It’s never easy to lose someone.

It’s even harder to lose someone close unexpectedly. You’re not prepared for the emotional toll that follows the days, months and even years after one’s death. But a death is much more then mourning. It becomes a time to reflect and celebrate a life once lived to its fullest.

When the unexpected news of Matt Suderman’s passing arrived on my plate this past weekend, I was stunned as many of you were. That news is still bothering me which is only natural. When I started writing, Matt was one of first players I became good friends with. While I only caught the end of his career, I could tell that he was a special guy; especially by the way people spoke about him.

At 6’3 and 235 pounds, Suderman was a giant, albeit a very friendly one that most can testify too. A big boy coming out of the prairies with a solid junior career with the Saskatoon Blades under his belt, Suds was never known for his goal scoring prowess or point totals. No, he was that big body you wanted in front of the net, to block shots and to know you’re safe on the ice whenever he was around. Everyone needed a guy like him in the locker room.

Being a likable character and knowing his role on the ice lead to being a very late draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers in the 7th round of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. Yes, that may be a late round pick but being drafted is being drafted and it’s a fantastic accomplishment. Sudsy played his entire career bouncing around the minors. That’s not unusual for most. But being able to get paid to play a game you love can sometimes be a reminder to one self that you’re one of the lucky few.

matt_sudermanSuderman was a fan favourite almost everywhere he went. Whether he was dropping the gloves against Mario Joly and Erick Lizon with the Arizona Sundogs, blocking shots for the Dundee Stars or taking the lead with the Hull Stingrays, Suderman was a man who commanded respect. And that respect was given to him a million times over.  In Hull we saw him fight for what was right and for what he believed in.

Matt Suderman was also diabetic.

I find this must be mentioned for all of young athletes out there struggling with the terrible disease or those who have just been diagnosed and thinking they have give up the sports they love. While there famous hockey stars that played and continue to play through it (Bobby Clarke and Max Domi come to mind), it’s important to know that even the tough guys and guys who you have more in common with then you think you know, also have to fight through something. Sudsy never let the illness define him. That’s one of the main reasons he’ll always be a close friend to me.

Yes, we must mourn our loss. Another great human being has left this Earth way too young. But let’s honour and celebrate our friend’s life and career with laughter, smiles and fond memories.

I leave with you a message I received one morning from Sudsy.

“Ashley, I swear to god if you use the words “semi-pro” again, I’ll slap you in the arm. Not the face, but the arm. Stings more.” 

I haven’t used that word since.

#RIPSudsy. We’ll miss you.



You’re either a hockey guy, or you’re not

Kurtis Dulle. (Photo: Art Foster.)
Kurtis Dulle. (Photo: Art Foster.)

Last week a couple of articles crossed my path that needless to say left me torn and a little bit speechless to say the least. Both well written articles were by former pro player and Hull Stingray, Kurtis Dulle on his newly tell-all blog. The first, entitled “What I miss about pro hockey” ran a list of things that are no brainers to people who have played some aspect of professional sport; not necessarily hockey. I enjoyed every minute of that piece as I missed most of the things he wrote but in relation to me with fastball. However the second article, ticked me right off.

Naturally his follow up article was “What I DON’T miss about pro hockey”. Fair enough, there’s always going to be things that pop up that you don’t like but the things he listed were not what I expected coming from a guy whose job is professional hockey. Without going into too much detail – actually, you know what? Go read it then come back. I’ll wait. “What I don’t miss about pro hockey” by Kurtis Dulle.

Okay, hold up.

Your full time job is being a professional hockey player. You can’t tell me that you didn’t know all of these were going to happen. Granted, I can see how sharing a bus with 15 or so others guys on an 18 hour drive could get monotonous but that’s part of the territory. This isn’t the NHL; pro hockey isn’t glamorous.

Don’t miss having to wear a suit to and from the rink; don’t miss the promotional sides of the job handing out flyers to fans or scheduled player appearances. Don’t miss having weekends off (even though most of the week is), don’t miss the smell of the gloves, don’t miss cooking pre-game meals – Jesus, doesn’t anybody have that old school passion anymore?

Actually, I know one guy who does.

Hughes in Scotland. (Photo: Derek Black.)
Hughes in Scotland. (Photo: Derek Black.)

Current Brampton Beast head coach, Brent Hughes, had his hockey career cut short prematurely by the untimely passing of his father. After honouring his Dad’s wishes by playing a final game in Dundee, Scotland, Hughes dropped the contract he was under for next season and returned home to be closer to family. A bittersweet decision but one that had to be made. One that he didn’t see coming.

Hughes didn’t get to control the end of his career. He never got that last planned game; that final goal; that last wave to the crowd where he no doubt would have been named first star. No, he came back to Canada with uncertainty of where to turn and a sadness of his career being over. It might have been over but the passion never left.

Jumping into the coaching aspect, Hughes made his way behind the bench in the ECHL. That passion sees him leave for Brampton’s Powerade Centre at 5am, not just to beat the traffic, but to lace up his skates, get out onto the ice and shoot the puck around. By himself. Alone. “Everything that Dulle wrote that he doesn’t miss,” Hughes said. “Is exactly what I miss every single day.”

Hughes taking the time to help out at a hockey camp in Scotland.
Hughes taking the time to help out at a hockey camp in Scotland.

Hughes eats, breathes and sleeps hockey. “I miss those 18 hour bus rides. I miss the aches and pains.” Not only that, he knows the benefits of professional hockey out weigh the cons of being away from family, friends and rearranging your life in a new country. “You may not break the bank playing hockey, but the connections the sport gives you is second to none.” He lays emphasis on those player appearances and the need to suit up that Dulle listed down as a “don’t miss”. “You have to realize this is your job. Both of those things are extremely important. What’s not to like about talking with fans?!”

In the end the game has obviously changed, even in the last ten years or so. I’m not sure if it’s a more “entitled” aspect that players seem to grasp but the old school vibe is starting to fade. Hughes may be another part of a dying breed in hockey, who knows. One thing’s for certain though.

You’re either a hockey guy, or you’re not.

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One on One with Hull Stingray/Peterborough Phantom Scott Robson

(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! 😉

Don’t write off the EIHL

Dan LaCosta (Photo: Michael Cooper Photography)
Dan LaCosta (Photo: Michael Cooper Photography)

Some of the clubs in the United Kingdom’s Elite Ice Hockey League have started to maintain an unfavourable reputation. A reputation that if not rectified or least, simmered down a bit, can place a bleak shadow on the whole league itself.

The Cardiff Devils are the second squad to have players come out with the antagonizing revelation of management not fulfilling their contracts in the sense of not being paid. Of course, it’s not really all that surprising in the hockey world. Players get screwed over all the time, it’s no secret. This however seems to lie further down the line in the EIHL.

Earlier this spring, the Hull Stingrays came under fire with the same predicament. In fact, the team itself seems to have imploded with players refusing to come back and signing elsewhere. Granted, they do have the right to seek employment somewhere else but as management, if you had quality players who were producing night after night you would think one would try to keep them under wraps and paying them what they were owed.

The hockey world is a very small community. Players talk. Coaches talk. Fans talk. Of course, the main item for discussion amongst fans is why? Why aren’t these contracts being upheld? We’ll never find out the definite answer but there’s a much deeper reason then just not having the money.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not singling the EIHL out. This happens in leagues all over the world, the LNAH, the Central league, the East Coast league, I could go on forever. It’s just the players in the EIHL have decided to bring this issue to the spotlight.

1011973_10151571105053732_1488936880_nIs there any way to stop it in the UK? Well, a player’s union would help but we are FAR from that ever coming to fruition. I enjoy the hockey of the EIHL, I really do and personally, I have yet to find a team in the league that rubs me the wrong way. However, the more I hear and the more players come out, certain clubs will now always have a stain on themselves in my eyes.

On a lighter note, in the grand scheme of things this black cloud is just a blimp on the radar. Do you think this kind of thing didn’t happen when the NHL first started out? Of course it did. With the invention of computers and social media, it’s just thrown in our faces for views and tweets and likes. You have to remember that the league is still in its infancy and the powers that be still have a lot to learn.

There’s lots of potential for the EIHL. The hockey is good, the fans are rabid and with the right business model along with time, it can be a cash crop.

We just have to be patient.

Yet another player comes out: Matt Suderman and the Hull Stingrays

5335902-largeThis is embarrassing and appalling to the game of hockey.

More and more professional hockey players are finally coming out of the woodwork and exposing what really goes on behind the scenes between owners, players, and the clubs they are representing. The latest to come out and add his thoughts to this epidemic is Matt Suderman who is currently playing with the Brampton Beast of the Central Hockey League.

Suderman spent some time with the Hull Stingrays of the EIHL and after taking a whole lot of time to cool off, he finally cleared the air of what happened. Essentially, another case of greed from a club owner by the name of Bobby McEwan. You can read Suderman’s entire statement here. I’m going to touch on a couple of things.

“Things were so bad that players were paying for portions of their skates/equipment because McEwan refused to buy certain brands (which were higher quality), he claimed they only wanted that brand because it was more expensive and thought everyone was out to get him.”

You’re kidding me right? You couldn’t even supply the players on your own team the basic necessities to perform on the god damn ice because you have this premonition that they’re out to “get you”? Come on, give your head a shake. Hockey is a business first and foremost. Like any business you have to spend money to make money. It’s common business sense. You think the players are out to get you because they just want to protect themselves with better equipment? Someone’s delusional.

“In my 10 years of pro hockey I’ve never seen anything like it. McEwan (owner) refused to give his players even the smallest luxury, like soap and shampoo.”

Not even commenting on that one. That’s just unfathomable.

“Somehow Bobby McEwan worked out a deal where the team would receive money for players attending schools and working with the kids. A majority of the visits were done by younger British players who didn’t receive a salary. They were promised money for these visits and went to schools two, sometimes three times a week, some of the visits were for three or four hours. None of them have seen a dime of the money promised, all of the money went straight into McEwan’s pocket. During Movember, a player had somebody fundraising for him during a game, for charity. Bobby McEwan was irate, claiming this player was taking money from him, and even demanded a cut of the money raised. “

If these allegations are true, (which I’m 99.9% certain they are), this has to be one of the most unacceptable things I’ve ever read. Its one thing to steal from your players (which is still damn unthinkable) but to demand a cut of money that’s raised for charity just makes you a complete scumbag. I don’t know this guy, but just that alone gives the Hull Stingrays and to an extent the EIHL a black eye in the hockey world. I’m glad I don’t know what charity this money was raised for otherwise, I’d be ripping even more.

D_GrhnPFThe most terrible part of this whole thing is that Matt Suderman is not the only player that this is happening to. Although Joe Grimaldi is a bit of a pain in the locker room according to some players, he brought a few hate fueled tweets to Twitter a few weeks ago concerning the owner of the Nottingham Panthers. However, the EIHL is not the only league that this is happening to either. It’s an epidemic that needs to be stopped. No longer are hockey players just walking doorknobs who don’t know anything about business practices and just play the game anymore. Everyone is informed on how things work.

You also can’t get away with things in this day and age especially with the presence of social media. Things get out and they get out quick. Whether this will do anything to the club is another story but every damn team would be in much better positions with owners who care. Of course that’s far fetched to say.

Suderman isn’t the only one. Mike Danton came out earlier this year about how he was treated in Kazakhstan. That’s Kazakhstan though and you can kind of expect it to come from there. Not a hockey “juggernaut” like the EIHL. Even over year in North America with leagues like the LNAH, FHL, to a lesser extent the CHL, it’s happening here too.

Sadly, nothing is ever going to change. It would need to take a whole overhaul of a team or league to get things moving in the right direction with players getting what they’re owed. As long as they type of owners are in charge, there’s not much hope. I hope more and more players start to come out with how they’re being treated. It’s almost as if there’s a stigma attached to it. Almost like you’re not man enough to take it if you speak up. Well guess what, times have change and it’s time to get your due.

Brampton Beast, the Central League and Matt Suderman

BramptonBeastFor a first year team, the Brampton Beast are proving themselves to be more than just a push over. Not that they intended to be but before today’s game against the Tulsa Oilers, they sit a game above .500 and 6th in the 10 team league. That’s a pretty healthy position to be in as we come to mid-season’s Christmas break.

It’s a good learning year and I expect them to jump a little higher in the standings come season’s end. I suspect them to end up in the top five which will pay dividends for next year as the Central League is expected to acquire two new expansion teams and up their squads to 12. No cities have been named or areas of interest have been announced but I would expect another Canadian team as to play rivalry for the Beast. Central league is difficult to pin point though as they have franchises in the most oddest places but they make it work.

Although a circle of controversy has followed him in his Elite league past, Matt Suderman has decided to lace the skates right back up with the Beast at home in Canada. After sending the first half of the season with the Hull Stingrays in England, Suderman left with a bad taste in his mouth from the league’s officiating and the fans. While I can’t comment on the officiating as I haven’t seen enough games (although what I have seen, it’s terrible. However, it’s been most Coventry Blaze games), I can comment on the accusations of the fans.

I’ve seen it in plenty of leagues. Some fans think it’s their god given right to antagonize the players. While that’s okay in some respects to haggle the opposing team (and there’s a fine line to be crossed their as well), when it comes to the home team, they think that they work for them. They feel entitled to harass the individuals who entertain them night in and night out. Of course, that comes with the territory I suppose but Suderman’s quote of “The fans think that they know hockey, but they don’t.”, is true to many teams and leagues.

The only difference here is that Suderman is just expressing himself out in the public eye as I’m sure many other players would love to do. While that might be showing a black spot on the organization and league, it’s nothing new or shocking and people need to put on their big boy panties and suck it up. Keyboard warriors indeed.

4e304eb2689ce247a72a3b848c0e614fThat being said, Suderman is going to make a huge impact for the Beast. It’s not his first rodeo in the league. He won the Ray Miron (shoutout Cornwall), President’s Cup back in 2008 with the Arizona Sundogs so he knows the teams and league well. His big 6’3 frame will do wonders guarding the blueline alongside the other giants of Michael Couch and Andrew Darrigo.

The Beast take on the Oilers today at 2pm eastern before they resume after the Christmas break with a set with the Quad City Mallards.

Derek Campbell And His 47 Game Suspension

By Ed Kimberley
Coventry, England

On Tuesday the Hull Stingrays announced in a short press release that journeyman forward Derek Campbell would be released with immediate effect following receiving a 47 game ban for the following incident:

Now the camera angle isn’t very damning but the suspension is broken down as such:

Fighting off the ice = 15 games
Attempted eye gouge = 12 games
Knee to the head = 10 games
Excessive force to the head resulting in an impact to the ice = 10 games

I criticised Moray Hanson’s decision making as inconsistent but this, he has handled perfectly. It sends a clear message that this behaviour is totally unacceptable; ice hockey after all is portrayed as a family sport in the UK. Hopefully it will calm down the likes of Andrew Conboy in Cardiff who is currently still the league leading penalty minute taker and has been suspended for half the season so far.

This is the second longest ban in recent British hockey memory after Eric Cairns, formerly of the London Racers, received a 2 year ban for attacking a referee in the 04-05 playoffs. In a statement from head of discipline, Moray Hanson condemns Campbells conduct. “This is a very nasty incident and there is no place for any of these actions in our sport.” Campbell has since apologized for his conduct however I would be very surprised if this wasn’t the end of his illustrious EIHL career which has seen him lift back to back championships with the Coventry Blaze and the Sheffield Steelers in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011.

derek-campbell-sydney-icedogsThe Stingrays will no doubt be hurt losing a player of Campbells calibre as they try to improve their league record from its lowly 1-5 with the aim to no doubt make the playoffs. Campbell has his critics and some question his ability as well as his temper. However you cannot deny facts, he has been brought in by 5 different franchises in the EIHL and has been lured to the EPIHL (UK 2nd tier) by the Sheffield Steeldogs (as well as playing for the Manchester Phoenix again who dropped a league). He has iced in 346 EIHL games and has a .97 PPG average. Having seen him play and develop over the years, he is a ferocious player along the boards and one of the best to play EIHL hockey in this respect; his numbers don’t lie. For a tough guy expected to rack up a lot of PIMS he can play the game. I wrote an article for MarchHockey about tough guys in the EIHL and concluded they need to have more tools in the box than just being able to fight and before this incident Campbell was the poster boy for my opinion and even though his actions were deplorable, his legend will live on.

Q&A With Former Texas Brahmas and Hull Stingrays Enforcer, Ryan Hand

407820_10150436793533732_783894204_nRyan Hand has been all over North America in his hockey career so far. Spending time with 5 different teams in the Central Hockey League, to a few stints in the East Coast Hockey League and the Southern Professional Hockey League.

Most recently he spent time with the Hull Stingrays of the Elite Ice Hockey League in the United Kingdom, but he is glad to be back on North American soil for this upcoming season. I caught up with him to get his take on the coolest game on earth.

March Hockey: You spent last season with the Hull Stingrays in the EIHL. How is UK hockey, or European hockey in general compared to hockey in North America? Or the EIHL to the CHL?

1011973_10151571105053732_1488936880_nRyan Hand: The biggest difference from North American hockey to the game in the UK had to be playing on the International ice. Teams that use that to their advantage, and stretch you out, make it hard to get the big hits that come pretty much every shift when I play on the smaller ice surface in North America.

MH: You’ve have a few tilts with LNAH legend John Mirasty. What was it like going toe to toe with a guy of that stature?

RH: Throughout my career I’ve fought a lot of tough guys, but everyone always asks about Jon Mirasty. The one face you don’t want to see when you’re squaring up at centre ice. He is one tough customer, I respect him a lot. We had 3 solid battles in 06-07.

MH: Who’s your favourite enforcer of all time and why?

RH: Favourite tough guy of all time has to be Bob Probert. A monster who destroyed everyone he dropped the gloves with and had skill too.

MH: How does it feel to be back playing on North American soil?

RH: It feels great to be able to play close to home this year. I’m looking forward to having friends and family come and support the team this year. Spending Christmas with the family for once will also be nice.

MH: And finally, if you could fight anyone, past or present, who would it be and why??

RH: I’d have to say if I could pick anyone it would be Probert. Even though it wouldn’t last long, I’d still give him a go.