On Sunday 10th April, Dave ‘Carrsy’ Carr said his final goodbye as a player to league hockey. It’s been a pretty emotional few days for the NIHL South hockey world as he is possibly one of the most respected and liked figures at this level – having not only made a lot of friends as a player, but also having massively helped to increase the profile of the game at this level with his regular column in Pro Hockey News.
For me, when I was starting 482days last summer, Carrsy was one of the first people I contacted. He has been an absolute font of knowledge and advice, not just in terms of who to contact for info and photos and such like, but also for general thoughts and encouragement. So since he would never dream of writing up his own retirement piece in Pro Hockey News, I decided that I’d have to do it instead!
In this article we’ll look at the man himself, in terms of his hockey career, what he’s done for NIHL South in terms of his Pro Hockey News coverage and what the future holds. I did ask a couple of people for their thoughts so I could add some bits in from other people – but I was so inundated with people wanting to say nice things about him and tell me great stories, that instead we have a second article HERE with what everyone else wanted to say about him!
Carrsy started his hockey career at the tender age of 9 in the junior program at Durham. Back then Durham had one of the best junior programs in the country, as Carrsy recollects “so you only got a spot when you were good enough – I had a couple of years down the wobbly end and signed up with the Durham Stingers U12s. We didn’t lose a game for the first two seasons and were British champions. It;s been downhill from that point as I haven’t won much since!”.
His Durham team were even victorious on the other side of the Atlantic and raised a few eyebrows (and some headlines) when they won a Peewee (12 and under) tournament in Toronto. They were made headline news in the Toronto Star sports pages with “BRITONS BOMB WEST MALL TO CAPTURE DON MILLS TITLE” when they beat the West Mall Wolves in the final. Carrsy is pictured below with his team, including little brother Adam.
After Durham he finished his junior career at Sunderland which he really enjoyed “The rink had a swimming pool attached that had a slide and a wave machine. The rink also had a jukebox and a chip machine. Compared to Durham it was a modern paradise.” He made his senior debut for the Sunderland Chiefs at the age of 16 in the 95-96 season and then moved to Billingham Eagles the following year. “I signed for Billingham who were recently relegated from British Division 1 and going through a tough time. We had a lot of good players, but I got plenty of ice time on away games when the senior players couldn’t be bothered to travel so enjoyed trips to places like Swindon, Trafford and Solihull plus as a bonus I didn’t get my balls or eyebrows shaved by my team mates which was quite popular at the time for rookies. Nowadays everyone shaves their own balls. How times change!”.
That was it for hockey in the north of the country for Carrsy though as University took him south, although he missed a couple of seasons thanks to the lack of East-West trains in the UK: “I left the North to go to University in Bedford which on the map looked close to Milton Keynes. Trains are great going into London but not so much sideways so I missed a couple of seasons and the MK Kings missed out on a podgy Northerner with curtains.”
A brief spell at Haringey Greyhounds followed in 2000 – the team had just been promoted to the EPL after winning the old ED1 the year before. It wasn’t a major success for him: “The team were not ready for the step up and we struggled. It wasn’t much fun to be honest so I quit after only a year. I then played rec and ended up skating more than I did playing league hockey, I loved everyone’s enthusiasm and was on the ice 4 sometimes 5 times a week playing with different teams at Ally Pally, Lee Valley and the Sobell Centre in Finsbury Park – the only rink you can watch girls work out in the aerobics gym upstairs whilst waiting for the next shift!. I got the buzz back and rejoined Haringey the following year for another season battling at the bottom of the EPL.”
Carrsy then bounced a bit between Haringey and Oxford with two spells at each club. When I asked what made him jump around like that he told me : “As Adele recently sang, I was young and it made me restless. There were good reasons to switch each time but as a general rule I signed where I felt wanted and felt I could most make a contribution. I absolutely loved my two periods at Oxford and it was only really the driving from London that made it a pain in the end. When my old Fiesta gave up on that incline on the southbound M40 it was a sign that my City Stars dream was done!”.
His final move was to Streatham Redskins – and that clearly stuck. With just over 200 games for the team across 7 seasons and wearing an ‘A’ on his chest for more than half of those, he clearly found the spot that was right for him. When I asked what made him stay when he got there – it was pretty clear it was a decision he never regretted: “The players, management and supporters are genuinely some of the best people I have ever met. Why wouldn’t you want to spend time with people like that? If they weren’t, I wouldn’t have hung around. The hockey family is an over-used cliché in most cases but I felt like they all had my back from the minute I walked in the door. I have cried tears of laughter every season I have been in Streatham, which is good for the soul. Secondly it’s the history. How many hockey clubs go back as far as 1932 that you can be part of such a legacy? Some players don’t care about things like that but maybe I am a little sentimental.”
“When I first joined the club the old rink was falling apart and no one wanted to play for us. Reputation is everything in hockey unless you are paying big wages and I know we begged players to come but many wouldn’t. I think a lot of that was not all to do with the facility but more the perception of the club struggling and going through a rut. People like Barry Spours, Warren Rost and Graham D’Anger put in so much work to get the basics sorted and they laid the foundations for the rejuvenation of the club.
The new rink is a great asset to recruit players and the fans have somewhere nice to sit and watch the game. David Savage came to watch us play Cardiff earlier in the year and we had a big crowd in making lots of noise, and he signed the following week. Would we get someone as good as Savvy signing for us in the old rink after watching 150 people shivering on the balcony? I doubt it. He would have done well to survive the nachos from the old café to be honest.”
On his career as a whole, I asked if he had a ‘biggest highlight’ and if there had been any low points: “I don’t mind saying I have had a great time from start to finish. The highlights would be escaping relegation on the last game of the season in Slough, being man of the match in the last ever game at the old rink in Streatham and winning the Town v Gown in Oxford after some snotty American student spent the game dishing out the worst chirps of all time. As you can see, winners medal stories are in short supply! Low point would be tearing my ligaments in my foot in my first game for Streatham. Both physios said it was a bruise, the NHS A&E said it was a bruise… thankfully I have private health insurance with work and got it scanned the following week. 4 months of the season out with ‘a bruise’.”
As someone who has been writing about our league for so many years, I asked Carrsy what he thought about how the league had changed and what the biggest changes were for him: “The speed and quality of the players is completely different. The depth of talent on the top teams is unrecognisable from the old days, as is the quality of the goaltending. Players have filtered down to this level that wouldn’t have dreamed of playing in the league a few years ago, and it goes back to what I mentioned earlier about perception. It’s no longer simply the English Nightclub League and is now only one letter away from the NHL. That’s progress.”
Carrsy also puts a fair bit of his time into helping to coach the next generation of hockey players. He’s been a coach at Streatham junior club for four years at U14 to U18 level. This year he stepped back and chose to assist Adam Goldstone rather than taking a head coach role. “The junior programme at Streatham is improving year on year and its great to see. If I am honest the kids are great but the coaching can be frustrating. They play in the B league full of players with bad habits and its hard to be enthusiastic about the games especially because these habits often win games due to the low standard of hockey.” Will he continue coaching next season? “I will have a think over the summer about coaching and take things from there. I played for real hard-nosed coaches as a junior and times have changed, you can’t sellotape traffic cones to misbehaving kids helmets anymore for example!“
Of course, in our league as well as his playing career, he is well known and well loved for his column in Pro Hockey News (his archive can be found HERE). As well as the weekly round-up, he also writes articles on individual players, coaches, teams and of course hosts the annual NIHL1 South end of season awards (voted on by the coaching staff and senior players of the 10 teams across the league). By my reckoning he has written an astounding 490 articles to date (also on a very selfish not I wish it were 8 less just for the serendipity it would have given us!). That works out at an average of 70 per season in the 7 seasons he has been contributing to the online magazine. Even more astounding perhaps, given his globe-trotting nature that often sees him in far flung places around the world, he has only writing his weekly round-up twice!
“I started doing it because the media covering our league was nigh on non-existent and I thought that was a disgrace given the commitment the players and officials were putting in across the league. Pro Hockey News were looking for writers and I knew I could write, so I made it my mission to give the ENL/NIHL the coverage it deserved. Within weeks I had a pool of photographers sending in action shots and players messaging me information.
My motivation has always been to give the players and fans something to read every Monday morning that is original, interesting and if possible funny. I have done far less writing in the last two seasons than I had been doing previously, mainly because of time constraints. I will continue to write I am sure because I enjoy it. How often that will be I have to decide over the summer.”
After his final game, when Streatham bowed out of the playoffs following a semi-final loss to the all-conquering Chelmsford and ended with the Streatham players giving him a guard of honour off the ice, there was an out-flowing of what can only be described as ‘Carrsy-love” on social media. I asked him how that left him feeling – had he ever realised what an impact he had made on our league?
“Its left me feeling a little empty and more upset to be honest which is weird – I sat at my desk on Monday morning after reading a lot of them and felt that awful feeling in my stomach when something bad has happened. I cried in the handshakes at Chelmsford, held it together in the room and then burst into tears when I got home. The messages have been so lovely and its hard to take it all in. People have been so nice and some of the things written just set me off again. I think I have just been putting so much effort into promoting the club and the league with my writing and other stuff over the years that it comes as second nature, I didn’t realise how much people appreciated it and I cant thank everyone enough for the kind words they have written.”
“In truth, I haven’t enjoyed playing games for at least two seasons now with very rare exceptions, it’s no fun when you are struggling to do what your mind thinks you can, so stopping playing is the easy bit to accept and understand, but the camaraderie and being part of the Streatham team is what I struggle to imagine living without. I always joke with Joe Johnston that I loved the bus to the Isle of Wight with the boys this year, loved the ferry trip, loved the banter in the room, found the warm up reasonably interesting, hated the game – win or loss, loved the post match banter, loved the takeaway (Codfather or Kebab shop) in Ryde and the journey home. I guess that sums up why the decision was made.”
What does the future hold for Carrsy then? He’s now a family man and has a young son. Will he become a hockey Dad? “Well he already has a Streatham jersey and a plastic retro Quebec Nordiques stick so yeah I am going to try and get him into it. I saw some bobsleigh skates the other day in Alexandra Palace and nearly bought them… I may go back soon and get them! The sport has given me so much joy and helped me meet so many great people so if he likes it I will encourage it.”
While he may be closing the curtain on his league career, Carrsy is not planning on hanging up his skates completely just yet. In fact – he’s just bought some new ones! When I asked if that meant that a lucky rec team would have a new power forward he said “I will be skating during the summer with the London Devils and then decide what to do after that. Safe to say that if I stop playing hockey altogether I will be a very depressed individual.”
So farewell to Carrsy the league player – but hopefully not to Carrsy as a figure around our league – it really wouldn’t be the same without you!
Note that as well as using photos sent by some of the fantastic current league photographers, I also mercilessly raided Dave’s facebook photo archive (with his permission!). Where possible I have given credit but if I have used your photograph without credit and you would like credit added, just send me a message on twitter or facebook (to the 482days accounts) and I will add.