Category: Around the league
When Invicta Dynamos won the NIHL1 South playoffs, it was a pretty special moment for the club. The fact that it is their 20th anniversary season made it even more special. A few weeks ago I sat down with Jackie Mason, who has run the club for its entire 20 year history, to talk about the club, the league and what it takes to keep doing the job for so long!
Just as a note on this article, I spoke to Jackie just before the NIHL1 South cup final. So obviously the events of this week had not occurred at the time that she spoke to me.
“The club was run by Dave Hodge and Gary Bayliss when it first started. Gary asked me if I’d be interested in the club secretary role and I said yes. Then by the end of the first week I was suddenly club secretary for the whole organisation – Dynamos and juniors; and looking after all the away travel as well! The following year Dave left and I ended up running the whole thing.”
“It’s quite addictive – I just enjoy it. Well most of the time (sometimes I don’t, sometimes I hate it!). But most of the time I love it. It’s a nice buzz and the fans are amazing. It’s a great feeling and I get to work with some lovely people.”
The Dynamos are certainly no strangers to success. Their first season in the old ED1, they won 19 of their 20 league games, taking the Southern league title by 5 points over familiar rival Chelmsford Chieftains. It was a team primarily made up of local players, as Jackie remembers: “Although there were more non-British players around at the time, we had a lot of local lads that season – and they just didn’t know when to stop. They just couldn’t give up.” Top of the team (and South division) scoring charts were brothers Darren and Jon Cotton who amassed a huge 162 goals between them that season.
In 1998, Jackie was instrumental in forming the English Premier League (EPL) with teams from the North and South of the old ED1 division joining forces to create a new national league. “Bill Britton was the league secretary and he just got everybody together and said ‘Look if you want to form this – OK, that’s fine – you make the rules and I’ll just make sure they are carried out.’ So that was it! We then spent a lot of time talking to other teams, trying to bring them in and saying ‘Come on – let’s do this!
The Dynamos spent 5 successful seasons in the EPL, including becoming both league and playoff champions in 2002. The playoff win in Coventry is Jackie’s favourite memory of the team, although she didn’t actually see final moments of the game “It was a penalty shootout and I just couldn’t watch. I went outside – so I didn’t actually get to see them win!”
The next season, the club lost their title sponsor and it was a killing blow for the club’s time in the EPL. “Our sponsor walked out halfway through the season when they went bankrupt and left us with no choice. We simply couldn’t afford to stay up without their support.”
“The EPL isn’t really recognisable in its current form though. The money you need is just so high now. Player salaries in the last few years have really gone up – so there is no way to compete if you don’t have a lot of money. That’s not the league we founded.”
So the Mos dropped down into the ENL (since renamed as the NIHL). It wasn’t actually a league that was high on professionalism and perhaps earning its nickname of the ‘English Beer League’ somewhat. But Invicta didn’t drop their standards for doing business and have been instrumental in being part of a raising of standards and business models across what is now NIHL1 in the South.
“I’d like to think we helped improve the way things were done in the league. When we first dropped down it was pretty chaotic and even the people in control in the EIHA didn’t seem to give it much credit which didn’t help. We spent a lot of time talking to our sponsors and they would come and watch and ask why we were paying out this money when we could probably still be competitive on a smaller budget. But we wanted to do things right – in the way we went about our business, so we did.”
NIHL1 in the South is pretty unrecognisable from the ENL that Invicta dropped down to. For Jackie as a club owner the biggest change though is within the EIHA and how they deal with the clubs “You’ve actually got people in the EIHA hierarchy now that you can sit down and talk to – whereas in those days you just had to do as you were told! I also had a few people within the EIHA structure say to me ‘What would you know – you’re a woman’ at a meeting! I never had any issues with the other (male) owners, but within the EIHA I didn’t always used to be treated as an equal. I will say that this has also really changed now and I don’t have any of those sorts of issues with the current league management group.
In the same way, the EPL has also changed a lot now “The standard of the EPL when we left is probably about the same as what we see in NIHL1 now.” And Jackie has little interest in going back up:
“It’s pretty simple for me. If it’s not broken then you shouldn’t try and fix it – and our league isn’t broken. You don’t need to go up to the EPL to get good hockey. We couldn’t afford it and I don’t think there is anyone in our league who wants to, let alone could afford to. It’s got to the point where we have had to say ‘will you please stop asking because we just aren’t interested’! You are talking about more than 60 games a season (not even counting any playoffs/cup finals) – where would we get the players from to do that? We live at the end of the earth here in terms of hockey – you go three ways and you fall into the sea – nobody comes past us so bringing players in would be impossibly expensive.”
“For us, I think reducing the imports in the new-style PIHL may have a knock on effect on our teams. PIHL are obviously going to need more British-trained players which could make it harder for us. But then they’re going to have to find players who really want that kind of schedule. A lot of the NIHL players simply couldn’t or don’t want to commit to 60+ games a season. Travelling up to somewhere like Sheffield or Hull on a Sunday night – no thank you!”
“Long term – I think that the EPL clubs will start coming down – and maybe we’ll end up moving to an NIHL 1, 2 and 3 structure – and then it will start all over again!”. Of course, recent events have shown this to be rather a prescient statement – if perhaps a little sooner than Jackie envisaged.
The Dynamos had a long spell of success in the ENL, winning 7 consecutive league titles as well as 2 playoff titles. The league became even more competitive though as 3 more teams followed Invicta down from the EPL. With the exception of a cup win 2 years ago, the Mos have been through a bit of a silverware shortage in the last 6 seasons. That’s perhaps why winning the playoffs meant so much.
This time, Jackie managed to stay in the building for the final moments of the game and when I spoke to her afterwards, you could see the delight “Being Playoff Champions is huge for everyone connected with our Club: management, players and supporters. It was a really tense game and we could nearly have lost it, but we didn’t! The fans were amazing and the interaction between the players and supporters was something special.”
As we were mostly talking during the cup final weekend, we spoke a little of the impact of the cup. In recent years the NIHL1 cup has enjoyed a raised profile, become something teams really want to win, rather than just being seen as a competition to add more games. Jackie thinks she knows why:
“I think of lot of it is down to Paul Bennett (Invicta’s marketing person and IDTV supremo). Two or three years ago, he started really pushing the cup in our publicity and in social media. He’s really raised the profile and made it into something people care about. It’s not ‘just the cup’ anymore, now it’s ‘Wow – it’s THE CUP’.”
Paul is one of an army of volunteers Invicta have – and while people come and go, the club probably has one of the most stable volunteer bases in the NIHL, with a lot of folks who have been with the club for years. Jackie’s key to this is simple “You have to treat everyone the same. We really mean it when we say that the club is like a family, and nobody in that family is more special than anyone else. We’re all fans of the team at the end of the day, we want to be there to support our team and that’s true of everybody. Nobody expects or gets special treatment – and we always make sure we remember to say thanks you!”
“We also make sure that we let people take responsibility for what they have signed up for. They know what they need to do and you let them get on with it. They will come to us if they have a problem, and you trust them to do just that. There is no point in giving somebody something to do and then standing over them while they do it – because if you need to do that then they obviously weren’t the right person to be doing that role.”
For Jackie, the people around her in the club are a lot of what have motivated here to keep doing this for 20 years:
“The people here are what motivates me to keep doing this for as long as I have. When you are feeling a bit down there are enough people out there who just say ‘Come on – pick yourself up – let’s go and have a drink.’ The team themselves are a big motivation as well – when you have a group of guys who just love to play hockey like we do, you want to help them do it.”
“Our volunteers and supporters are just amazing. I went through breast cancer a few years ago – and the way the fans rallied round was just tremendous. This season again, when I broke my hip just before the start of the season, I had people coming from everywhere asking what they could do to help, even just offering to get shopping or other things like that. That’s what I mean by us being a family.”
Here at 482days, we have to say congratulations to The Dynamos on their 20th anniversary – and especially so to owner Jackie Mason who has been at the helm for the entire history. We think that’s pretty damn impressive!
Invicta Dynamos will be celebrating their 20 year history with a game which sees the current team face off against some of the legends from the club’s history. Of note, this includes current head coach Kevin Parrish along with Elliott Andrews and Phil Chard who also played in both the inaugural season for the Mos and the EPL double-winning team in 2002. For a full roster and more details on the game visit the Invicta Dynamos website : http://invictadynamos.co.uk
The game will be held on Sunday 23 April at the usual 5:15pm face off. Tickets will be available on the door.
Posted in Around the league
If you thought that Milton Keynes Thunder had quietly let the transfer window close without doing any significant business – think again. In fact, they perhaps had the biggest last-minute signings we have seen for many years by adding forward Nick Poole and netminder Stephen Wall to the roster. The deal was done and both players were registered before deadline day on 31st of January was over but news of the release had to wait for the rather more important arrival of Stephen Wall’s new baby daughter into the world!
34-year-old netminder Stephen Wall, who was released by Guildford Flames earlier in January has more than 10 seasons of EPL experience, including a 3 year stint with MK Lightning which ended just last season. In his first year there the 2012-13 season he posted the best statistics in the EPL with a save percentage of 92.7% and a goals against average of 2.33 and was also named to the EPL second all star team in that year. He’s also got an EPL treble (league, cup and playoff) in the bag with Peterborough (08/09).
Thunder’s current No. 1, import netminder Villem-Henrik Koitmaaa, who came in after Invicta Dynamos swooped to sign initial starter Damien King is still signed to the club. The 25 year-old Estonian international has been an excellent servant to the club in his short stay, posting a 90% save percentage in his 15 games. However, for games in which MK play Wall instead, that will allow them to have import skaters as well – so step up Nick Poole.
I first saw Nick Poole back in his first season in the UK when he played for Manchester Storm in the Superleague. He left for Finland after one season but returned to the UK the following year and has remained here every since. In the 99-00 season he first played for Milton Keynes, in the BNL Kings team. He stayed there for 2 seasons then moved Peterborough and Fife for a season before coming back to the newly formed MK Lightning to take up the position of player/coach for the club in 2002. As a player he is their third most capped league player as well as being 3rd in all time goals and top in all-time assists (totals of 188+463 from 456 games). He (mostly) retired as a player in January 2103 when he decided to concentrate solely on the head coach role and stayed with Lightning as head coach until the end of last season before moving into the general manager role for the club this season. At 42 he will certainly be one of the more senior players in the league (although still a year younger than Nicky Chinn at Streatham), but I have few doubts that he will prove to be more than capable at this level.
These two signing can only be described as ‘marquee’ for Thunder. After a terrible start to the season, they had a meteoric rise up through the league from rock bottom at the end of November to where they sit now – comfortably in 6th place and eyeing a top half finish if they can peg back Oxford City Stars who currently hold the 5th place spot. The addition of Poole and Wall could make that a very real possibility and also make them a team the top four will likely all want to avoid in the first round of the playoffs.
So what are MK getting with these changes. Well with Stephen Wall, it’s clear – they are getting an EPL level netminder who has maintained a 90% save ratio in the EPL for the last 4 seasons and who will probably be one of the best netminders in this division. Nick Poole is perhaps more of an interesting question. At 42, his age is a factor and it will be interesting how his speed and fitness have suffered as a result of 2 years off the ice as a regular player. But he is an exceptional playmaker and reads the game brilliantly – and that is something that doesn’t deteriorate with age. He’ll bring huge amounts of both playing experience and coaching knowledge to the team too.
Thunder’s player/coach Paul Gore said “I couldn’t be happier with our new signings There’re the kind of players you want in your team to compete in any league. Top players, even better characters for the room.”
Both players are expected to ice this weekend and need to play in at least 9 of Thunder’s remaining 12 league games in order to qualify to participate in the playoffs. MK face Chelmsford at home on Saturday and will travel to Oxford to play in the newly inaugurated John Cartwright Trophy game (to be played at the first game of the calendar year between the sides) in honour of a long-term fan of both clubs who recently passed away.
It’s certainly going to be an interesting end of the season for MK!
5th February – edit: I originally stated that Koitmaa had been released as a result of these signings. I have been informed that this is incorrect and that Koitmaa is still signed to the club. I apologise for any misunderstanding this caused.
Posted in Around the league
On Monday, Oxford City Stars fans were surprised by hearing that Steve ‘Ossie’ Osman had walked out of the club. Today, it was announced that he has signed on for Invicta Dynamos and the more cynical fans might assume that the offer came in before the resignation.
On Monday, Osman stated that he didn’t feel that he was fitting into the team’s systems and was struggling to adapt his game. I have to admit to being surprised by this as he seemed to be playing so well recently with line mates Alan Green and Darren Elliott. While his low goal output so far was a bit surprising for a player of his ability, he was still racking up the points with 3+12 from 11 games – making him the current top scorer at Oxpens Road.
I spoke to Ossie about his move and he reiterated what was published at the time “I decided to leave because I wasn’t enjoying my hockey at Oxford, this was mainly because of the style of the hockey and systems which they implement.”.
He also wanted to make it clear that his decision to leave Oxford was not pre-empted by a ‘poaching’ call from Dynamos: “I just want to clear up the rumours around me leaving Oxford etc, I approached Kev Parrish about returning to Invicta, after telling Simon I was leaving Oxford. I have played in Invicta before and I fit in with their style of hockey, so it was an easy decision for me.”
He also added “I am looking forward to picking up where I left off with the Dynamos and wish my old team mates at Oxford all the best for the season.”
Osman will rejoin the Dynamos in their league games against Cardiff and Solent this weekend.
So what are Invicta getting with Osman (and what has Oxford lost). From his performances so far at Oxford, I would have to call him a hard working 2-way centreman who is very much a play-maker. He is very good at making the right play at the right time and while he only had 3 goals in an Oxford shirt, I think this is an anomaly – I can certainly remember him forcing some great saves out of keepers in the games I saw and could consider himself unlucky not to have found the back of the net more often. Of course, Dynamos head coach, Kevin Parrish, is well aware of his ability. Osman started the season there last year and was 20+27 from 30 games.
Posted in Around the league
Shock news came from Invicta Dynamos today that starting netminder Mark McGill had left the club with immediate effect. According to the Dynamos press release this morning, McGill apparently felt the accommodation he was offered was inadequate, despite being offered a move into the club flat with imports Ozollapa and Zošiak.
McGill, originally from Broxburn near Edinburgh had played all of his hockey north of the border before coming to Invicta just before the transfer deadline in January last season. Perhaps he felt that the club should be providing him with his own private apartment , but if so, it seems to be an incredibly unrealistic request from a player in this league, even within one of the top budget teams. A quick check of rental properties in Gillingham told me that in order to rent a furnished one bedroom apartment (not that many of these exist) you would need to find at least£700/month including bills. Now I don’t know Invicta’s budget, but I very much doubt that they can find that down the back of their sofa!
Of course, this is only one side of the story, and as yet McGill himself has not commented to verify that this was the reason for his leaving. But if true, I have to wonder if he simply wasn’t enjoying life outside of Scotland, for whatever reason, and decided that this was a way to blame his walking away on the club. What is certain is that it leaves a huge hole in the Dynamos line up at short notice. McGill was very much the starting netminder for the club and had posted a 93% save percentage in his 3 games so far in the league. In the 2-1 win against Wightlink on Sunday, I can only describe his performance as immense – stopped all but one of the 36 shots from the Raiders. The fact is that the team could have lost that game 3-2 and still have McGill post over 90% save ratio.
Going into this weekend, unless the Dynamos can pull a rabbit out of the hat, backup netminder Steve Nightingale will be going between the pipes against London Raiders on Saturday and Chelmsford Chieftains on Sunday (both cup games). Now I don’t have anything against Nightingale – I haven’t actually seen him play so I can’t really comment on his ability. Going by statistics alone, last season (his first on-rec season since 2007) he only played in 8 games (305 minutes) and had an overall save rate of just under 82%. For a team like Invicta this is unlikely to be good enough, especially given the young and relatively inexperienced team in front of him.
After Sunday’s game, I said that Invicta seemed to have been vastly under-rated by everyone and that I could see them doing much better than many (including myself) predicted. They play fast, free-flowing hockey and have two very strong imports in Ozollapa and Zošiak together with a great group of new players who looked passionate and exciting on the ice. The team is very young though and the defence were ocassionally a little frail looking when faced with the sort of attacking play that Wightlink threw at them. Without a strong netminder of McGill’s quality to mop up behind them, those frailties will be found out and the tight games like this weekends will likely end in losses rather than wins.
So what will Invicta do to remedy the situation? They can go back to Mark Lee, the ex EPL netminder signed last season, who showed his quality to the team. But Lee was only originally supposed to be signed as injury cover and has a career as an estate agent outside of hockey that will limit the number of appearances he could make. So Invicta are likely to need to sign a new regularly available starting netminder from somewhere else. The question is, will they make a raid on another NIHL1 South club – opening them to accusations of playing ‘chequebook hockey’ or will they take a risk and see if they can tempt an EPL or Elite League backup with the promise of regular ice time.
It’s a real conundrum for the Kent side and after such a strong start to their league campaign, with wins against rivals Wightlink and Streatham already under their belts and a 100% record so far this is a huge blow and all eyes will be on what they do next.
I’ll leave this article with the words of Invicta’s Slovakian import Ondrej Zošiak who commented on the club’s facebook page about the issue: “I just wanna say few words about this situation. It will be not bad things about Mark. I respect his decision and wish him good luck in the next hockey career, but I think he lost a very good opportunity be here and be a part of this team. However, there is a more important things that I want to say. I played few years top Division in Slovakia and there is lot of teams who do not pay accomodation and in general do not care about where will players live. One time I moved 5 times during the 4 months on my own expenses when I played in Slovakia and no one cared about it. That is the reason why me and Erik appreciate the work of all people who works in the club and I think this situation is not a shame for the club, because all people here are trying do everything for comfortable of all players.“
Posted in Around the league
I’ve already spoken about the signing of Nicky Chinn in a previous article, but his isn’t the only signing Streatham made in the last few weeks that raised eyebrows across the league.
27 year old Chris ‘Wiggy’ Wiggins has also joined Streatham from Milton Keynes Lightning for the 2015-16 season. The 6’6” power forward was only a year old when Chinn first played senior hockey, but he still managed 14 seasons in senior hockey and has a pretty impressive hockey CV to show for it. Playing the majority of his career in the second tier of British hockey, starting with Guildford in the old BNL before playing for Guildford again, Basingstoke, Milton Keynes and Bracknell in the EPL. He has also had 2 spells at this level in the past with Haringey (2007-08) and Bracknell Hornets (2008-09).
Wiggins is often described as an enforcer – he likes to play physical hockey, can hit like a steam train and spends a fair few minutes of his time in the penalty box. But he has also been described as having fantastic hands and is actually a strong skater, especially for someone of his size. He’ll stand up for his team mates and I suspect that he’ll get singled out a few times for players wanting to prove their worth in a fight (I’d take any odds on Cornish dropping the gloves with him this season for example). However, at this level I think Streatham fans will be talking as much about his points tally as they will about his PIMs this season – last season’s cross-over cup showed that NIHL1 is still a fair way behind EPL standard and I think Wiggins will thrive here. One thing is for certain, he’ll certainly up the entertainment factor and will be one to watch for Stars fans when he plays at Oxpens Road.
On the signing, Streatham coach Warren Rost said “As a team we’ve been getting closer and closer to winning a trophy over the last few seasons and securing Chris is a going to make a huge contribution to us getting over that line. He’s got serious size and tightness but he can really play the game as well and he’s going fit straight into our free flowing attacking style of hockey.”1
Chris was good enough to give me an interview for 482 days – so we’ll let the man himself have the floor for the rest of the article:
482Days: Your first senior game (according to Elite prospects) was at the tender age of 14 and you went straight into the BNL for the Guildford Flames who were the defending champions… did you feel intimidated by the occasion?
CW: Definitely! My first experience of ice hockey was at the spectrum watching the flames. Getting asked to plays both games that weekend was a real surprise and treat. I was only in my 5th season of hockey and out of the blue got asked to come and play a game with the guys whose broken sticks and autographs I had collected as a kid. It was my 15th birthday on the Sunday and a best of British game against Milton Keynes. Somehow I managed to score a goal, I was so nervous I didn’t even celebrate!
482 Days: Did you know many of the guys before the game, were you welcomed or mostly ignored by the big guns?
CW: Of course I knew who they were, and some of them knew of me through helping out with junior training. Generally I was quite a quiet kid so didn’t really speak unless spoken to. Some guys went out of their way to make me welcome and we have maintained friendships to this day. Special mentions have to go to guys like Tony Redmond, Mark Galazzi and Nicky Cross who really put the effort into make me welcome as I broke through the ranks.
482 Days: Did you get any shifts in your first game (as a 14 year old) if not, when did you first get on the ice for real with Guildford Flames?
CW: I don’t think I managed to see a shift in my first game, but as previously mentioned I saw occasional ice the following evening. I clearly remember 3 shifts to this day. One scoring a goal, one accidentally hip checking Dwayne Newman, and the final shift where Dwayne got his own back before picking me back up off the ice and putting me on my feet. He then apologised for having to make it even. The guy is a class act!
482 Days: Nicky Chinn was one of your first senior team-mates at Guildford and more recently you have also played with him at Basingstoke and Milton Keynes (and against him in most other seasons). Are you looking forward to linking up with him again?
CW: Certainly, we have a good friendship and have certainly had a few laughs together.
482 Days: What’s he like as a player and team-mate?
CW: Chinny is a real team guy, very unselfish and does the jobs that need to be done. What he has achieved in his career is not to be sniffed at. The guy knows how to win and puts in whatever it takes. He will be a real asset for any team that manages to secure his services.
482 Days: what’s he like to play against?
CW: Even though we are friends, the game is about winning. Playing on opposing teams we have had a few digs at each other but that’s the way it has to be. Any time he has the puck he has the ability to create a scoring opportunity so he’s one to watch out for.
482 Days: You’ve played in the EPL for most of your career, and you are still only 27 (in your prime athletic years according to the theory). What made you decided to drop down a level this season?
CW: I’m fortunate enough that I have a good job that I enjoy outside of hockey and I have taken two promotions within the last year. I am in the position now where I can rapidly be making headway in my professional career and in turn leaves me with less time to dedicate outside of work. When combined with my personal views on how some teams are run and how people are sometimes treated, l decided that my efforts were best placed elsewhere.
482 Days: And why Streatham?
CW: I like the direction that the organisation is heading in. I will be playing with several teammates from previous seasons so know it will be a good environment at the rink. I’m also looking forward to playing for a team, hopefully achieving some silverware that isn’t automatically assumed to be a contender for the titles before any games have taken place.
482 Days: What are the NIHL1 fans going to get from you this season?
CW: They will get a no nonsense forward who will work the corners and not sacrifice defensive duties. I will hope to be a bigger part of the scoring charts than I have been before and I will certainly give every game 100%
482 Days: Throughout a lot of your career you been labelled as an enforcer. Is this a role you relish, or is it one you’ve been asked to play by your coaches (or a bit of both)?
CW: It is a role I fell into by accident to be honest but one I grasped in order to prove my worth and get a second chance at playing EPL level. Some coaches do push it more than others but generally there is an understanding that the time and place is known so nothing needs to be said.
482 Days: You are known for you huge hits, but also for how often they land you in the penalty box. Do you think refs sometimes target you due to your size and reputation, or do you just get the hits a bit wrong sometimes?
CW: No one is perfect (even less so referees) but to be honest I am probably as much as fault as the refs. Sometimes the calls may be unjust and sometimes totally correct. A lot can also be said for players who rather than bracing and try to take the hit properly and safely, try and jump out of the way putting themselves in a high risk situation. Of course the onus is on the person throwing the hit but you can’t always stop in an instant.
482 Days: How do you actually see yourself as a player – what do you think your biggest strengths and weaknesses are?
CW: My biggest strength is my attitude. I don’t quit and want to win every game. My weakness I would say, is that I am overly critical of myself and can get frustrated if things don’t go my way.
482 Days: Did you ever fancy trying your hand at Elite level and were you ever offered the chance?
CW: After my first two seasons in Basingstoke I have had at least 1 elite offer every summer. Although I would have liked to give it a shot, realistically the sacrifices that I would have to make, wouldn’t be worth commitment.
482 Days: A few quick fire questions to finish it off…
482 Days: Best player you have ever played with?
CW: Jamie McLennan (NHL netminder and #2 overall draft pick in 2000, who briefly played for Guildford Flames during the 04/05 NHL lockout)
482 Days: Best player you have ever played against?
CW: Tony Hand
482 Days: Favourite hockey moment?
CW: I have two moments that I’m proud of. One because of the achievement and another because of what it represents of me as a player.
Firstly, I actually managed an EPL hat trick (for Basingstoke in a 6-5 win over Telford Tigers in 2010)
Secondly, scoring a 3rd period goal in Slough after breaking my ankle in the first period. That goal being the one that put us through to Coventry play off finals weekend.
482 Days: Finally, what are you most proud of (hockey wise)?
CW: I gave it everything and stuck to my morals.
Posted in Around the league
Streatham Redskins are a steadily improving team in the last few season, finishing 2 places better than the season before for the last 3 years and exceeding most fans’ expectations last season by taking third place in an increasingly competitive league.
This season they have already thrown down a major marker to the other clubs by announcing the signings of Nicky Chinn (Basingstoke) and Chris Wiggins (Milton Keynes) from the EPL. Both players are seen as incredibly solid signings and are probably the two that have generated the most pre-season excitement and gossip amongst league fans so far. There will be more to come on Wiggins in a separate article – but let’s reflect on one of the greats of the British game to start with…
Nicky Chinn, now 42, announced his retirement from hockey at the end of April this season, but was quickly enticed back by Streatham coach Warren Rost for a last swansong in the league, as well as the opportunity to join the coaching team. In the press release announcing his signing1, Nicky said “It is a great opportunity for me to get involved in the coaching side of the game and a chance to give something back to British hockey”.
Last season’s Basingstoke captain has had a remarkable career since he burst onto the scene as a 16-year old in Cardiff and went straight into the Cardiff Devils team, playing in the BD1 (2nd tier) league and gained promotion with the team at the end of the season. He stayed at Cardiff playing at the top level in the UK for a further 6 seasons and also gained his first GB caps at U20 level and then as a senior, winning GB player of the tournament at the 1994 world championships. He continued to play at the very top level and had the distinction of being one of the few British trained players competing in the British Superleague in the late 90’s and early 00’s. Across his gobsmacking 27 years in the senior game he has amassed medals as a Superleague champion (2), BNL champion, EPL cup champion, EPL playoff champion and has played in around 1400 games, scoring 1441 points and receiving 3292 PIMs2. He was also the first player to score 4 goals in a British Championship final (1994)3.
So what will Streatham be getting with this signing. Chinn in his younger years was known for his speedy and physical play and has been described as a “rock’em, sock’em player”. While at 42, these may no longer be his trademarks, but he is a known leader within the teams he has played in. His passing is still absolutely top notch and at this level where the pace is just a little slower and he’ll have that extra split second of time (compared to EPL), I can see him amassing a lot of assists as well as a fair few goals thanks to this attribute. He’ll certainly add a hell of a lot of experience and knowledge to the team and I suspect will be a very influential player on and off the ice.
Warren Rost certainly believes this is the case. He said about Chinn: “Chinny is an all-round talent who is simply one of the best players of his generation, but all that talent and toughness would be of limited use to us if he couldn’t communicate all of this experience to his teammates. This is his greatest quality, how well he communicates and motivates those around him, and he is going to be a tremendous asset to the club moving into the future.”1
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