We already have the Oliver brothers and the Florey brothers, now Oxford City Stars are adding the Ealey-Newman brothers to the mix! Obviously we’ve already been really impressed by older brother Ben this season, now younger brother Josh (yes another Josh!) is set to make his debut for the team on Sunday.
17 year old Josh Ealey-Newman has already been training with the squad since the summer after signing a 2-way contract with NIHL2 Haringey Racers. Like his brother, he played for Slough last season in NIHL2 and had similarly impressive numbers there with 26 goals and 12 assists from just 18 games. His stats at U18 level are even more impressive where last season he was the 4th top scorer in the U18 top division with 44+18 from 17 games.
Ealey-Newman is another explosive and exciting forward that I am very much looking forward to seeing step up to NIHL1. Like his brother he has speed, excellent hands and a great eye for the net. Watching him at Slough last season, I fully expected to see him making the step up as he is one of those players that is simply exciting to watch and who you always think could make things happen when he takes to the ice.
He has already appeared in Oxford, as part of the Haringey squad who were destroyed 10-0 in the pre-season warm-up game. Despite being in the losing team, he still caught the eye and in Haringey’s other two games so far he has contributed a third (6) of their 18 goals in 3 games this season, so he is clearly making an impact there!
With the loss of Andrew Magee and with Alan Green still out with a back injury (although hopefully back next weekend), Stars were looking a little light on forwards, especially going in to such a busy period with a round of 4 double headers in a row starting next weekend. Ealey Newman adds some much needed depth and will help to ensure that there are 3 lines of forwards available even in the event of an injury or penalty.
Josh had this to say about his call up: “I’m really looking forwards to putting on an Oxford shirt and playing for the Stars, it will be great to ice again with some of the guys I played with last season at Slough – hopefully I can help the team gain 2 points.”
Coach Simon Anderson added this “Josh Ealey Newman has been practicing with us all season and obviously with us having a few problems with players injured or leaving, we need to fill the void and I’m happy to give Josh his NIHL1 debut and really look forward to seeing him in a stars jersey tomorrow night.”
Is this the first time that 3 sets of brothers have all iced in the same game for a team at senior level? To be honest, I’m not sure – but I bet it’s the first time there have been three sets of brothers and one of each set is called ‘Josh’!
Edit 04Oct2015: So it turns out that not only have another team had 3 sets of brothers playing before, but they are in the same league as us, in fact – it’s Solent Devils who Josh will be playing in his debut!! (hangs head in shame). They have brothers Alex and Mitchell Murray, Alex and Chico Cole, Shaun and Sam Rudkin.
So assuming that all 6 are playing today we’ll now make a bet on there not being another senior hockey game with 6 different sets of brothers all playing at the same time!
Posted in Players
After the bad news that Oxford City Stars had parted ways with Canadian import Andrew Magee, it’s good to have some positive signing news out of the club. Today it was announced that Slovakian Boris Ružička has arrived in the UK as a new import defenceman for the club.
Ružička at 27 already has a wealth of experience around Europe. As a junior, he played in the Slovakian junior system for his home town of Dubnica and was playing in their U20 team from the tender age of 16. By the time he was 18 he was also playing in the Slovakian 2nd division while still also playing U20s and he even had a few call-ups to the first team in the top Slovakian division at the age of 19 and 20.
Once he left the junior system, he moved around the central and eastern european leagues, playing in the Czech third division and Romanian top division as well as several further seasons in Slovakia division 2.
His stats put him as 6’3″ and 99kg (15st 8lb in old money), so he is going to be an imposing figure on the ice adding some size and hopefully some presence to the Oxford bench. He has contributed goals across all the leagues he has played in (and in fact had over a point per game in the Romanian leagues which is pretty impressive for a D), so he clearly knows where the back of the net is.
Ružička’s paperwork was not completed in time for him to play for the team in tomorrow’s home tie against Solent Devils, but he will join the team for training on Wednesday and will be a welcome addition to the squad ahead of the run of 4 double headers which start next weekend and will be a tough period for the Stars.
Simon Anderson has said that he now that he has had a chance to evaluate the team’s strengths and weaknesses better he has decided that one defender and one forward is going to be the way forward for the Stars for the rest of the season and we understand that he is working on getting the import forward at the moment. He had this to say about the signing: “Boris will give us a presence at the back end and is someone who will give us composure and improve our transition game.We have struggled moving the puck out of our end,it’s something that has not improved from last season and Boris will do that and hopefully strengthen us defensively as well.”
Boris’s stats can be found here: http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=89326
Posted in Players
The final piece of the signings puzzle this season came was announced right at the end of July – but it was well worth waiting for. Simon Anderson can rightly feel chuffed with getting the signature of Shane Moore – who is sure to be a marquee signing, not just for Oxford but in the NIHL as a whole.
I sat down with Shane after he had a chance to settle in with the team and had a long chat with him about his career so far, signing for Oxford and the upcoming season. He’s a really interesting guy to talk to and was willing to give us a great insight into the guy who was the heart of Swindon’s EPL team for so long…
482 Days: How did you get into playing hockey? How old were you when you started?
Shane: I started ice skating when I was 16 months old. I did figure skating till I was about 5 and then at that point I probably realised that it wasn’t the sport for me and moved across to ice hockey where I could be a bit more rough and throw a stick around.
I played juniors in Swindon all the way up until roughly 14-15 at which point I signed full time with the Lynx (Swindon’s EPL team at the time) and started playing senior hockey. I think I dabbled a little bit after that in junior hockey but maybe only played another 20-30 games as a junior. It was more to help the team out when they were short at that point. So I played juniors all through Swindon and absolutely loved it – I think it was the best set-up in the country at the time. There are some good guys who have played here who came up through Swindon as well like Skaifey – it was a really good system.
482 Days: Your first senior game came when you were still playing U16 hockey. What was it like to go into the team at that age?
Shane: It was tough. It’s probably different to kids going through now, the leagues have evolved so much that you can’t just jump in as a 14 year old kid any more – you are not allowed to anymore anyway! Even if you were though, physically kids couldn’t do it now. It was an amazing experience, some of the guys that I played with were fantastic and helped bring me on – guys like Lee Brathwaite, Gareth Endicott, Wayne Fiddes. They were guys I really looked up to as a kid so the chance to play with those guys was phenomenal. They helped me on the ice and in the dressing room and stuff – it was a great experience.
482 Days: You scored your first senior point in that season – was that a special thing for you? Can you even remember it?
Shane: You know what, in all honesty I can’t! I’d love to say I could be I can’t – for me that season was really about establishing myself as someone who wouldn’t take any nonsense. Being a lot younger and a lot smaller than most of the guys in that league, I was more worried about not getting bullied and the points have never been a big thing in my career.
482 Days: So you don’t remember your first senior goal the following season either?
Shane: No. I remember my first ever junior goal – I was about 6 and a half playing for Swindon cubs and just got lucky and hit it off someone’s leg and it somehow went in. They say “they don’t ask how, they ask how many” well that’s exactly how the rest of my career has gone.
482 Days: You played GB at both U18 and U20 level with a total of 5 junior world championships under your belt. What was that experience like?
Shane: You can’t put it in to words how amazing it is to play for your country. It doesn’t matter what sport you play, it is something to be really proud of and it’s a real achievement to hit that top level so to play in 5 World Championships over 18s and 20s was amazing and to be assistant captain at that level is again is something that I’ll tell my grandkids one day with pride. You honestly can’t put it into words but it is a great feeling and something you really have a great load of respect for guys who are playing at that level. You get to play against guys like Anze Kopitar who is now playing in the NHL (top scorer at LA Kings for the last 8 years in a row with a Stanley Cup to his name!). I can say I have played against him at World Championship level so it really does value the skill level that is played there and it just brings your game up so much more as well.
482 Days: Did you have a favourite out of the 5?
Shane: It’s hard to say but I think my most memorable would probably be 2004. I couldn’t tell you where we were but I just remember that one, because that was a week before my Mum passed away. It was very memorable because I didn’t want to go – I actually said “I don’t want to go, I don’t want to play”. My mum said to me that this was one of her last requests that she wanted to me to go. So we played the world championships and then we got the gold medal and when I came back, the following morning she passed away. So I got back just in time. It was a very special thing for me due to the fact that it was one of her last wishes. You’ve got to try and look at positives sometimes in life – you know there is not always a positive that is easily defined – so to be able to find a positive in that situation, to know that I did that for my mum and I managed to keep it together and play every game was a real achievement.
482 Days: Last season saw you reach the incredible milestone of 500 games played for Swindon in the EPL (with another couple of hundred played for other EPL clubs). So you have a huge amount of experience in that league, how do you think it has changed since you first played in it 13 years ago?
Shane: The league has moved on so much. I mean, 10 years ago we probably used to have a crate of beer on the way to games. It was a bit of a jokey league and it is phenomenal how much it has moved on. I am honoured that I managed to stay with it for so long because there is so much talent in that league now. The quality of the British players as well has gone up every year and the amount of good British players has gone up every year. More importantly, if you took an import from 10 years ago – no disrespect to them there were some great imports – guys like Kenny Forshee and I have so much respect for him, he’s a great guy and was a great import in his day. But guys like him compared to the guys who are coming through now tells you just how much the league has moved on. The standard of the imports is amazing now, if you haven’t played to a pretty high standard you wouldn’t get a look in now. 10 years ago, they were looking at guys coming straight out of college that might play one or two years pro and then go back to Canada and that’s it. It’s a big, big difference.
482 Days: How does the current level of NIHL1 compare to EPL as it was 10 years ago?
Shane: I think it is roughly similar to where EPL was maybe 7-8 years ago. I mean I haven’t had a chance to really evaluate it properly yet but going with the guys that the team has in the dressing room – they are a pretty good standard! I know a lot of people look down on the league – but that’s true through the whole country, Elite league look down on EPL, EPL look down on NIHL1 and. Everybody thinks the league below them is going to be absolutely rubbish but these guys we’ve got at Oxford are really good players, they are skilful, got good hands and good hockey knowledge. I think it is going to be an exciting year because although I stepped down a league, I don’t feel like I have stepped down that much in quality. I think these guys are still going to push me and it’s definitely going to be interesting.
482 Days: You played a few games in the Elite League with Basingstoke Bison while you were still an U19 player. Did you have the opportunity to move up as senior – and if so, what stopped you?
Shane: I did actually sign with them full time and I played about a third of the season with them before realising that at that particular time it probably wasn’t for me. I didn’t want to sit on the bench, I wanted to play and I just really wanted to enjoy hockey. The money wasn’t amazing, I could make more money at EPL and I would actually get to play. So I decided to step back down and move back to Swindon. But, the experience itself was really good – it was a chance to play with some of those players and again it brings you up another level and gives you an insight into being a full professional and to the life those guys lead. Maybe if I had stuck with it I would have been in a different situation but I am really happy with what I chose and the fact that I have passed the 500 game mark for a club in the EPL is fantastic and says to me it was the right decision. Elite league was really good fun but it just wasn’t for me.
482 Days: Leaving Swindon was a decision you reached before deciding to join Oxford – you are still only 28 and in the prime of your hockey playing years – what prompted the decision and how difficult was it to make?
Shane: It was a really difficult decision to make. When your home-town club still want you, whether it be as a player or as injury cover or coaching – they offered me a lot of different roles in order to stay with them. It is very hard to step away from that when you heart is still there. I think that is the reason why I originally thought I would step away from the sport completely but when the opportunity arose to come to Oxford… There were a number of things: I know Simon Anderson as he was actually the assistant coach when I first signed in Swindon as a senior when I was 14. But basically the way it came about is that Steve Osman has been my best friend since childhood and he was in contact with me all over the summer saying what he was going to do. When he signed here he asked if I would be interested and it was an opportunity for me to keep my foot in the door, playing a bit of hockey and enjoy it a little bit – but also a chance to play with my best friend before I decide to retire completely. To take it from the driveway to the ice together, and it was a really good opportunity.
The reason I wanted to step away from EPL was the amount of commitment and the injuries. It is a really good league, but it is tough and I had a few injuries over the last few years which just scared me a little bit and I want to take a backwards step and relax a little bit more. Injuries are still going to happen in this league of course, the big difference for me is that if I get injured here then I won’t feel obliged to play through it as much – I won’t be expected to play through them. At EPL it’s now got to the point where it is professional and guys will say to you “You’ve got a broken hand? It doesn’t matter, play tomorrow.”
482 Days: What then made you decide to join Oxford? I imagine you must have had quite a few offers from around the league?
Shane: When the news first came out, my phone went a bit red hot to be honest with you! I did say when I made the announcement that I was leaving Swindon that I was retiring from EPL hockey – just in case something arose. As I said, I was speaking with Steve Osman and I didn’t know what was happening quite yet, but once that announcement came out my phone got very busy… I won’t name names but various people called me. I think I have got quite a lot to offer at this level. I can help some of the young guys, and even some of the older ones I will be able to help out quite a bit. But the only way I was going to play NIHL1, or any kind of hockey, after retiring from Swindon would have been playing with Ozzy. If he didn’t sign I probably wouldn’t be here either! Kudos to him because he managed to get me here as well!
482 Days: You’ve been training with the team for a couple of weeks now, what do you think of the lads? Has anyone caught your eye as one to watch out for?
Shane: Really great bunch of guys – it’s probably one of the best dressing rooms I have been involved with in my entire hockey career to be honest. Everyone gets on with each other, everyone seems to be a real good guy and I think that’s the basis of a really good team. If you can get guys to be as one in the locker room, be a family then they are willing to look out for each other on the ice and they’ll do anything for each other. So I am quite excited to see how that pans into the season.
Particular guys to look out for – it’s hard to call them out because there are a lot of guys who have impressed me. That’s a credit to Simon first of all, I think he has put together a great team. Individual wise – I am impressed that Darren Elliott has still got it! I remember playing against him years ago so good to see he’s still got it. Alan Green – great flare, I know he is going to put points on the board. Ben Ealey-Newman looks like he is pretty handy… obviously Steve Osman – but don’t tell him I said that!
Defensively as well, I played with Tom Avery back at Bracknell – he’s a talented player and I think if he puts his mind to it this season he could be one of the top D in the league. Coxy has even impressed me with his skating – I am impressed with that… maybe he’s been working on it as I was told he couldn’t skate!
482 Days: How do you think you will influence the dynamic of the Oxford team? You are obviously coming in with this huge wealth of experience, more than any player we’ve had who has played at that level…
Shane: I think from my point of view, I will be coming in and trying to help people improve on the basics – I don’t think we need to get overly technical and change people’s game at all. But I think if we can improve in little areas – I know looking at the stats we conceded the most goals last year… defensively, if we can improve that by just a 3 places and move up to 7th most conceded then you are putting yourself in a much better position because our forwards will score… The things I will bring are just little adjustments – toughening up in front of the net – from what I have heard it is quite easy to crash the net against Oxford. It won’t just be me that stops that – I want to get all the guys involved and being tough enough in front that no-one goes near the goalie – and if they do, these boys should be handling it – and if they don’t well then I guess I will step out there and I am sure people are aware that I am not afraid to drop the gloves. I don’t go out looking for it, but if someone is going to go near my goalie or anything then they are going to know about it!
482 Days: At Swindon, you were also known for being willing to stand up for your team-mates and drop the gloves when needed? Is that part of the game you particularly enjoy or is it a role you have had to develop into?
Shane: There are a number of different ways that you see some of these fights when it comes to hockey. You’ve got an agitator who goes out to try and wind players up and will drop the gloves if need be. You’ve got an agitator who won’t drop the gloves and is just there to wind people up and I don’t think there is a space for that personally but some teams do. Then you’ve got guys who are out and out tough guys and you’ve got guys who will stand up for their team mates when needed. I am the guy who will step in if I think it is right. I won’t get involved if it is in hand – but if someone attacks one of my team-mates, or if someone does something that I think is out of order, if someone is taking advantage of one of my players then I am always happy to step up and I’ll fight anyone if need be. There are some big tough guys in this league from what I’ve heard. Guys like Cornish. I think it is only right that we set the tone and make sure that people know that if they want to mess with us then our guys are going to stand up for themselves and for their team. It’s not about necessarily winning that fight, it’s about showing that you will stand up. I’ve probably had about 75 fights in my career and I honestly don’t know how many I have won and how many I have lost but I know that I’ve been there and I have been counted for in every single one. You get the respect both from your team mates and the opposition every time that you do that, and that’s what it is about.
482 Days: What has been the highlight of your hockey career so far?
Shane: That’s a tough one. I’d have to say it’s probably being Captain of Swindon – something I always wanted to do when I was a kid growing up. I mean of course – you always want to be captain of your home town team right? So getting the C in my home town was a real great honour for me. Also being assistant captain of Great Britain – that would have to be right up there. I’ve got 2 gold medals to my name at division 2 of the junior world championships and I’ve got a bronze medal at division 1 – you know they are all pretty good things to have and they are all things that I will have with me forever.
482 Days: What are you most proud of in your hockey career so far?
Shane: I spoke earlier about my mum passing away when I was younger, when I was 18. The most proud thing was probably when I fulfilled another one of her wishes. She had an idea, when she knew that she going that she wanted to do a charity ice hockey match and raise some money. After she passed away I put together a charity ice hockey game where we raised £14,500 in a day. That is something that really is my proudest moment – more than anything else. That and coming home from the WC and being there with her right at the end and showing her my medal.
482 Days: A few final quick questions:
482 Days: Best player you have played with?
Shane: In terms of out and out all rounded skill, I would say Jan Kostal from Swindon. Great, fantastic all round player. In terms of the most fun to play with, probably Terry Miles.
482 Days: Best player you have played against?
Shane: Theo Fleury when he was over in the Elite League. But then it has got to be a toss-up between Theo Fleury and Anze Kopitar… two very different players, but Theo Fleury – he’s just one of the biggest names in hockey, then again Kopitar is doing the same thing now…
482 Days: Toughest guy you have ever fought?
Shane: Probably Payette last season. I fought him twice in one game – glutton for punishment. He’s probably one of the toughest guys – he’s a big unit and he’s very strong. You have to be very tactical when fighting him for sure. Other guys you can just go hell for leather, but when you fight a guy who’s got that much experience and is that much bigger than you and that much tougher than you, you have to be very, very smart when fighting him or you might get seriously injured!
I will say though in this team – I am not here to fight. I am here to play my game, I’m here to play hockey. If a fight comes, I’m not going to back down from anyone in this league but I am not going to be starting it. If other teams want to send out little nobodies to fight me I’m just going to laugh at them. If someone tough comes after me and they want to fight and it’s a good trade it’ll happen.
482 Days: Do you have any superstitions?
Shane: I have so many superstitions I not even know where to start! I always dress my left side first; I listen to the same music; I eat the same meal; I have the same pattern I skate after the national anthem – I have to go up and touch the centre dot, down and touch the blue line, back up and touch the centre dot, touch the blue line, skate around – I could go on and on. My main one is that I always kiss my ring, which was my mum’s ring, I always kiss that 3 times before I take my jewelry off… The one to watch out for would be my skating – I literally skate that every game then slowly come in as the last person in. Everyone else has got to be in first, tap tap tap tap.
482 Days: You and Darren Elliott are going to have issues with each other, he likes to be the last one in as well…
Shane: He can fight me for it!
482 Days: Thanks for giving us such a great interview Shane. I know I’ll be looking forward to seeing you on the ice this season.
Posted in Players
At the end of July, I sat down with Nick, Joe and Josh to chat about the upcoming season, sibling rivalry and much more:
482 Days: Welcome back guys – good to have you back in the squad this season. How do you think the team has changed in the last year?
Josh: Obviously it’s not entirely ‘Oxford’ the way it was before, but we’re making adjustments we’ve had to make since the last season in order to try and get to the top half of the league. Last year, the team effort and spirit alone could have kept us up and did us quite well, considering everything. But now we’ve got to source some other talent.
Joe: Yeah, we’ve had to bring in guys from elsewhere, which is needed if we want to not just stay in the league but compete in the league and make the top half.
Nick: The biggest change we’ve seen over the last year is probably depth. In NIHL2, each team had just a few decent players but the division we are in now, every team can bang out 3 lines of really good players which is what we struggled with last season. Some games we would have three lines and a couple of spares and we would be all right. Other games we’d go with 10-11 guys and we’d be in the game for 2 periods and then we’d just be shattered and the third we just couldn’t hack it. It’s going to be really interesting with a bigger squad.
482 Days: How did you find the step up from NIHL2 last season?
Josh: Mostly it was the amount of games we had to play and the number which were competitive. Instead of having a few teams that were competitive, here – every game was.
Nick: Any team could beat any team and that was something that really keeps you on your toes. You can’t slack off any game. You can’t look at any game on the calendar and go ‘oh that’s an easy win’. Even teams like Chelmsford, towards the end of the season they dropped points in game which on paper they should have easily won, like against us!
482 Days: What about on the ice itself?
Nick: It’s a lot more system orientated and it’s a lot cleaner game.
Josh: It’s about roles as well, everyone has their roles rather than just get out there and have a little knockabout, bang in a few goals, whatever. While in this league – sometimes you can try as much as you like to score yourself but you have to set each other up or take a hit or you shot block and take a puck to your legs or whatever – but you have to work harder and play your role.
Joe: In NIHL2 you could make small mistakes and get away with it. In NIHL1, you make those small mistakes and people capitalise.
Nick: Yeah, like passing in front of the goalie in D, carrying the puck out when there’s an easy head-man – stuff like that? You get caught out… <looks meaningfully at Joe>
Joe: Not me mate!! I don’t remember doing that…!
482 Days: What were your personal high and lows last year?
Nick: I think my high was scoring a goal – that was a special moment! I didn’t have many and they were all pretty ugly! Probably the ugliest 6 goals I have ever scored – which is really good! The uglier the better! Seriously, he biggest high was actually staying up. That was more of a team one, but last summer we all thought we would be struggling to even put a team out.
Josh: It was pretty crazy the way it came down to the last game and it wasn’t even in our hands.
Joe: That draw against Chelmsford was probably the biggest high of the season for me. Especially being the last game – it was such a huge point! I know we had to wait on other results, but that was just…
Nick: You look back on it and we probably should have won that game, I mean one of our ‘lesser’ guys had a decent chance in the last ten seconds – he had a breakaway. He obviously cracked under the pressure a bit, but maybe this season and he gets a chance like that he might even get it on target! He’s only a young kid though… (Ed: I don’t think the team are ever going to let Darren Elliott live that one down).
Nick: Josh’s high is getting to play with his brothers! He was telling me off ice he really liked that part – he wouldn’t say this in an interview because he’s embarrassed, but he looks up to me because I’m quite the big strong brother. He’s the brains but I’m the devilish good looks and wit. Joes’s just sort of a bit of meat in between the two bits of bread!
482 Days: OK… so what about your lows?
Josh: There have been a few games where we struggled…
Nick: Yeah, there was a spell where we lost a load of games in a row and that’s pretty tough when you go from the two previous seasons when we had decent winning streaks and winning the league – it’s difficult to then go to teams who are banging in 6 or 7 goals against you and you start losing games.
Joe: Teams like Invicta, you think you are doing OK and then they just decide to really play in one period and they come out and kill you! It knocks you back a bit.
Josh: It wouldn’t be hockey if you didn’t have the lows!
482 Days: We’ve obviously seen some new faces announced for the season. Are there any in particular you are looking forward to seeing on the ice and playing with?
Nick: There’s a veteran guy – I think he’s called Andrew Cox – he looks alright! He’s played at a pretty high level too – he was telling us he got half a point a game in the Elite League. He’ll be a guy the kids can look up to…
Of the new guys, the Ealey-Newman kid looks pretty good.
Joe: We’ve got some good forwards – we’ll definitely be able to put some goals on the board.
482 Days: Last season, we narrowly avoided relegation, but also we were only a couple of wins shy of making the playoffs. This season, playoffs have to be the goal – what is the one thing that you think the team most needs to improve in order to make that goal?
Joe: Stop letting so many goals in! We don’t struggle to score goals, it’s keeping goals out that we need to work on.
Nick: Defence as a team unit – that was probably our biggest weakness. Everyone would bomb up the ice, but maybe only three or four guys would come back. You have to have all five working and coming back – and it showed. Teams that had the better discipline are the ones that finish in the top four or five places in the league.
Josh: If you don’t have 5 skating back you leave yourself open and in this league there’s a good chance that the other team will take advantage of that.
482 Days: Simon coming in as coach last season, and taking the step up to head coach this season saw a changes put into place in the way the team played. What do you think the biggest difference was that he made last season?
Nick: Systems – definitely systems (lots of nods from Joe and Josh). Before we had a couple of systems which we’d sort of work on. But with Simon he is bringing in dedicated systems, week to week, certain systems against certain teams.
Joe: In ENL2 you don’t really need it in the same way.
Nick: Yeah – you’ve just got to get out there and bang in 10 goals at that level. And we had a team who could do that. Whereas the step up to league 1, you can’t just say to yourself ‘right well we’re just going to score 10 goals’ – it’s not as simple as that.
Josh: Without the systems we’d probably let in 11!
482 Days: How did you all get into hockey? Did Nick lead the way or is there a family connection to the sport beyond the three of you.
Joe: We actually all started playing street hockey.
Nick: It was a friend of our who used to play roller hockey seriously and was in the GB team and got us into it.
Joe: And then we started to come to games and there would be a skating session after all the games – the Sunday night session. We’d be down for that and we met some hockey guys and they said we should come down on a Wednesday…
Josh: Woah, woah, woah! No, I started first! I was asked to come down on a Wednesday…
Nick: Yeah that’s true – he was headhunted – he was offered a contract and he couldn’t refuse!
Josh: Yeah – they gave me two chuck-a-pucks and they let me look under the machines for change!
482 Days: How old were you when you started then?
Nick: I think I was 13…?
Josh: I was 6 or 7
Joe: I was 9 and a half.
482 Days: So in terms of most hockey players – you started quite late Nick.
Nick: Yeah, it shows. I’m pretty below par!
Joe: We both used to bully Josh. Josh is the best because we used to bully him. We trained him up! Playing street hockey, we used to make him cry every day. He’d be coming back home from hockey in his roller blades, throwing his stick around and crying because we would just be aiming the ball at him.
Nick: Torture techniques! It was like taking candies from a baby – but that’s how he got good!
482 Days: Growing up playing hockey, due to the age gaps you were all in different age groups. How did your parents cope with it all?
Josh: Well they basically ran the club to some extent.
Nick: I think they loved it – they fell in love with it.
Josh: They probably wouldn’t say that though…
Joe: Well Dad got into coaching, Mum was part of the management somewhere.
Nick: Dad still goes down to watch junior games now and he hasn’t had a kid playing in juniors for three or four years. It just shows… we don’t have enough people like that unfortunately.
482 Days: Between the three of you, you already have 28 seasons played for the Stars (Nick 12, Joe 9 and Josh 7). What makes you keep coming back?
Nick: I think it’s just knowing that every season Darren is going to have one less tooth! I just want to get to the point where he is just all gums! I keep coming back for that – I don’t think it will be too much longer…
Joe: It’s family! It’s playing with your mates every week. I grew up playing a lot of sports as a kid, but this is the one sport that I would always go back to. As for Oxford – well it’s convenient for us… but I really wouldn’t want to play anywhere else.
Josh: it would just be weird not doing it! Oxford – well I know everyone on and off the ice. The Green Army are great… no reason I would want to go anywhere else.
482 Days: What do you think the biggest changes have been in the years you have been playing?
Nick: I think going years back it was all about bringing other people in, from other clubs. Some of the time they were better than what was at Oxford, some of the time they weren’t – and you would find that a lot of the kids wouldn’t really get a look in. Whereas the last few years, a lot of the guys are Oxford born and bred, because they have come up through the junior system and actually got the opportunity to play. It’s also been a lot more professional in the way it is run – the last 3 years, than it ever was in the past. I don’t want to slag people off, but it seemed to be a bit half-assed at times, not very well planned out. But the last 3 years it has been so much better. It’s little things like having a coach to games – it takes so much stress away, you don’t have to sort out lifts for people and work out who is in what car – you just have to get on the bus!
Joe: It’s having people involved who actually care about Oxford hockey and having Oxford guys in the team. It’s a huge help for the club, getting the club back on the map.
482 Days: Nick – you were team captain for the NIHL2 campaigns and then took a step back and wore an A last year. What do you think the most important attributes are in a C/A and what made you decide you didn’t want to be captain last season?
Nick: You can approach being a C or A in different ways. I was never the sort of captain who was shouting about in the changing room. I didn’t really see that as the best way forward – I personally thought to myself that if I was doing my job on the ice, working hard, making a lot of plays and stuff, then hopefully that will be the right message to send. I say words in the changing room here and there where I have thought they were necessary but I wasn’t ever the sort of person that would be shouting or being too wild just for the sake of it. If there was something I think was important or was going to help us then chip in with it, but otherwise let my play on the ice do the talking for me.
Joe: Nick has never asked to be captain…
Nick: I guess I was just born for it really! As for why I stepped down – well I looked at it and I’d done it for 2 years and we’d been successful while I was captain but we’re going into Div 1 so I thought I’m going to jump ship with my credibility intact and let someone else steer the ship down to the bottom!
482 Days: It’s true – we haven’t won any silverware since you stepped down…
Nick: Well what can I say, what can I say. The record speaks for itself… Clarkey is not cutting it really, is he? He’s really let us all down – it’s all Clarkey’s fault (note, Nick struggling to say this without laughing!). Seriously, I thought to myself, I’ve had a few years being captain and I decided that rather than having that sort of pressure on me, if pressure is the right word, why not let someone else have a go, step back and just play my game rather than worrying about what everyone else has got to do.
482 Days: Nick – Win or lose you seem to be a very steadying influence on the team – always coming across as very calm. Is this a conscious decision from you? Have you ever completely lost your head and started ranting?
Nick: If you asked any of the kids I coached… they would say yes. Coaching is a lot more pressure than playing… playing – I guess I am not the sort of person who really gets angry. It really takes something pretty major to get me stressed out. I don’t know if I come across more relaxed than I am on the ice – maybe that’s just because I am a little bit lazy!
Josh: It is funny when he does get stressed out though – because he sounds like a little girl <Josh does squeaky voiced impression, both his brothers look at him like he is mad>
Joe: What are you talking about…?
482 Days: Joe – you made the switch from forward to defence a few years ago. What made you make the change in the first place?
Joe: Couldn’t score… Honestly, it was to get more ice. At the time we had a lot of forwards and I thought I would give it a go as we didn’t have a lot of defence and I thought it would be something I could do – and why not give it a go.
482 Days: How do you think your defensive game benefits from having previously played up front?
Joe: Knowing how forwards play and think. You know what forwards are likely to do, what direction they are likely to go in. I think it makes me better at reading them – you can read them and it does give you the upper hand.
482 Days: Joe – you are known for having a lethal shot from the blue line. As a defender – how would you defend against yourself?
Joe: You really have to depend on your forwards. The winger on that point has to get close to him and close him down so he doesn’t have a chance to take a shot – or at least not a good one. If they have someone baring down on them then they are more likely to put the puck back in the corner for their forwards to chase rather than take a shot maybe have it blocked away and give up a breakaway as a result.
482 Days: Josh – You spent some time in Germany after the ENL1 stars team folded. What was the hockey like over there.
Josh: Wunderbar! It was good, it was different because…
Nick: They spoke German?
Josh: … yes because they spoke German! No, a lot of the players they don’t have a very aesthetically pleasing way of playing. They all look quite bad… the way they skate and stick-handle just doesn’t look right… but then when you are playing in a game they have ridiculously good hands and good shots – really hard shots and their systems are really good. They all can play as a team really well. The difference is over here, whereas a lot of the coaching is done by volunteers and people who are pulled into the game – everyone is putting their heart into it but people haven’t played the game for years and years – so when they coach they just teach individuals rather than team stuff. That’s what the product is from most of the junior coaching in this country – you tend to get a set of say 3 or 4 really good individuals from each age group. Over there, they train an entire team and everyone knows their job and they are all ridiculously good team players.
482 Days: Did you consider going back for another season.
Josh: I did think about going back at one point. It’s obviously not an easy thing to do – I mean it’s easier in my position, I don’t have kids and I just finished my apprenticeship. But when I got back I got an apprenticeship and hockey is never going to pay for my living… It’s something I would like to do, but I doubt I’d get that opportunity again. I would say tro any young players who get an opportunity to do it though – definitely go for it, it was probably one of the best things I did.
482 Days: Josh – at the end of last season, you were pretty definite that you were going to take a year off from hockey. What made you change your mind?
Josh: I was aiming to get my knee done and then to have time off to get back to work and earn some money and just be able to spend a bit more time at the weekends doing more stuff, maybe playing other sports. Then I went down to a Monday night rec session and I was just so crap that I wasn’t having it – so I went back the next Wednesday and told Simon if he would have me I’d sign.
Nick: Dad put pressure on you and all. Then we went to the Rose and Crown and Andrew (Hall) put pressure on him as well. Andrew bullied him into it!
482 Days: Last question then: any messages for the Oxford fans this season?
Nick: Just make sure everyone gets down to the rink for the games. The more the merrier. The more fans we’ve got, the more intimidating an atmosphere it is for the teams that come here.
Josh: Best supporters I’ve experienced.
Nick: In the last few years especially the fan base has grown exponentially and it has been so much better.
Joe: The loyalty of the fans is so great. Even when we were losing our 7th game in a row, they were still turning up and supporting us every week. Probably shouting louder than when we win…
Nick: Bring your friends, keep coming back!
Thanks to the boys for their time!
Posted in Players
482 Days sat down with Joe, Dax and Mike last month for a bit of a chat… Here’s the resulting interview:
482 Days: Welcome back guys – good to have you back in the squad this season. How do you think the team has changed in the last year?
Mike: Well I know we have a couple of young goalies which is a good start. Obviously it was sad to see Skaifey go, but I think it will be exciting to have two youngsters battling for a place as starting net minder. It will give us a bit more energy as well. We’ve got some other young kids that have come in up front which will be good – get some fresh legs out there!
Joe: And just the depth of the team now. I mean we have four strong lines and everyone is fighting for a spot. It should give us a lot better performances week in, week out.
Dax: We gained a lot of experience from last year. It was completely different to ENL2 so we know what we have to do now in ENL1 and what is expected of us to play at the higher standard because we don’t want to be battling to avoid relegation again – that wasn’t fun!
Joe: It’s not just that we’ve signed new players – a lot of the older players are stepping up even more because of the new signings and the competition for places.
482 Days: How did you find the step up from NIHL2 last season?
Mike: Not sure really, obviously we stormed it in league 2 and it got a bit boring there in the end. I don’t know how the other boys felt but it’s nice to play a proper pace of hockey again for me. Obviously you don’t want to walk into a rink knowing you are going to win or be up against a load of old boys who can’t skate – it’s nice to really have to think on the puck and have your head up. So for me it’s a refreshing change rather than a bad change.
Joe: And bringing good quality players to Oxford ice rink is always good just to give extra entertainment for the fans as well. We saw top quality players coming into the rink every Sunday and us giving them a good battle as well – it’s always more interesting.
Dax: It’s definitely good playing a good standard of hockey. And hopefully much better for the fans to come and watch.
482 Days: What were your personal high and lows last year?
Mike: Mine are quite simple, so I’ll just get it out of the way… Obviously the low was that I injured my knee which took me out of the game for the best part of the season and then the high was coming back and scoring the goal that ended up keeping us in the league! I’m still working on getting the knee strong – but it was a bit of a kick in the nuts to be out for so long.
Joe: The low was losing that first home game to Cardiff in the league. We should have won it really and it would have changed the whole season. But then finishing the season with the draw against Chelmsford – just summed up the whole season and put such a good end to it. I hope it should also give us a good platform to start this one on as well.
Dax: Mine are really similar – the low was again, my injury – I did my back and was out for a good few months and the high was the 2-2 ‘win’ against Chelmsford. We didn’t have all the players there, but everyone did what they had to do, just shows what we could do as a team – pulling together.
Mike: It was really good to see the team doing well in games that we probably should have lost going on form. We’ve had players out with injuries and penalties and there is always someone there to step up in the game – it’s not always the same person that brings the magic every game which is good. We can all do it and if we can all be playing well then we can push anyone.
482 Days: Last season, you all helped contribute towards Stars finishing 7th in the Goals scored column, two places higher than they finished overall. Were you surprised with how well the forward lines worked last season?
Joe: It’s funny because they weren’t settled all year. I don’t think it came down to the line combinations, it was just people stepping up when they had to and with the coaches picking and chopping players around – it obviously worked. But then it also highlights that we really need to sort out our defensive side – and that isn’t just the defence, it’s the forwards as well.
Mike: Yeah, defensively I think we got stronger but it’s obviously something we need to work on, we need to be able to skate with the quick boys – some of the imports all the way back at full speed as well as going all the way up. I think this season, with Alan Green back and some of the other guys we have signed, we’ll score an absolute hatfull.
Dax: We maybe struggled for an out-and-out goal scorer last season and I know people stepped up and got hat-tricks, but there wasn’t any one consistent person – well maybe Evan once he arrived! But it will be good to have a couple more of those guys this season.
482 Days: We’ve obviously seen some new faces announced for the season. Are there any in particular you are looking forward to seeing on the ice and playing with?
Mike: I’m excited to see Ben (Ealey-Newman) play, he’s obviously got a lot of flare which is good.
Joe: It’s not only good for him bagging points, but it can also draw a lot of attention to one player and the players around him can also make the most out of his flare as well – which again we maybe didn’t have enough of last season.
Mike: I’m looking forward to seeing the imports too – coming in they are going to be fit and I expect that they are going to have solid hands hopefully do all the little things right – that’s what we expect imports to be like so it will be good to learn off them and pick holes in your own game from people that have been coached really well.
Dax: Obviously the imports and the new signings – but also some of the home boys from Oxford who are coming back like Coxy and Steamy. But it’s going to be good because everyone is going to have to step their game up if they want to play in the top three lines so it’s going to be really competitive in the team as well.
482 Days: We’ve got a lot of new fire power in the team – with two new import forwards, Steve Osman and Ben Ealey-Newman also all looking to make an immediate impact and pushing for spots on the top lines. What is the one thing each of you needs to do to ensure that you keep your names in the mix for high ice time as well?
Joe: For me it’s fitness and the mental side of my game. So over the summer I’ve been trying to get a bit fitter and talking myself into playing how I used to play again. For me it’s all above my shoulders and trying to get all that sorted – sports psychology…
Mike: Same with me really – I know Joe has been training pretty hard this summer so I’ve been trying to get involved with some of that. Dax is always one of the fittest guys on the ice as well – and when I’m fit I think I can make a difference as well. It’s keeping consistency, obviously nobody wants to see someone come in and take your spot, so I think everyone will naturally raise their game and that will give us a bit more fire as well – so it will all be good.
Dax: Just do my job basically. Get on the ice, do what I’ve been told to do and do it to the best of my ability. That’s all I can do really – just work hard at everything I have got to do and get on with it.
482 Days: You guys have all been playing summer league over the last 2 months. What is the biggest benefit you get from it?
Joe: Summer league is just a really nice entry back into ice hockey over the summer. If you go straight into training or straight into the first game, you end up spending a month trying to get your hands back and your hand-eye coordination back. You’d be surprised how just 2 months off hockey can really affect your game – so summer league is great to just play with the puck on the ice and get in a routine again.
Mike: Mind you if anyone saw me skate last week, they probably wouldn’t have thought I’d done too much yet! It’s also great to be around the boys in the summer. You don’t need to worry – it’s mid July and maybe it’s time to start stepping it up a little bit now but it’s just fun in the summer and you can relax and just enjoy skating.
Dax: Like Joe said, just keeping your hand-eye in and keep pushing little things. It’s a nice entry back into hockey, gets you back into the flow of things slowly and letting you gradually build up to taking on the harder training that will start in August.
482 Days: Is there anything else you guys have been doing fitness wise over the summer?
<A lot of sheepish looks around the table>
Joe: I’m just off to Croatia – to do some running down the beach. My friend’s wedding is just an excuse to go and do some fitness training out there <grins>!
Mike: I’ve been lunging at a few festivals! No, I’m starting to do a lot more now – I’m about to do some boot-camp stuff – burpees and stuff like that – trying to lose a bit of bulk and gain a bit of explosiveness for me – that’s what I’m looking at turning on board for the season. (For the uninitiated – burpees are sort of a combination of a squat thrust and a push up).
Dax: Just work for me. I have a very physical job as it is, so work keeps me quite fit. I have started riding my bike to work – which has been helpful with the legs as well. I will most probably start trying to do some weights and stuff like that as well.
482 Days: Last season, we narrowly avoided relegation, but also were only a couple of wins shy of making the play-offs. This season, play-offs have to be the goal – what is the one thing that you think the team most needs to improve in order to make that goal?
Joe: For me it’s consistency. Like I said before – that first game against Cardiff, it meant everything and could have got us off to a good start. We need to start the first game, knowing and being confident that we can beat any team in the league and then go out and play like we can. Staying fit is the other one, injuries do happen and you can’t stop that – but staying fit will avoid some injuries and help us to get back quicker from the ones you can’t avoid.
Mike: For me, it’s got to be winning the games you should win. It’s hard to say before we get the fixtures etc, but we can’t afford to lose points where we shouldn’t have to. So everyone turning up at the right time. It’s no good having a great game against Invicta and ‘only’ losing 9-7 if you don’t go out and beat Cardiff at home the next day.
Dax: I think fitness is a massive thing. We showed last season that we could skate and we could play with every single team in this league – and we did for 40 minutes. It’s just the last 20 minutes, or the first 20 minutes that we just lack that concentration and the fitness. We’ve got be able to skate hard for the full time – it’s not just personal players, it’s the team as whole – working on our fitness so we can stay with teams for the time.
482 Days: You have all had pretty bad injuries over the last 2 seasons (Mike – knee, Dax – back, Joe – broken ankle), how do you cope with not being able to play and do you worry when you first come back about getting injured again?
Joe: I had an injury years ago with my shoulder and that was difficult to get back from. You don’t know if it is really fixed until you get hit again – then you realise it isn’t and you have to keep going back getting it sorted then going back out and testing it out again. My ankle actually recovered quite well, I took enough time and it feels stronger than ever.
Mike: My knee, I was worried about injuring it again – more so in training than in games. Because when when you are in games, you don’t really feel half the stuff anyway because the adrenaline pumps you up. I still put a bit of tape around it now even though it’s probably not doing anything – it’s just something to give you some reassurance. As long as you work to build it up – stuff like shoulders there is only so much you can do to build it up when it is injured, whereas legs and knees recover better because you can train them more and put more weight on them day in and day out. It is in the back of your mind, but when you are really in the game you shouldn’t be thinking about it.
Dax: For me, I’ve always had a bad back since I was quite young. It just got really bad last year. It’s just management now, trying to strengthen it – if it starts really hurting I have to take a step back and manage it now. Just get on with it – I have some good drugs at home that I can take as well! Pop a couple of them and carry on because I have to be able to work the next day…
482 Days: How do you guys cope mentally when you are out? Do you stay away from ice hockey? Do you feel you want to be there to watch or do you hate watching? How do you psychologically deal with being out when you are used to being in the middle of it?
Joe: I like watching. No that’s not true – I hate watching but I never miss it. Last year I tried to at least do something on the bench like gee everyone up and try and do bits like that to help.
Mike: I don’t really like watching too much. It’s just annoying more than anything – it gets you down as well because you know there is nothing you can do. Being injured is definitely not a good place to be!
Dax: I always wanted to come and watch but then when I actually got here I never enjoyed being here so I ended up staying at home and follow on twitter. And then even though you are on twitter, I would start shaking with adrenaline and stuff like that – because you couldn’t do anything about it. I used to get really wound up at home – my missus at home used to just go to bed because she didn’t like being around me when I was watching it on twitter! Ideally I’d just stay away from it completely, but obviously you can’t…
Joe: I’ll have a drink in the stands if it is Isle of Wight away!
482 Days: You all played for the Stars in ENL1 prior to the team folding and starting again in Div 2. How do you think the standard of the league compares now to how it was a few years ago? What are the most notable things that have changed?
Joe: It’s a lot stronger now, it’s quicker. It’s different as well – teams that used to be at the top aren’t really at the top now and it’s just completely turned on its head. This season especially – a lot of people are tipping Streatham to win the league and I can’t remember the last time that happened. But teams like Invicta and Wightlink seem to be struggling in comparison. A lot of premier league guys are coming down to play in our league now – there were a few back in the day but now that there is more budget available in some teams in our league, we’re seeing more top quality players coming in.
Mike: Lots of London teams as well – they always seem to bring lots of energy. I think it is important, in general, for London to have good teams… as our capital city. It’s definitely quicker and there are younger kids that are better, imports and player dropping down – people can actually get a bit of money playing for some of the teams now so some of them are dropping down even thought they could still play in the league above. It has really improved.
Dax: I think the reputation of it has got a lot better. Like the boys say, players are dropping down from the higher leagues and wanting to play in this league. Some teams have got a bigger budget, so they can afford to bring those guys in. With the new rinks going up as well, all that sort of thing adds to the professionalism of the league.
482 Days: Dax – you have been voted players player twice in the last 3 seasons. What do you think it is about your game that makes you so popular with your team-mates?
Joe: He’s so go-getting!
Dax: I don’t know – just don’t stop working. I personally know that I am not a goal scorer that’s not my job. So I go out and I just don’t stop skating and try and stand up for the boys – stuff like that. In the changing rooms, always being positive and not putting anyone down, just keep everyone gee’d up as much as you can. But definitely just don’t stop working – I think you get quite a lot of respect when you just don’t stop skating and will go up against some of the big guys and not worry about it.
482 Days: Mike – you are known as being quite a tough, physical player. Is this a side of the game you particularly enjoy?
Mike: As a junior, I would say I was quite aggressive – I like throwing my weight about and it sort of just carried on into the senior game. I like to think that I skated quite fast – but it’s just one of the ways to win the game isn’t it. I enjoy the physical side when it is clean. NIHL2 is often just sticks and slow people – but if you are going against someone who is equally fit and wants to put the body in as well and keeps their stick in the right place – it’s proper hockey. When you’ve got people just whacking at your ankles – well that’s not something that I enjoy. I don’t particularly enjoy the fighting part of it if I am honest – I know Daxy steps up quite often and it’s a good way to get the team going sometimes. But the long and the short of it is yes, I do quite like to get physical.
482 Days: How do you think that the physicality of NIHL1 compares to NIHL2?
In this league it’s more that you get your stick on the puck and look up and there is probably going to be someone right in your face straight away. In league 2 it was more that you would look up and get a stick in your face – it’s a bit different…
482 Days: Joe – this will be your 8th season with Oxford City Stars and your 9th senior season overall. You are still only 25 – do you now consider yourself a veteran of the team?
Joe: Oh god, I am aren’t I! We have got a lot of young players so I guess you do get that – but as long as Darren and Clarkey are still around, everyone’s a rookie still really!
482 Days: Are you surprised that you have pretty much stayed with Oxford for your entire career so far?
Joe: I said to Simon that my first choice will always be Oxford – if I got an offer somewhere else it would be really hard for me. It’s where I started watching hockey, where I started playing the game and I don’t think I would enjoy it anywhere else as much as I would here – so as long as the team will have me I’m sure I’ll be here. Of course if they don’t want me I’ll have to look somewhere else and not think twice about an offer!
Huge thanks to the boys and sorry I made you a bit late for the start of the summer league session!
Posted in Players
Back in July I sat down with Jake Florey, Sam Arnold and James Clarke to chat about their return… Apologies for taking so long to get it out guys!
482 Days: Welcome back guys – good to have you back in the squad this season. How do you think the team has changed in the last year?
James: Thank you – It’s great to be back in the fold – we have already seen a number of new additions to the squad for this coming season which of course is exciting for the fans but with a good nucleus of our home grown skilled players staying put!
Jake: Yeah! I think the team has improved a lot over the last year. Having someone like Steamy (Alan Green) back who is obviously a goal scoring threat and the other lad he’s brought with him – Ben, we are much stronger.
Sam: Having Coxy back in defence also really benefits us as well – I think we have strengthened at both ends.
Jake: Obviously losing Skaifey in nets has been a big downside but I am sure the two new guys will fill his spot well.
482 Days: How did you find the step up from NIHL2 last season?
James: Well it is definitely a step up! I enjoyed it immensely and certainly more suited to my kind of playing style.
Sam: It wasn’t as big a step up as I thought it would be. The first couple of games were quite tight and it just wasn’t as big a difference as I was expecting. I didn’t think we did too badly. You have to think quicker on the ice though.
Jake: I’d already played two seasons in NIHL1 before, so I kind of knew what to expect, and I knew with the team that we had that we would be all right.
482 Days: What were your personal high and lows last year?
James: Unfortunately I obtained an injury which sadly which had me sidelined for the best part of the start of the new season but soon after a course of physio and rehabilitation I found myself back in the running and playing the hockey I enjoy.
Sam: The highs was maybe seeing the team’s progression throughout the season. The low’s – well obviously we had some big losses but then the improvement we showed counteracted that.
Jake: Our 2-2 win in Chelmsford was definitely a high for me (and that was a win for us if anybody asks!). Our low points – losing to Gosport and Cardiff – we should have been beating them and the other teams around us.
Sam: I think it shows we thrive under the pressure more than anything – we would turn up for the games against the big teams – we just have to learn how to do better against the others.
482 Days: NIHL1 has undoubtedly stepped up the standards in the last few years – how do you cope with what is now a fairly high level league?
Jake: You don’t approach it by yourself, you go up as a team – that’s the biggest thing.
Sam: The experience in the team helps. For people like me – I’d never played NIHL1 before. So playing with people who had played in that league really helped me and made me feel like I could play there and then by the end of the season it felt right. But having experienced players around me definitely helped me cope.
James: You know we’re limited to only one training session per week so I do this by working hard on every aspect whether that be skating, drills, plays or by taking on board everything the coaches explain and by simply being on the same page with everyone else, putting that in to every game when you step out on to the ice.
482Days: In NIHL1 the crowds (especially at some of the clubs we visit) are generally much larger than those in NIHL2. Do you feel additional pressure playing in front of hundreds of people every week?
James: Personally I don’t… I find it exciting and if anything playing in front of larger crowds boosts my confidence.
Jake: Some places you go can be a bit hostile. It adds a lot of tension to your game – but that can be a good thing!
Sam: The fans are right up close to you and you can hear what they are shouting. But then playing in Oxford and playing in front of bigger crowds than I remember when I was a junior coming to watch the Stars – that helps us a lot. It’s a lot of pressure but in a good way. To be honest having a big crowd away helps too though – just makes the experience more positive.
482 Days: We’ve obviously seen some new faces announced for the season. Are there any in particular you are looking forward to playing with?
Sam: There are a few names I don’t know – the new goalie from Coventry, I’ve never played with or against him so I’m looking forward to seeing him. Ozzy (Steve Ozman) as well – I’ve not played with him before. Jason our new little D-man – well actually he’s quite big compared to me, he’s looking really good in summer league and definitely has a lot of promise.
James: I’m looking forward to seeing all the new guys on the ice this season and I can see them easily falling in to place but there are some younger guys who are more than capable of playing at this level and I am very much looking forward to playing alongside these.
Jake: I think it will be a pleasure for them to get to play with me!
482 Days: All the teams are now well on the way to announcing their rosters this year and there are obviously quite a few import forwards. Do you particularly notice when you are playing against these guys and do you approach anything differently?
Jake: You do when it is someone like Klima and it feel like all he needs to do is shoot and he will score!
Sam: You’ve just got to do your best. People make a big thing about them and you know who they are, obviously you notice them on the ice and some of them can be at a whole different level from some of the English guys. But I don’t think you do anything differently – you still have to deal with them the same way you would anyone else.
Jake: You do know who they are though – so when you are in your own end you probably do favour them slightly. You make sure they are not on their own. But then again that’s the same against some of the top British guys in the league – you know who they are and the same rules apply. It’s not just the imports… the imports just tend to be the ones who are brought in specifically to be goal scorers though (and get more money for it usually).
James: We’re competing again with guys that could either be playing in the league above or have decided to step down for whatever reason & you know when they’re out on the ice, these guys have a lot skill and must be respected for their abilities, but not too much respect of course! As a d-man you want to you want be to able to close them down as quickly as possible and create less scoring opportunities.
482 Days: How do you think the systems that Simon started to put into place have changed the way the team plays? Do you think it has made a significant improvement – does it make your jobs easier or harder?
James: It certainly improved the squad massively on the ice last season and that meant everyone pulled together, resulting in all buying into the systems that Simon introduced. I would say if we all played to the system then our jobs become far easier. Without a system last season I think things could have finished very different!
Jake: Keeping to the system in Chelmsford was what got us the point that kept us in the league, no doubt about it. Without the system, I don’t think we would have been able to compete with a team with their sort of skill level.
Sam: It also helps because in a game situation you start to flow – you start to know where people will be so you don’t have to look up and search for them. I think as a d-man, breaking out of our end, you don’t panic as much and you can be more calm because you know you have the outlet. You know they are going to be there. In previous seasons we didn’t tend to do as much on this, now we work every session on the systems and it does make a real difference.
482 Days: NIHL is a league of many different rink sizes – from the Olympic size of Bracknell or Cardiff down to the postage stamp that is Gosport. How does this effect you and the way you approach the game?
Jake: My two favourite rinks to play in are Gosport and Isle of Wight – because you don’t have to skate as hard! You don’t have to move as fast and you know exactly what is going to happen. Even if they get the puck just past the red line, you know they are capable from scoring from there.
Sam: Yeah, but you do get banged about in the corners in those rinks a lot! You have a lot less time as a d-man. If they are dumping and chasing or the puck goes deep into the corners, you don’t have as much time to think. You just have to get there fast and you know someone is going to be straight on you.
James: Most of us our very familiar now with the rinks and all offer moments of difficulty but by sticking to the game plan and adopting the various systems we have in place to able to frustrate those teams we play against so they have no alternative but to play our game.
Sam: For the big rinks it really comes down to fitness. There is so much ice to cover. But then you have more time on and off the puck as well. I think I prefer bigger rinks to smaller ones. For Solent and the Isle of Wight you just get to the red line and shoot on the net and you know the other team is going to do the same thing back to you. The bigger rinks there is more time, more space to move the puck around and I think you get a better game of hockey.
482 Days: Oxford finished 9th last season but were top of the ‘goals against’ charts. What do you think the one most important thing that Stars need to do to improve that statistic this season?
James: There is no doubt about it – being stronger in front of our own net, clearing away those loose pucks and rebounds making sure there are no second chances.
Jake: We have to support our own end – and not just the two d-men on the ice. Our three forwards have to be involved in protecting our end as well.
Sam: We have to start in our end, work in our end forward and make sure everything is in place defensively before moving forward. We’ve got the goal scoring capabilities, no doubt about that, but the statistic of goals scored against us is there and we have to work on that.
482 Days: As we all know – having confidence in your netminder is really important for defenders. We have an all-new net-minding team this season. How do approach building the confidence back up with a netminder you have not played with before?
James: Building a great partnership by protecting the netminder in play, being vocal with one another, perhaps assisting with blocking as many shots as you can so he doesn’t have to contend with them all!
Sam: I think it comes with time. We have to learn what they want, how they play it and build around them. We have to start with the goalie and build from there, I think we have to change to what they want, what their standards are. We got to learn what Skaifey wanted and it’s going to be a process of making sure we listen to how the new goalies want to play it.
Jake: I’m pretty sure both the goalies will be speaking up and letting us know what they want. Shannon has shown that in summer league enough already. He’s very vocal!
482 Days: Sam – as one of the smallest players in the league and that can often seen to be as a hindrance, especially for a D-man – what do you do to adapt your game and are there ways you can use your smaller stature to your advantage?
Sam: In the smaller rinks you do get beaten about a bit more but I figure I have a lower centre of gravity and I think I hold my own all right. People say that the bigger they are the harder they fall – and I think that’s pretty true. I’ve been small all through my junior career so I’ve adapted. I’ve had a coach (I won’t name names) who actually told me to go out a couple of times to get hit to get a penalty because it will be a check to the head. I’m not scared of getting hurt – but that’s not how I want to play the game – I just want to do the best I can and compete with anyone.
482 Days: James – you are now in your 15th season for the Oxford City Stars (and 24th season in senior hockey) – how do you feel your experience benefits the team? How many more seasons do you think you have left in the tank at this level?
James: Can’t be… really …are you saying I’m old! I’m still learning but at the same time I like to think I have a lot of experience to pass on to the guys, hopefully the knowledge and confidence I have when playing is something they recognise to enjoy it and have FUN. I’m still enjoying the hockey very much, especially at this level, I’m not ready to quit just yet I think I’ll let the management decide when that day comes!
482 Days: Jake – I know you have been working massively on your fitness this summer. Was that something you identified as an issue last season and what have you been doing to improve it?
Jake: Before training I’ve been trying to get a run in – just to try and get a bit more fitness in before practice. I’ve done some gym work as well – but I definitely have to go a bit harder to make sure I am in shape for next season. It was something that has been an issue for me in the last few seasons. In NIHL2 it wasn’t as much as a problem – I could get away with it but last season it was clear I couldn’t any more so it’s something that I have to address myself if I want to keep playing at this level.
482 Days: Guys thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us. We’re looking forward to seeing you on the ice in September!
Posted in Players
Oxford City Stars today announced the huge signing of defenceman Shane Moore from Swindon Wildcats in the EPL. A month ago, Shane confirmed that would not be returning to Swindon as the commitment level for EPL was too high at a point where he needed to concentrate on his career outside of hockey and a complete retirement from hockey was something he was seriously considering. However, he has been in discussion with Oxford head coach Simon Anderson for quite some time and yesterday Simon was able to persuade him that Oxford was the place he wanted to be this season and got him to put pen to paper for the upcoming season.
Simon Anderson said he had room on his squad for one more defenceman – and this certainly is a fantastic player to complete the Oxford City Stars team.
Shane, still only 28, has a huge amount of experience having first debuted for the Swindon EPL side while still playing U16 hockey in the 2002/03 season. He was a GB international at both U18 and U20 level and has also played in the Elite league (for Basingstoke Bison before they dropped to the EPL0. The majority of his career has been at EPL level, mostly representing Swindon but also with brief spells at MK and Bracknell, and he has an incredible 543 EPL league and playoff games under his belt at this level as well as a host of cup games. Swindon Wildcats also named him as an alternate captain in 2012/13 and then as captain in 2013/14, when he took his team all the way to the EPL championship final.
Shane is known as a stay at home defenceman who is very strong in front of the net and in the corners. He has also dropped the gloves on more than a few occasions and has fought against some of the leagues known ‘big fighters’ in the past few seasons including Andre Payette and Callum Pattison (both Sheffield).
What can the Oxford fans expect from Moore – well at this level, I would expect him to come in and really make a huge impact. He was a solid top 4 defenceman at EPL level, so in this league I am expecting him to be one of the team’s standout players – bossing the defence and reading the opposition plays early, giving him time to step in and break then down. He is a very strong skater for this level and I am sure his experience will be vital in working to keep the shot counts against us down. He will also be a great mentor to our younger players and I would be unsurprised to see him wear a letter in the upcoming campaign as he is clearly a leader on and off the ice.
Shane spoke to 482 Days just after putting pen to paper, saying “I was torn between retiring completely or dropping down a league or two, but after speaking with Simon Anderson about his plans, it felt right. He’s assembled a good squad and I think I can help with his goals for the season. I can pass on some experience to some of the younger guys and help develop them and will be looking be a solid force on the blue line. I’m excited to link up with some of the guys I’ve played against in the past, and think we have an exciting season ahead of us.”
Coach Simon Anderson was also told 482 Days: “I am absolutely delighted to sign someone of Shane’s calibre for the Stars. We are getting a great player and an even better guy in the room. He will be a great role model for our young group, he is a consummate professional and he will not only command respect in our team, but around the league as well. Last season on occasions I felt we got bullied and having someone like Shane on board, will help make the opposition play honest and think twice about taking liberties with our top players. Make no mistake Shane is here to play and help us in any way that he can, he will make us stronger in all situations, he is a smart player that can still do a job at a higher level and the fact that he wants to scale down his commitment means that an NIHL schedule is perfect for him. He is good friends with Ozzie (Steve Osman), which was also a huge factor in him signing. We are delighted to have him and cannot wait to see him in a Stars Jersey.
Posted in Players
The Oxford City Stars completed their forward line-up today by announcing the return of Joe Edwards and Dax Hedges for the 2015-16 season.
Joe Edwards is another ‘Oxford boy’ who started his playing career with our junior club. He moved away to Slough at U16 level for a couple of years but came back to the Stars to play his final junior seasons back home while also putting in time on the senior team. He is a player who has actually appeared at every level of the game in this country from NIHL1 and 2 with Oxford, to EPL with Slough Jets and also a guest spot with the Edinburgh Capitals at Elite league level. He is very much a high impact player – with incredibly good hands who likes to dance through 2 or 3 defenders on his way to goal. His weakness is probably the defensive aspect of the game as he would probably be the first to acknowledge that he is rarely in the running for the best 2-way player award, but going forward I think he could be one of the best in the league. He was fourth in the Oxford scoring charts last season with 17+15 from 32 games and when he gets the puck you know there is always the potential for something great to happen.
Dax Hedges is one of Oxford’s highest energy players. He never seems to stop moving on the ice and is very much a 2-way player, working hard to shut down players in the neutral zone and although he will perhaps be disappointed with his points haul last season (5+5 from 22 games) he is still one of the most valuable players on the ice in my eyes. This opinion is certainly backed up by the fact that he was awarded the coveted “Players’ player” award again last season (having also won it in 2 years ago) – showing that his team-mates certainly appreciate the hard work he puts in at every shift. He struggled with a serious back injury last season and was out for several months mid-season which made it a difficult year for him as well.
Simon Anderson is certainly happy to have them back – he had this to say:
“Joe was one of the first guys we spoke to – and he was a bit cautious because he was on third line a bit this seasons and he doesn’t want to be a third line player. I had a conversation with him – I said to him “if you want to be on the top 2 lines you have to be better defensively”. He’s probably the most skilled player on the team, got absolutely unbelievable skill. Going offensively – he’s brilliant. But when Oxford lose the puck he has to help us out a bit. We have spoken about that and I said he needs to sort it out in his game. I said “if you can add the defensive side to your game, then you could be playing in the league above” because he has got that skill and he skates really well. The only thing to stop him from being a really really good player is him taking notice of his defensive game. If he can get that then he’ll definitely be pushing for a spot on our top two lines.
Dax is a natural leader – he’s in the running to be one of our ‘A’s. On the ice he’s a real workhorse. For a small guy he plays like he is 6’4”. He’s physical and doesn’t mind dropping the gloves, skates unbelievably well and a strong voice in the locker room. He also chipped in with some really important goals as well – doesn’t mind going to the net and getting whacked. If we had 20 Dax Hedges in our team, we’d be up there. I just didn’t have to think twice about resigning Dax – a great guy and someone who the other players can look up to and respect. Winning players’ player speaks for itself there.”
Posted in Players
News is out today that all three Oliver brothers (Nick, Joe and Josh) have re-signed at Oxford City Stars.
The three lads are very much of the ‘Oxford born and bred’ variety, growing up within walking distance of the rink, learning to play hockey at Oxford and spending most of their senior careers with the club. Very much a part of the heart and soul of the team, the brothers are popular on and off the ice as well as adding some great depth to the squad.
Oldest brother Nick, 29, is a one of the rare breed of one-club players. He came up through the junior ranks, played his first game at the age of 17 for the senior team in the 2003-04 season and has never left! This will be his 13th season in an Oxford City Stars uniform. He captained the team to five trophies (2 NIHL2 league, NIHL2 cup, town&gown and Oxfordshire sports team of the year) in 2 seasons. Last season he chose to wear an A rather than the C but was still a regular strong voice in the changing room. On the ice he is quite an unassuming player – rarely flashy but always solid and continually in the mix with consistant strong performances. He works hard in both directions and was a strong play-maker for the team with 25 assists to go with his 6 goals last season.
Joe, 25, also learned his trade at Oxford. although he took 2 years out at Swindon to play for the U16 team there. He returned to Oxford as a 16 year old and combined U19 and senior team play for a further 2 years before becoming a full time senior. Except for one further year at Swindon NIHL2 he has remained at Oxford and this will be his 10th season with the club. Joe, is a forward turned defenceman and it shows as still likes to score some goals. He is very much an offensive defenceman and last season, he was 5th amongst all league defenceman for points with 9+16. Twitter followers are familiar with tweet of ‘boom downtown boom’ to signal another slapshot from the blue line which has sailed past the opposition netminders… He is a high energy player and as well as scoring goals is also very good at picking out the head-man player and making a great tape to tape pass to split opposition defenders and give the team a great chance. Defensively he is a strong player and good at digging the puck out of the corners and feeding to start the breakout.
Josh, the youngest of the trio at 22, also moved across for a few years in the Swindon junior system between spells at Oxford. He joined the Oxford senior team at the age of 16 in the 2009-10 season where he managed to play 4 different levels of hockey at once – with appearances for Swindon (U18, ENL2 and EPL) as well as the Oxford ENL1 team. He is definitely a high-energy, high-skill player who can make a major impact in a game when he really turns on the style. Last season he was the top goal scorer for Oxford, hitting the back of the net 19 times as well as being second on overall points with a further 17 assists. His return may come as a surprise to a few after he originally decided to take a year off due to a longstanding knee problem. But changed his mind just last week and is not a player a smart coach will turn down if he offers to come back!
All three players are very welcome returnees to the team and add depth to an already strong and competitive squad. Joe was one of our top D last season and I am sure will be again. Nick and Josh are both integral parts of the forward line-up, both having a regular spot on line 2 last year and will be very much in the mix for what is looking like a very strong forward line-up this season.
Simon Anderson is delighted to get the complete set of Oliver brothers back and spoke to us about them:
“Joe ‘iron man’ Oliver – before we signed Tom Avery, he was the guy we were throwing out all the time and even when Avery was here – we always knew we could keep going to him. He never complained about being tired and we could keep throwing him on the ice and he’d put in a great shift. Similar to Tom, he’s very calm – maybe carries the puck sometimes too much but these are just little tweaks he needs and we want to support him to become a better player. Definitely one of our top 4 D-men, we can play him in all situations and he thrives on that responsibility as well. He does put terrible music on in the dressing room though – us old boys want something with a few words you know!
Nick – another great leader. On the ice he’s a good face off man, always seems to make the right pass out. He’s matured so much since I was last here, he’s a much better hockey player. Another one who made the transition really well to NIHL1 – it didn’t take him long at all. He picked up a few niggly injuries last season – but he’s one of those guys who plays through them – didn’t see him too much in the treatment room or complaining about it. He was another of those guys who was high on the list of those we wanted to speak to about this season. Me and Darren had him down straight away – he’s a leader in the room and chipped in some really vital goals. He’s so well rounded now and was a vital piece of our jigsaw.
What can you say about Josh… probably one of the best forwards in the league in my book. Should probably be playing the league above if he really wanted to. We nearly lost him this year – due to his knee – he wanted to give it a bit of a rest. But I think that was something said at the end of a long season and he needed a rest and a break. Now he knows all the boys are coming down, he’s obviously got the bug again. We weren’t really going to look for anyone else, but when last season’s top goal scorer tells you he wants to sign again, we’re going to make room for him. Josh is another one who plays a really 2-way game, he’s just a complete player. I think we’re lucky to have him and I don’t see any reason why he can’t be even better this year than last year.”
Posted in Players
The second of Oxford’s new import signings is Andrew Magee. The 23-year old Canadian forward is known around the league after impressing last season at Solent Devils where he was 33+25 from 42 games, was one of only 2 Solent players with a 100% attendance record for games and only cost the team 16 minutes in penalties. He’s quick, works hard and clearly knows where the back of the net is. All signs are pointing to him being a fantastic pick-up for the Stars this season.
Andrew will be returning from Canada in early September to link up with the team just in time for the start of the season, but he took time out last week to answer some questions for 482 Days:
482 Days: Welcome to Oxford Andrew, what made you decide that Oxford was the place to be this season?
Andrew: Thank you so much for the welcome! A lot of work was done with my agency, AdvanceSportsManagment over the summer. A lot of decisions needed to be made as well –Oxford presents a great opportunity for me. I feel that Oxford will compete for a very good spot in the standings this coming season and give the fans a great team to watch on the ice.
482 Days: Tell us a little about your hockey career prior to coming to the UK last season.
Andrew: I started at the age of 4, and I grew up playing my entire minor hockey career in Toronto. I’ve played for quite a few organizations all around the city, and along with many different levels. At the age of 8 was when I really moved into competitive hockey, playing at the top league in Toronto for a couple of years (AAA). After that, a better part of my minor hockey was played with the Markham Islanders (6 years) at the AA level. After bouncing around a few different teams in AA (Hillcrest Summits, Toronto Penguins) I had a solid 2 years with the Scarborough Young Bruins (AAA level). Just prior to the UK, I was fortunate enough to play two years of Jr ‘A’ hockey, which really helped with the development of my game.
482 Days: You grew up and played hockey in Toronto, a city with more ice hockey rinks than the whole of the UK. How did you adjust going from a city where hockey is an ingrained part of the culture, to the UK where it is a real minority sport?
Andrew: It was a little bit strange at first, I tell people all the time that there are 5 rinks within walking distance from my house back home! So only having one rink within 50 miles was a bit shocking, but at the same time, I knew going in that it wasn’t exactly going to be like back home. That being said, I feel hockey is really up and coming in the UK – especially after all the rinks we travelled to last season – the fans are fantastic and I feel it’s only getting better in the years to come!
482 Days: Three years ago, you joined a brand new team in GMHL and scored their first ever goal – was that a special moment for you, or was it just another goal in a hockey game?
Andrew: It was a very special moment, not so much for just me personally, but for the team as well. So much work was done to put together that franchise, from the owners, to the coaches and staff and the players – I feel it was a moment we all shared together!
482 Days: Last season you had your first taste of NIHL hockey with the Solent Devils. How did you find the standard here compared to what you were playing in GMHL the season before?
Andrew: I was very impressed at the standard of NIHL hockey. I think the biggest difference would be the experience players in the NIHL have. Back in the GMHL, the age range was between 16 and 21. In NIHL, you have a lot of guys that are in their mid and upper 20’s and up to late 30’s in some cases, so beyond the fact that you’re playing against men, as opposed to boys, the experience of these players really separates the difference between Jr. hockey and the next level up.
482 Days: You have been a captain in quite a few of your previous teams. What do you think makes a good leader on and off the ice? As a player, what do you look for in a captain?
Andrew: I feel the best leaders aren’t necessarily the loudest in the room, nor the best players – but the ones who set the best example. Having the right attitude, respect towards your teammates, and showing heart is what makes a leader. Players feed off those on the team that work the hardest, and encourage their teammates. That’s what I feel makes a captain!
482 Days: You are clearly a pretty clean player – in your last 3 seasons you were averaging one minor penalty every 5 games… is that something that comes naturally, or was it instilled into you by a former coach?
Andrew: I always use to be smaller, and realized the only way I was going to be successful in hockey was with speed and smarts. I was never really a grinder or a rough player, again being small; I didn’t throw a whole lot of body checks, nor did I like to be hit. Along with that I knew it was no use hooking or tripping someone and spending 2 minutes in the penalty box – which a lot of the time, would see me miss a shift after for taking one. As I got older it grew on me – I’ve adapted obviously to be more aggressive but spending 2 minutes in the box still bothers me!
482 Days: This is now your second year in the UK. What made you decide to try your game here last season, and what made you want to come back again for a second year?
Andrew: Last year was definitely a fantastic year; I enjoyed every minute of it. My agency, AdvanceSportsManagement, gave me the great opportunity to play here last year. My dream had always been to come over to Europe and play hockey. Having family and friends already in the UK, gave me even more of a reason to come here. I really like the competitiveness of the NIHL and where hockey is going in the UK, so I felt coming back would be a great choice. Oxford is a great organization and I am extremely excited to be a part of it.
482 Days: Playing for Solent last season, you had a taste of being in an ‘underdog’ team and you’ve chosen what will likely be the same with Oxford this season. Is that the kind of challenge you particularly enjoy?
Andrew: Even though last year was Solent’s second year in the league and Oxford’s first, I feel that in the NIHL, any team can beat any team any given night. Certainly it takes a few years for a team to be a top contender in any league, but I believe this year will be a very successful one for Oxford. I enjoy being part of any team that competes and that is success oriented, Oxford has both of these qualities and is why I’m so happy to have been given the opportunity to play for them.
482 Days: How would you describe yourself as a hockey player?
Andrew: I would describe myself as a playmaker. I am very goal oriented and take pride in outworking opponents.
482 Days: What do you think your biggest strengths and weaknesses are on the ice?
Andrew: I would say my strengths would be in my playmaking abilities and skating. My weaknesses would be me in my defensive abilities.
482 Days: What has been your favourite moment so far in hockey?
Andrew: There have certainly been great moments in my career, but I would have to say, my favourite would have to be my first game last year in the NIHL against Chelmsford. It was my first ever game at the pro level and I will never forget it.
482 Days: What are you most proud of (hockey wise)?
Andrew: I think I’m most proud of my year last year. It was my first every season in pro hockey, in a new country – I had to adapt to the hockey and as well had perform to the level an import needs to. I feel I did that and I am proud of it.
482 Days: Any message for the Oxford fans?
Andrew: I want to say I am extremely excited to be coming to play in Oxford this season. This team is success oriented and competes game in, game out – and I think there will be a lot of good things to talk about this season! I want to say thank you to the fans for welcoming me to the team and to the city of Oxford, and look forward to meeting them at the rink!
Many thanks to Andrew for taking the time to speak to us and we look forward to seeing you on the ice next season.
Posted in Players