Photo: Robert Swann
I’ve already spoken about the signing of Nicky Chinn in a previous article, but his isn’t the only signing Streatham made in the last few weeks that raised eyebrows across the league.
27 year old Chris ‘Wiggy’ Wiggins has also joined Streatham from Milton Keynes Lightning for the 2015-16 season. The 6’6” power forward was only a year old when Chinn first played senior hockey, but he still managed 14 seasons in senior hockey and has a pretty impressive hockey CV to show for it. Playing the majority of his career in the second tier of British hockey, starting with Guildford in the old BNL before playing for Guildford again, Basingstoke, Milton Keynes and Bracknell in the EPL. He has also had 2 spells at this level in the past with Haringey (2007-08) and Bracknell Hornets (2008-09).
Wiggins is often described as an enforcer – he likes to play physical hockey, can hit like a steam train and spends a fair few minutes of his time in the penalty box. But he has also been described as having fantastic hands and is actually a strong skater, especially for someone of his size. He’ll stand up for his team mates and I suspect that he’ll get singled out a few times for players wanting to prove their worth in a fight (I’d take any odds on Cornish dropping the gloves with him this season for example). However, at this level I think Streatham fans will be talking as much about his points tally as they will about his PIMs this season – last season’s cross-over cup showed that NIHL1 is still a fair way behind EPL standard and I think Wiggins will thrive here. One thing is for certain, he’ll certainly up the entertainment factor and will be one to watch for Stars fans when he plays at Oxpens Road.
On the signing, Streatham coach Warren Rost said “As a team we’ve been getting closer and closer to winning a trophy over the last few seasons and securing Chris is a going to make a huge contribution to us getting over that line. He’s got serious size and tightness but he can really play the game as well and he’s going fit straight into our free flowing attacking style of hockey.”1
Chris was good enough to give me an interview for 482 days – so we’ll let the man himself have the floor for the rest of the article:
482Days: Your first senior game (according to Elite prospects) was at the tender age of 14 and you went straight into the BNL for the Guildford Flames who were the defending champions… did you feel intimidated by the occasion?
CW: Definitely! My first experience of ice hockey was at the spectrum watching the flames. Getting asked to plays both games that weekend was a real surprise and treat. I was only in my 5th season of hockey and out of the blue got asked to come and play a game with the guys whose broken sticks and autographs I had collected as a kid. It was my 15th birthday on the Sunday and a best of British game against Milton Keynes. Somehow I managed to score a goal, I was so nervous I didn’t even celebrate!
482 Days: Did you know many of the guys before the game, were you welcomed or mostly ignored by the big guns?
CW: Of course I knew who they were, and some of them knew of me through helping out with junior training. Generally I was quite a quiet kid so didn’t really speak unless spoken to. Some guys went out of their way to make me welcome and we have maintained friendships to this day. Special mentions have to go to guys like Tony Redmond, Mark Galazzi and Nicky Cross who really put the effort into make me welcome as I broke through the ranks.
482 Days: Did you get any shifts in your first game (as a 14 year old) if not, when did you first get on the ice for real with Guildford Flames?
CW: I don’t think I managed to see a shift in my first game, but as previously mentioned I saw occasional ice the following evening. I clearly remember 3 shifts to this day. One scoring a goal, one accidentally hip checking Dwayne Newman, and the final shift where Dwayne got his own back before picking me back up off the ice and putting me on my feet. He then apologised for having to make it even. The guy is a class act!
482 Days: Nicky Chinn was one of your first senior team-mates at Guildford and more recently you have also played with him at Basingstoke and Milton Keynes (and against him in most other seasons). Are you looking forward to linking up with him again?
CW: Certainly, we have a good friendship and have certainly had a few laughs together.
482 Days: What’s he like as a player and team-mate?
CW: Chinny is a real team guy, very unselfish and does the jobs that need to be done. What he has achieved in his career is not to be sniffed at. The guy knows how to win and puts in whatever it takes. He will be a real asset for any team that manages to secure his services.
482 Days: what’s he like to play against?
CW: Even though we are friends, the game is about winning. Playing on opposing teams we have had a few digs at each other but that’s the way it has to be. Any time he has the puck he has the ability to create a scoring opportunity so he’s one to watch out for.
482 Days: You’ve played in the EPL for most of your career, and you are still only 27 (in your prime athletic years according to the theory). What made you decided to drop down a level this season?
CW: I’m fortunate enough that I have a good job that I enjoy outside of hockey and I have taken two promotions within the last year. I am in the position now where I can rapidly be making headway in my professional career and in turn leaves me with less time to dedicate outside of work. When combined with my personal views on how some teams are run and how people are sometimes treated, l decided that my efforts were best placed elsewhere.
482 Days: And why Streatham?
CW: I like the direction that the organisation is heading in. I will be playing with several teammates from previous seasons so know it will be a good environment at the rink. I’m also looking forward to playing for a team, hopefully achieving some silverware that isn’t automatically assumed to be a contender for the titles before any games have taken place.
482 Days: What are the NIHL1 fans going to get from you this season?
CW: They will get a no nonsense forward who will work the corners and not sacrifice defensive duties. I will hope to be a bigger part of the scoring charts than I have been before and I will certainly give every game 100%
482 Days: Throughout a lot of your career you been labelled as an enforcer. Is this a role you relish, or is it one you’ve been asked to play by your coaches (or a bit of both)?
CW: It is a role I fell into by accident to be honest but one I grasped in order to prove my worth and get a second chance at playing EPL level. Some coaches do push it more than others but generally there is an understanding that the time and place is known so nothing needs to be said.
482 Days: You are known for you huge hits, but also for how often they land you in the penalty box. Do you think refs sometimes target you due to your size and reputation, or do you just get the hits a bit wrong sometimes?
CW: No one is perfect (even less so referees) but to be honest I am probably as much as fault as the refs. Sometimes the calls may be unjust and sometimes totally correct. A lot can also be said for players who rather than bracing and try to take the hit properly and safely, try and jump out of the way putting themselves in a high risk situation. Of course the onus is on the person throwing the hit but you can’t always stop in an instant.
482 Days: How do you actually see yourself as a player – what do you think your biggest strengths and weaknesses are?
CW: My biggest strength is my attitude. I don’t quit and want to win every game. My weakness I would say, is that I am overly critical of myself and can get frustrated if things don’t go my way.
482 Days: Did you ever fancy trying your hand at Elite level and were you ever offered the chance?
CW: After my first two seasons in Basingstoke I have had at least 1 elite offer every summer. Although I would have liked to give it a shot, realistically the sacrifices that I would have to make, wouldn’t be worth commitment.
482 Days: A few quick fire questions to finish it off…
482 Days: Best player you have ever played with?
CW: Jamie McLennan (NHL netminder and #2 overall draft pick in 2000, who briefly played for Guildford Flames during the 04/05 NHL lockout)
482 Days: Best player you have ever played against?
CW: Tony Hand
482 Days: Favourite hockey moment?
CW: I have two moments that I’m proud of. One because of the achievement and another because of what it represents of me as a player.
Firstly, I actually managed an EPL hat trick (for Basingstoke in a 6-5 win over Telford Tigers in 2010)
Secondly, scoring a 3rd period goal in Slough after breaking my ankle in the first period. That goal being the one that put us through to Coventry play off finals weekend.
482 Days: Finally, what are you most proud of (hockey wise)?
CW: I gave it everything and stuck to my morals.