his “great wheels.” Kantanen will be a great addition to the already-rocksteady Thunder blueline, which was key to the team’s success last season. Though Kantanen was born in 1989, he’s got nine years of experience in Finnish leagues and tournaments, including a 2011-12 Suomi-sarja Championship. The Suomi-sarja is Finland’s third-highest level of hockey, and a player with that level of competition can bring a lot to the Thunder locker room.

Overall, the impression I got from my correspondence with Andre Robichaud is that the team are optimistic, but it is a cautious optimism that is well-grounded in an understanding of how predictable the NZIHL can be. While the NZIHL Final has been extended to a best-of-three series this year, the regular season remains only sixteen games long. That means the Thunder–and their Captain–must ensure every game counts.

My thanks to Andre Robichaud for his time, as well as to Dunedin Thunder manager Drew McMillan for making this interview possible. The NZIHL season kicks off this weekend, but the Thunder have a bye. Their first games are on the 14th and 15th of June against Auckland’s Botany Swarm.

NZIHL games can be streamed online at Livestream (http://new.livestream.com/nzihl) and the website Stuff.co.nz will now be embedding a ‘game of the week’ every Sunday.

The heartwarming story of the Canberra Brave

Screen-Shot-2014-03-24-at-6.37.41-pm-640x360For us Canadians, when one thinks of Australia, one doesn’t correlate hockey to the country. In regards to sports, we think of rugby, softball or anything to do with the water. However, hockey has been played in some variation for over a hundred years down in the Southern Hemisphere. In fact, the Goodall Cup, which the teams of the 14 year Australian Ice Hockey League play for, is the third oldest hockey trophy in the world.

The first reported case of ice hockey came in Melbourne as a local team squared off against an American crew fresh off the USS Baltimore. That one game took place in 1906 and sparked a hockey passion with the Aussies.

The story of the Canberra Brave starts with its predecessor, the Canberra Knights. The Knights came to fruition in 1981 by a bunch of former hockey players who had no place to play in the area. They played out of the then New South Wales Superleague, out of Sydney. For 13 years, the Knights struggled but gained more than a handful of hockey experience. One young lad, originally from Canada, had a standout year and managed to be drafted by the Detroit Red Wings. He landed himself the third string goalie spot and hung on to a Stanley Cup victory in 2002.

Canberra_Knights_LogoCanberra continued to grow its ice hockey prowess by playing in the East Coast Super League for five years after the demolition of the NSWSL. When a national league came into light in the year 2000, the Knights, and two others squads made the foundation of the Australian Ice Hockey League that we know today. Continue reading “The heartwarming story of the Canberra Brave”

One on One with Justin Findlay, the Canterbury Red Devils and the NZIHL

jfHPFdSMIn just over a week’s time, the New Zealand Ice Hockey League will be celebrating and kicking off it’s 10th season. As always, March Hockey will have complete coverage of this monumental occasion as best as I possibly can from here in Eastern Canada.

The defending champs, the Canterbury Red Devils have a bold new look with new jerseys to fend off the competition. (You’ll have to tune into the game to catch them. They’re gorgeous.) I caught up with friend of the blog, goaltender Justin Findlay on what lays ahead for the boys in red.

March Hockey: It’s early but what do you think the Red Devils will have to do to repeat as champions yet again? How are the imports looked at to help the team?

Justin Findlay: As a team we will have to come together both defensively and offensively for the entire 60 minutes. We are known for being able to score in bunches, but we also need to have a strong focus on defensive play. Our imports are looked to as leaders on and off the ice and we take a lot from having them here for the short season. Imports have always been an important feature of the NZIHL; helping local players develop, as well as being able to have the opportunity to play and practice alongside professional players. Some of the imports we have had/have in the NZIHL have been drafted into leagues as high as the NHL and have played with/against players we idolize.

971646_10151901929437345_1204126200_nMH: What kind of system does your new coach have in place? Is it difficult to transition from different coaches year after year?

JF: Coach Rout has been around NZ ice-hockey playing and coaching for almost 20 years; he has been a valuable piece of the Red Devils team since 2012 and his transition to head coach has gone as smooth as anyone could imagine. We all respect him through his time as player and coach and we all believe that he is the right man for the job.

MH: For yourself, how do you see your play for the upcoming season?

JF: All I want is an opportunity to help the boys win some games this season. Last season was not the greatest personally, but I am still proud to be a part of the defending NZIHL champs.

(Photo credit: nzihl.com)
(Photo credit: nzihl.com)

MH: How have you prepared through the off-season?

JF: The NZIHL season ended last August and I started training in September doing 2 months of cardio based training with another Red Devils member Josh Greenwood.  I then transitioned to doing weights and strength work and have been in the gym 6 times a week since Christmas as well as training on the ice 2 times per week. With the lack of actual ice time, we try to do workouts that simulate trainings/games and that will benefit us the most when we actually get on the ice.

MH: Should the rest of the league be ready to take on the new and improved Red Devils?

JF: I believe we have the most talent in the league at any position. We have a group of core guys that have been with the team for 6-8 years now and with the added imports we will always be a threat to any team. With that being said, I look forward to a competitive season this year!

The Canterbury Red Devils are in action with the first game of the NZIHL season, June 7th when the Southern Stampede invade the Alpine Ice arena in Christchurch.

It’s time to bring back the World Cup of Hockey

World_Cup_HockeyOfficiating always comes under subjective scrutiny in any sport. As the sport continues to grow and get bigger and as games get more meaningful, we tend to focus more on the rule enforcers. In international competition, politics come into play and at the very worse can taint your sport for life.

The International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships just wrapped up their 2014 tournament in Minsk, Belarus. Taking place every May, the tournament has attempted to showcase the best of the best in international hockey. However, its timing has always been debated as strange with the NHL playoffs proceeding at the same time. Many people feel, at least on North American soil, that this tournament is really just a waste of ice.

Russia became 2014 World Champions after a controversial defeat over Finland. The Finns got robbed by very questionable officiating and after playing one of the best games in their nation’s history, was forced to be regulated to second. Calls were blown on the ice in favour of Russia and penalties that should have never even be questioned were called against Finland.

Finnish graffiti artist Hende Nieminen went to the walls of Helsinki after the championship game to show his distaste. (Photo: Hende Niemenin)
Finnish graffiti artist Hende Nieminen went to the walls of Helsinki after the championship game to show his distaste. Translated, it says “Silver is not shame, but the judges are.” (Photo: Hende Niemenin)

Talk immediately became not of the two talented teams on the ice but of the black and white striped individuals who dictate the play. Some say the refs played in Russia’s favour to make up for their horrible demise at the Sochi Olympics. You’ll never be able to find out if there was a motive behind their calls or if they’re just terrible international referees but it shines a black eye on the sport.

It’s time to bring back the World Cup of Hockey.

The World Cup of Hockey came to fruition in the mid 1970’s, originally called the Canada Cup. Doug Fisher and Alan Eagleson formed the tournament on the basis of showcasing the best hockey talent of the world through various nations and their competing squads. It would be held every three to five years and would take place in NHL venues before the start of the NHL regular season. As the Winter Olympics were still considered amateur competition and the IIHF World Championships always coincided with the NHL playoffs, this tournament would truly hold the best of the best.

1996USAIn the mid 90’s the Canada Cup changed its name to the World Cup of Hockey. The World Cup was played under NHL rules and NHL officiating. The United States won the inaugural championship beating Canada. Along with their North American counterparts, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Russia, Finland, Germany and Slovakia each iced their own squad. Another tournament was held in 2004 during the lockout and proved to be successful.

The problem is this tournament is not held often enough to put an end to the IIHF World Championships. There’s talk of another World Cup happening in 2016, a non-Olympic year, which would put a 12 year gap between tournaments. NHL rules and rinks provide the game with the best players on the ice. There’s no reason for international rules and referees to come in a game with a political contest in mind, this isn’t the 1960’s anymore.

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t be talking about this nor would I be writing this article. I don’t want to read articles about how the refs are putting the sabotage to one side. Leave that to Olympic ice skating. I’d rather listen to Don Cherry scream about the World Cup.

The Latvians never say die: 2014 Memorial Cup Champions, Edgars Kulda and the Edmonton Oil Kings

Living in Eastern Ontario has its perks especially when it comes to hockey. I get the best of both worlds with complete Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League coverage almost 24/7. Same with the NHL, most games I watch are from teams on the east coast. Naturally, I’ve developed a bit of an east coast bias if you will.

(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

The beauty of tournaments like the Memorial Cup, Subway Supers Series and even the Stanley Cup Playoffs allow me, well, more like force me to pay attention and watch west coast teams. It’s fantastic because it’s like watching hockey and following teams for the first time all over again.

Case in point: Edmonton Oil Kings.

I’m not up to snuff on my Western Hockey League prowess as I’d like to be. I have an OHL bias as most Ontarians do but I’m not ignorant to the fact that there are some mighty powerful teams on the other side of the country.

The Oil Kings fit that bill. What they pulled off in the 2014 Mastercard Memorial Cup was nothing less of extrodinary. They faced and conquered elimination twice on their journey and with elite level goaltending pulled off a championship upset over my OHL’s Guelph Storm. Long story short, on paper, they weren’t supposed to get this far.

The MVP of the tournament however came as another shock. Edgars Kulda, an undrafted Latvian out of the capital city of Riga, proved that one should keep a watchful eye on this emerging hockey country. He notched an impressive four goals and totaled seven points. Three came at the hands of the Guelph Storm in the championship game.

kulda_edgars_edmonton_oil_kings_2012-13_oilkings_ca_11Maybe it was the memory of his fellow countryman and Oil King team mate, Kristians Pelss, who drowned last summer that encouraged his impressive game. Whatever the case Kulda has made his mold this year and maybe, just maybe, an NHL team will take notice and select him this year in Philadelphia.

It seems like 2014 has been the year of Latvia. From Kristers Gudlevskis becoming the first goaltender to suit up for an ECHL, AHL, NHL and Olympic game in one season, from the Ted Nolan coached Team Latvia that narrowly conquered the might team Canada at the Sochi Olympics to the emerging presence in the junior ranks of Edgars Kulda, the hockey world shouldn’t be shocked no longer.

Latvia knows its hockey and they’re only going to get stronger.

Massena, New York awarded a team for North Atlantic Professional Hockey League’s inaugural season

naphlThere’s a new hockey league being formed in the region and if you want to get more of a hockey fix this winter, the second team to be involved has been awarded right across the border in Massena, New York. The North Atlantic Professional Hockey League is based out of Massachusetts and hopes to start icing teams this fall. The President of the league, Phil DeFranco, has had plenty of experience with starting up hockey. He has had his hand in starting up junior hockey leagues in his home state and also helped the former league of the Akwesasne Warriors, the Federal Hockey League jump up onto its feet.

The mission statement for the NAPHL is to provide quality and entertaining hockey at an affordable prices for families. With already one team awarded to the city of North Adams, Massachusetts, Massena, NY is a strategic place to enter a team. Former Akwesasne Warriors owner, Darby Oakes will steer head the Massena movement and have come down to three choices for Head Coach and General Manager. Oakes plans to hold a press conference in June to unveil the coaching staff and front office personnel, along with the team name and mascot. The team will play out of the Massena Arena, the former home of the Massena Americans before they moved to Cornwall and became the Colts.

The Berkshire Black Bears will be the first team playing in the NAPHL, located in North Adams, Massachusetts.
The Berkshire Black Bears will be the first team playing in the NAPHL, located in North Adams, Massachusetts.

According to the press release given by the NAPHL, the league will be announcing more teams in the US and even possibly Canada for its first year in existence. The league wants to end up with a total of eight to provide a quality game playing over the course of a 52 game schedule. The longest road trip for teams is said to only be six hours. Could we see an NAPHL team in Cornwall with the River Kings position up in the air? It would create one hell of a rivalry; The Battle of the Seaway.
To keep track of updates on the Massena squad and the NAPHL in general, head on over to their website: www.naphl.us. Of course, here at March Hockey, I’ll be keeping my eyes locked closely on this story.

Enforcers, Goons and Fighters, oh my! A list of NHL tough guys from March’s eyes Part One

Bob_Probert_-_Darren_LangdonIn my humble opinion, the NHL of the 1980s and 1990s was the best time to be a fan of the league. Little to no sponsorships, endorsement deals were few and far between, no insane physical testing and if you could throw a few punches while balancing on skates well, you had yourself a job.

The fighter, goon, or tough guy if you will is long gone from today’s NHL. Yes of course there are still fights but if you don’t know how to use your stick and score more than a few goals, say goodbye to the big leagues and welcome to the LNAH. (Unless you’re John Scott apparently but he’s a whole separate post waiting to be written.) With the additions of European and Russian players into the league, emphasis was brought upon speed and skill. Combined with the rough and tumble, hard-hitting North American style, we have the league that we see now.

Without going into the obvious choices for the best of the best, like Bob Probert and company, the players I’m listing here may not be house hold goon names. A lot of my readers are hockey fans from the United Kingdom who are relatively new fans of the game. I figured I would give you all a look at some of the lesser known fighters that I grew up with.

Growing up I was an avid hockey card collector. Along with my infamous collection I would pick up old VHS hockey blooper and hockey fight tapes from yard sales and flea markets throughout the area. I used to watch these over and over. I’d have a sick day from school and I’d spend hours watching them with my Uncle who would babysit me. We’d have a blast. So without further ado, here’s part one of a list of NHL enforcers (in no particular order) from my eyes.

1. John Kordic

kordicKordic was insane. He obviously knew how to throw a few punches but he also knew how to take them mostly to being coked out of his mind every game. His drug and alcohol problems were well documented and after a short seven year career, Kordic overdosed and died at the age of lucky number 27. Along with fellow enforcer Chris Nilan, Kordic was a part of the 1986 Stanley Cup champions; the Montreal Canadiens. He is also famous for being in an epic trade that sent him to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Russ Courtnall. Some of his more famous fights are with other players on this list.

2. Jay Miller

At 6’2, 210 pounds, Miller was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques in 1990. The feisty American left winger was eventually picked up by the Boston Bruins and split his career between them and the Los Angeles Kings. After 8 years, Miller amassed 1723 penalty minutes in only 446 games. Most of his fights included the aforementioned John Kordic which added more fuel to the ever growing rivalry between the Canadiens and the Bruins.

Continue reading “Enforcers, Goons and Fighters, oh my! A list of NHL tough guys from March’s eyes Part One”

Cornwall’s hockey history: Owen McCourt and one of hockey’s first fatalities

What a time to be alive. It was the early 1900’s in the newly formed country of Canada and the population’s fascination with the fastest game on ice had barely started. The passion we know and love today from Canadians was in its infancy. However in Cornwall, the small Seaway town had been established for well over a hundred years already. Early versions of the game had already taken place up and down the St. Lawrence corridor; it was only fitting for a league to start in the area.

Under the leadership and guidance of the already well-established Montreal Wanderers hockey club, the formation of the Federal Amateur Hockey League began in 1903. What came to fruition was a 4 team, 6 game season that would begin that very winter. The clubs in the mix were the aforementioned Wanderers, Montreal Nationals, Ottawa Capitals (who would later become the Ottawa Silver Seven) and a team from the Seaway City of Cornwall. Over the next couple of years, clubs from three other small towns in the area, Brockville, Morrisburg, and Smith Falls would try their hand at winning a championship with the latter winning one in 1906.

Ottawa Silver Seven
Ottawa Silver Seven

In 1905, two teams from the FAHL and four from the Canadian Amateur Hockey League decided to join forces and form the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association. Their decision to amalgamate was based on entertaining the idea to maximize revenues as hockey was turning into a wildly popular spectator sport. Along the same lines, some players were being paid under the table. This league would attempt to foresee the professionalism of the sport. This was the very beginning forms of the National Hockey League that we know and love today.

Cornwall’s club was not one of the lucky two who got picked to join. The powerful Montreal Wanderers and Ottawa HC were the ones invited. However the league was looked at as a sort of farm league for the clubs in the ECAHA. Cornwall had its fair share of powerful players but could not manage a standing place of higher than third in their years together. One player in particular showed promise as he was flying up and down the ice with great speed and developing a reputation of a powerful goal scorer. His name was Owen McCourt.

Owen McCourt
Owen McCourt

Owen McCourt was just 22 years old when he was invited to play a couple games with the Montreal Shamrocks of the ECAHA. McCourt was proving himself on the ice as he became the top goal scorer for Cornwall in the 1906 season with 5 (remember, seasons consisted only 5 or 6 games apiece). In 1907, the local brick layer was top of the world again as he notched 16 goals in 8 games including a 7 goal performance against Morrisburg in late February. Taking note of his goal scoring abilities is what prompted the Shamrocks to invite McCourt for two games late in the 1907 season. McCourt was also a seasoned local lacrosse player which added to his skills on the ice.

It was not uncommon for players to bounce around teams and leagues from time to time. Some looked down upon this tactic but it only improved the playing abilities of both the player and club. In the beginning of March, the Cornwall H/C were hosting the Ottawa Victorias at the old rink on Third Street. The fixture would be a replay of sorts from a game that was supposed to have taken place on February 15th. It did not go through as planned as McCourt and another Cornwall player were away with the Montreal Shamrocks while Ottawa protested the move accordingly. Continue reading “Cornwall’s hockey history: Owen McCourt and one of hockey’s first fatalities”

One on One with Liam McCausland of Frozen Steel Blog

1524774_1443356489210314_1080098070_nRecently Liam McCausland of the unofficial Sheffield Steelers fan blog, Frozen Steel, and I had an interesting back and forth chat on everybody’s favourite subject. You can find my responses during the first part of our conversation on his blog here. The second part of our chat is as follows. Have a gander into the mind of Liam’s hockey filled brain.

March Hockey: Well let’s start with how you got into hockey.

Liam McCausland: Pre-teen insomnia. Around the age of 11/12, I barely ever slept, and Channel 5 (one of the basic channels we get free over here) showed a live NHL game once a week. I could never keep up with the puck but I loved what I saw. When it stopped showing it I kind of forgot about the game, but I started seeing a girl at university in 2008 who was a season ticket holder at the Steelers. She took me to an away game in Newcastle and I was hooked again.

MH: That was my second question, why the Steelers?

LM: Yeah, her influence. We stopped seeing each other but stayed in the same circles so I kept going to games. I don’t think I’ve been to more than 10 games in one season if that, but its under my skin and such a big part of my life now.

1662073_1485069311705698_1875499983_nMH: What do you think the Steelers need to do in order to repeat this year’s success?

LM: That’s pretty tricky, because up until the end of February we were talking about the team not being good enough. Enter Gerad Adams and we win the playoffs! I think we had the core of a good side that needed focussing and liberating. If we could keep most of that team together that would be half the battle. replace some offence we have lost in Lacroix and potentially Legue. A bit more team toughness too maybe. Oh, and a backup that the coach trusts, so Frank Doyle can have a rest.

MH:  Tricky question, what improvements do you think Team GB need to make?

LM: Oh god, so much. More time together pre-tournament would go a long way, a week together beforehand doesn’t seem enough. There’s calls for lowering the import limit, but then if the GB players aren’t up to task it might lead to a decline in attendances that owners wouldn’t go for. I’d say some investment from those able would go a long way, but Sport England don’t invest in things that don’t guarantee them medals either. I’d quite like to see a British Quota. Say so many of the team have to be british, say 1 nettie, 3 D, 5 forwards. make that a minimum. I’d started writing an article on it but I rambled for that long it sounded like a rant. Continue reading “One on One with Liam McCausland of Frozen Steel Blog”

Revisiting the age old topic: development of hockey in the UK

index2THE BRITISH ARE COMING, THE BRITISH ARE COMING!

…..or not. The powers that be of the Elite Ice Hockey League came out of a meeting that will input some rule changes starting in the upcoming season. In a nut shell, here they are:

“As from the upcoming season (2014-15), the number of non British-trained players will rise from 11 to 12, but the amount of work-permit players will remain at 11.

The number of non British-trained players will rise to 13 in season 2015-16 and 14 in season 2016-17, with the amount of work-permit players again remaining at 11.

Elite League chairman, Tony Smith, said: “The league agreed that there is a shortage of top-level British players, which keeps the Elite League from being outstanding across the 10 teams.With the demand of the indigenous British player higher than ever in all leagues, and with the potential for EU/dual-national players to develop into national-team players, it was felt this gradual increase would be beneficial to all.”

Oh boy.

There’s two sides to every story and every decision. Let’s try and decipher the other side of the coin before I go into what we already know.

Hockey when you strip off everything until its very first layer is a business. First and foremost above anything else it’s a business. Hockey turned professional back in the early 1900s in order to capitalize revenue on a growing spectator sport and to attempt to control the act of paying star players under the table. Two leagues, the Federal Amateur Hockey League and the Canadian Amateur Hockey League amalgamated in 1905 for this very reason. It was the very beginnings of the National Hockey League that we all know and love today. What does this have to do with the EIHL you ask?

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

Simple. Imported players are more talented than your British ones, it’s no secret. Talent on the ice means people in the seats; people in the seats means money in the pockets. Before you jump on the greedy owners campaign (which you’re right for the most part), more money allows the EIHL to continue on as a league. The EIHL is not near anywhere stable enough to get by on British talent alone no matter how many players you ice. This rule change gives the league a bit of a safety net for the next couple years in order for you to enjoy the game and the league. Continue reading “Revisiting the age old topic: development of hockey in the UK”