McGill in action in Sunday's game against Wightlink. Photo Credit: David Trevallion.
Shock news came from Invicta Dynamos today that starting netminder Mark McGill had left the club with immediate effect. According to the Dynamos press release this morning, McGill apparently felt the accommodation he was offered was inadequate, despite being offered a move into the club flat with imports Ozollapa and Zošiak.
McGill, originally from Broxburn near Edinburgh had played all of his hockey north of the border before coming to Invicta just before the transfer deadline in January last season. Perhaps he felt that the club should be providing him with his own private apartment , but if so, it seems to be an incredibly unrealistic request from a player in this league, even within one of the top budget teams. A quick check of rental properties in Gillingham told me that in order to rent a furnished one bedroom apartment (not that many of these exist) you would need to find at least£700/month including bills. Now I don’t know Invicta’s budget, but I very much doubt that they can find that down the back of their sofa!
Of course, this is only one side of the story, and as yet McGill himself has not commented to verify that this was the reason for his leaving. But if true, I have to wonder if he simply wasn’t enjoying life outside of Scotland, for whatever reason, and decided that this was a way to blame his walking away on the club. What is certain is that it leaves a huge hole in the Dynamos line up at short notice. McGill was very much the starting netminder for the club and had posted a 93% save percentage in his 3 games so far in the league. In the 2-1 win against Wightlink on Sunday, I can only describe his performance as immense – stopped all but one of the 36 shots from the Raiders. The fact is that the team could have lost that game 3-2 and still have McGill post over 90% save ratio.
Going into this weekend, unless the Dynamos can pull a rabbit out of the hat, backup netminder Steve Nightingale will be going between the pipes against London Raiders on Saturday and Chelmsford Chieftains on Sunday (both cup games). Now I don’t have anything against Nightingale – I haven’t actually seen him play so I can’t really comment on his ability. Going by statistics alone, last season (his first on-rec season since 2007) he only played in 8 games (305 minutes) and had an overall save rate of just under 82%. For a team like Invicta this is unlikely to be good enough, especially given the young and relatively inexperienced team in front of him.
After Sunday’s game, I said that Invicta seemed to have been vastly under-rated by everyone and that I could see them doing much better than many (including myself) predicted. They play fast, free-flowing hockey and have two very strong imports in Ozollapa and Zošiak together with a great group of new players who looked passionate and exciting on the ice. The team is very young though and the defence were ocassionally a little frail looking when faced with the sort of attacking play that Wightlink threw at them. Without a strong netminder of McGill’s quality to mop up behind them, those frailties will be found out and the tight games like this weekends will likely end in losses rather than wins.
So what will Invicta do to remedy the situation? They can go back to Mark Lee, the ex EPL netminder signed last season, who showed his quality to the team. But Lee was only originally supposed to be signed as injury cover and has a career as an estate agent outside of hockey that will limit the number of appearances he could make. So Invicta are likely to need to sign a new regularly available starting netminder from somewhere else. The question is, will they make a raid on another NIHL1 South club – opening them to accusations of playing ‘chequebook hockey’ or will they take a risk and see if they can tempt an EPL or Elite League backup with the promise of regular ice time.
It’s a real conundrum for the Kent side and after such a strong start to their league campaign, with wins against rivals Wightlink and Streatham already under their belts and a 100% record so far this is a huge blow and all eyes will be on what they do next.
I’ll leave this article with the words of Invicta’s Slovakian import Ondrej Zošiak who commented on the club’s facebook page about the issue: “I just wanna say few words about this situation. It will be not bad things about Mark. I respect his decision and wish him good luck in the next hockey career, but I think he lost a very good opportunity be here and be a part of this team. However, there is a more important things that I want to say. I played few years top Division in Slovakia and there is lot of teams who do not pay accomodation and in general do not care about where will players live. One time I moved 5 times during the 4 months on my own expenses when I played in Slovakia and no one cared about it. That is the reason why me and Erik appreciate the work of all people who works in the club and I think this situation is not a shame for the club, because all people here are trying do everything for comfortable of all players.“