New Steeler: Michael Forney

Photo by Paul Kelly [Shutter Speed Designs] via perththunder.com.au

Photo by Paul Kelly [Shutter Speed Designs] via perththunder.com.au

The announcement of Michael Forney to the Sheffield Steelers was one that didn’t get a huge amount of interest.  Later announcements seemed to grip the fans’ attention a lot more.  But the more I read up on Forney, the more excited I’m becoming about being able to watch him on the ice.

Brief bio:  He’s 26 years old, plays left wing, and was drafted in 2006 to the now defunct Atlanta Thrashers.  While he never played an NHL game, and hasn’t played lot of AHL games, he has more than proven himself in the ECHL with an impressive 222 points (87 Goals 135 Assists) in 253 games.  During the 2012-13 season, he was playing in Australia for Perth Thunder of the AIHL and was pretty well received over there, recording 47 points (11 Goals, 36 Assists) in only 16 games.  Last season he split his time between three different leagues, playing for Villacher SV in Austria, Sparta Sarpsborg in Norway and Arizona Sundogs of the CHL, helping take the latter two teams to their respective playoffs.

Those are certainly not figures to be ignored.

I’ve seen nothing but good reports about him, both as a player on the ice, and as a person off it.  He seems to be an outgoing, friendly guy, who is happy to talk to the media – something I’m hoping continues as I’d like to see more of our players being interviewed during the season.

This video from the Colorado Eagles is a little best-of montage that shows some of the sweet-looking goals that Forney has scored.  If we can get a few of those from him, I’ll be pretty happy.

I will, however, admit to being a little amused by the two nicknames that Forney has acquired: Magic Mike, or The Fornicator.  Although my absolute favourite fact that I have discovered about Forney though is that he and his team apparently appeared in D3: The Mighty Ducks!

In conclusion, I think he’ll be a great addition to the team (I’ve already sponsored his gloves for the upcoming season – here’s hoping he won’t be dropping them too much!), and I’ll leave you all with this.

Advertisements

Guest Blogger!

Bt0Z1XOCEAAEmduHi there!

Kim has asked if I would write some guest posts in regards to the England Women’s Ice Hockey squad. I’m more than happy to do so and will be putting up some posts in the next few days and weeks.

This is merely an introduction post to let you know a little about me.

I’m Sam, I live in Luton, play roller hockey & ice hockey. I’ve played roller hockey for a lot longer than I have ice hockey. I started when I was 11 or 12 back when I lived in South London.

Now that I’ve ‘grown up’, gotten a job and a house; I still need my hockey fix. I’ve been playing ice hockey for 3 years with my local ladies club, the Milton Keynes Falcons in the Premier league, I’ve also had the honour of playing for the England squad. This year I have been picked to represent the country again. (More on that in later posts!)

My first hockey love though, is inline roller hockey. My local club is the Dunstable Gators and we play in the BIPHA South league in Division One down at Bisley. This is a mixed team and I love playing hockey with my boys.

I’ve also represented GB at roller hockey level, back in 2010 and travelled with the squad to LA to play in the AAU tournament. In other hockey travels I’ve played out in Hong Kong in the fantastic annual roller hockey tournament out there and also in the NARCh finals tournament in San Jose. The NARCh tournament has to arguably be the best roller hockey in the world with such an amazing array of talent on display.

Anyway, enough of hockey on wheels, I’m here to talk about my journey onto the England squad both last year and this year and hopefully get some information out there that does not seem to be freely available.

I hope you enjoy my posts and I’ll be back soon! 🙂

UK Forums All Star Weekend

Graham and Stewart Collington [Photo by Paul Sullivan]

Graham and Stewart Collington [Photo by Paul Sullivan]

I don’t even know where to start with this review.  Approximately 14 hours of hockey over two days.  8 teams playing their hearts out to raise money for charities.  I got to chat to online friends in person for the first time, and met plenty of new friends.  And I had one of the best hockey weekends I could imagine.

I wrote a small piece a few weeks ago about the event, but even then I had little idea what it was really all about.  I understood the basics about it being for charity and how skaters (and non-skaters) were coming together from across the UK to play, but I didn’t understand just how important the event is to the larger hockey community, and I certainly didn’t understand how much fun it was going to be.

There were 8 teams in all, each one raising money for a specific charity: Autism Plus, Blue Cross, Breast Cancer Care, British Heart Foundation, Dreams Come True, Help for Heroes, Prostate Cancer UK and Sheffield Children’s Hospital.  Players sign up and select which of the teams they want to represent, and then – with very little time on the ice to practice – they play in front of a huge audience!

“I first got involved with the All Stars in 2009 down in Basingstoke when I played on the Dreams Come True team. I unfortunately missed the event the following year due to working in America for the Summer. I was honoured the following year when I was asked if I would like to captain the 2011 Sheffield Children’s Hospital team.  I have since represented Breast Cancer Care in 2012, St. Luke’s Hospice in 2013 and this year Dreams Come True once again. It’s amazing to be a part of something so special, helping to raise a phenomenal amount for some very worthy causes, and having good fun along the way.”
– Scott Antcliffe: Dreams Come True

Neil Vickers [Photo by Chud Photography]

Neil Vickers [Photo by Chud Photography]

Suzi Grieve is a skater with Cardiff Comets, as well as coach for the Cardiff Devils Sledge Hockey Team.  It took us two days to actually co-ordinate, due to the number of games happened, but I finally managed to grab her for a few minutes and find out how the weekend was going for her.  This was her second All Star Weekend, and this time she was playing for team Autism Plus – a charity that I know is very close to her heart.

“It’s a great opportunity to play a lot of hockey and raise a lot of money at the same time. It’s a great way to bond with the hockey community and promote the charities. It’s always tough at first in a tournament like this because you don’t know each other, so our captain for our first game had to just put us in lines without knowing our abilities.”
– Suzi Grieve: Autism Plus

The format of the weekend saw a series of 28 round robin games, followed by 4 playoff ones.  Each game was 18 minutes long, with a running clock and penalty shots awarded instead of penalties.  Due to the extreme variation in skills levels, lines were set so that all teams had their best players on line one, then the next on line two, and so on, with complete line changes being made every 90 seconds.

If you think that last part would get messy, you’d be very very correct.  I’ve seen some bad line changes, but these were hysterical.  My personal favourites were every time the 3rd line was coming off the ice and the 1st line was heading back on.  I swear there were several players who got run over by their own teammates.  Although to be fair, the goalie changes at times were even funnier.

“This was my 3rd all stars. My first one was in Cardiff I applied for the event because I wanted to help raise money for charity and I thought it was such a great idea doing it with hockey something that I really enjoyed. But I never realised how fun it would be and how friendly everyone was. Its such a great atmosphere. This continued through the years but this one has been my favourite so far.”
– Gemma Davies: Netminder, Dreams Come True

But that laughter pretty much sums up the weekend.  While there were moments on the ice where tempers were starting to flare a little (I blame a lot of that on exhaustion and probable hangovers!), there was also a lot of fun.  In between games, teams were doing the Hokey Cokey or YMCA.  The Blue Cross team all wore animal masks on their helmets.  One of my favourite moments came near the start of the game when Jordan Wilshire scored a lovely goal, and then went over to Kes Smith, the netminder she’d just scored on, and hugged him.

Martyn Ward, Steve Baker and Keith Hinde [Photo by Jo Hinde]

Martyn Ward, Steve Baker and Keith Hinde [Photo by Jo Hinde]

Despite the mixture of abilities, the one thing that every player had in common was a dedication to do the best they could.  I managed to catch up with Tom Walkeden (from Frozen Steel Blog) who was playing for the Blue Cross team, despite not having skated for five years.  Despite the obvious challenges around playing in a tournament like this, he was obviously loving it.

“I came last year to watch and had a fantastic weekend.  I just wanted to get involved, play the game I love, and raise some money.”
– Tom Walkeden: Blue Cross

One of the moments that I’m sure will stick in everyone’s minds was during the last game of the round robin section.  Dreams Come True and Prostate Cancer UK were on the ice, and nearing the end of the game, the score was at 1-1.  The winner of this game would go through to the 3rd/4th place game, but if they drew, neither would.  In a display of fantastic sportsmanship, Prostate Cancer UK “forced” a play that would give Dreams Come True a penalty shot.  On one condition – that it was taken by a specific player, Ashley Jones (better known to the hockey world as AJ).  There was no missing AJ on the ice, as he could barely stand upright on the ice, let alone skate or take a shot on goal.  It didn’t stop anyone though, and with both teams and every person watching cheering him on (and a little assistance from the referees who moved the goalposts – literally!), he scored his first ice hockey goal.

“Having Zero skating skills and zero handling skills and being welcomed as an equal is the thing that means the most. The whole weekend is about fun and enjoying yourself and when Prostate Cancer UK ‘manufactured’ a mugging at centre ice and a subsequent penalty shot which I had to take (and ‘scored’) it just encapsulates what the weekend is all about. It means so much to make friends and take the memories away from the weekend.”
– AJ: Dreams Come True

The fun wasn’t over even when it came to the playoff games.  The 7th/8th place game ended in a tie, so went to a penalty shootout that lasted so long even TJ Oshie would have struggled with it.  The 5th/6th place game started with the two netminders taking the faceoff and then ended with literally every player from both teams on the ice for the final shift.  And the 3rd/4th place game began with a bench-clearing “brawl” that had players rolling around on the ice “fighting” (and maybe doing a little hugging too).

The final game came down to Autism Plus vs Blue Cross.  Taken a little more seriously than the others, both teams were determined to get the win.  It was such a close game, with all three lines on both teams giving it everything they had.  But in the end, it was Autism Plus who scored the final goal, winning 3-2, much to both the delight and dismay of the audience, depending on which team they’d chosen to support!  I’ll admit that thanks to my friendship with Suzi, I was cheering for Autism Plus all along, but I was heartbroken for friend-of-the-blog Tom (with his little monkey mask on).

Suzie Grieve and Phil Jones with the winner's trophy [Photo by Pete Frith]

Suzie Grieve and Phil Jones with the winner’s trophy [Photo by Pete Frith]

Although, as I said on Twitter at the end of the day, the real winners of the tournament were the 8 charities. So a huge thank you to everyone involved with the tournament, especially David Grant and Gareth Hubback, the co-organisers of the event who I’m sure went to crazy lengths to make sure everything ran as smoothly as it did.  Thank you to every one of the players, who made it an event totally worth watching.

And I’ll see you all at the next one in 2015!

Problems at Hull Arena?

For the last 20 years, arguably the biggest event in the EIHA Juniors hockey calendar has been played out of Hull Arena.  In May 2015, when the EIHA Conference Tournament officially turns 21, it will be moving to IceSheffield for the first time.

There’s a lot happening a Hull Arena recently, with various long-standing groups either losing their timeslots, or suddenly having their fees dramatically increased.  Due to “changes in EU regulations” causing some major works to be carried out, the arena has closed its doors for around 6 weeks, making a number of ice hockey teams essentially homeless for the period.  It’s not been the best time for the arena, and now on top of that, they’re going to be losing one of the biggest events of the ice hockey year.

A quote from Tournament Director, Geoff Hemmerman, on the EIHA website:

“Some will ask why are we moving from Hull, when it is the traditional home of the tournament. We lost the use of some of the facilities that had previously been available to us.  We need to ensure the players and parents have a great experience at the event. Unfortunately, we could no longer guarantee this at Hull.

It’s a pity that it’s come to this, and it seems that some organisations – like the EIHA – are now starting to look elsewhere for ice time.   Other than the professional teams playing out of Hull, it’s unlikely that any of them can afford an increase in ice fees – with no other rinks close by there are a  lot of teams who could end up dissolving.

As someone whose closest rink (at the moment) is Sheffield, I’m personally pleased about the relocation of the EIHA Conference Tournament moving there.  I love IceSheffield, and from a personal point of view, far prefer it to Hull Arena.  We have a strong hockey following in Sheffield, many of whom I hope will take the time to watch the Tournament, when they may not have done with it being in Hull.

However, as a hockey fan who is painfully aware of the lack of ice rinks in this country, it saddens me that the arena is gaining such a negative reputation and is losing something as big as the Tournament.  And as someone with a vested interest in one of the teams currently playing out of the arena (Kingston Kestrels Sledge Hockey Team), it bothers me that we may not have a home there for the long term.

As always, these are simply opinions.  I’m not privy to any insider knowledge, and have no personal connections to either IceSheffield or Hull Arena.  If you’d like to discuss this further, feel free to comment here or come and chat to me on Twitter @CarolinaKaniac.

Hurricanes Development Camp (Preview)

 Haydn Fleury is selected seventh overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 27, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Haydn Fleury is selected seventh overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 27, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Last year I discovered the wonder of the Hurricanes Development Camp for the first time.  For a week, I was bombarded (in the best possible way) with tweets, instagrams, YouTube videos and Facebook posts about these potential new Hurricanes players.  In addition, the Canes organization were good enough to give us “Open Ice with Ryan Murphy”, a six part documentary following the Canes’ 2011 Draft Pick through the whole week.

This is just a preview of the whole series.  They’re all available to watch on YouTube or the Hurricanes’ website.

I’d barely heard of Murphy before development camp, and the videos, but he soon ended up high on my list of favourites.  The Open Ice documentary gave us a look behind the scenes that you don’t always get from a lot of NHL teams.

This year, development camp is due to start next week, and a tweet from the Canes revealed that there will be a new series of Open Ice this year (my guess is that it will be with Josh Wesley, but we’ll see).

Firefox_Screenshot_2014-07-19T05-39-19.731Z

This year, the team has 25 skaters and 3 goaltenders invited, although it seems that Alex Nedeljkovic, this year’s 2nd-round draft pick – has broken his thumb and won’t be there.  Of those, 9 are listed as “camp invitees” which means that they were noticed by the Hurricanes at some point, but hadn’t been drafted.  Last year, Sergey Tolchinsky was an invitee, who signed with the Canes not long after Development Camp, so it’s clear that the organization isn’t just inviting people to round out the numbers – they’re serious about finding new young talent.

There are a couple of names missing from the full roster, including Tolchinsky, and the 2012 draft picks Erik Karlsson (not that one!) and Collin Olson.  Tolchinsky is staying in Russia for the World Junior Camp there; Karlsson is playing in Sweden this season and it was considered unnecessary for him to travel for his third development camp; while poor Olson is a victim of there being too many goaltenders.  Perhaps with Nedeljkovic no longer attending, he’ll get a chance.

Obviously, like most people, I’m interested in how this year’s draft picks perform on the ice.  With Hayden Fleury being a defenceman, it’s unlikely that he’ll make the NHL this year (it would be unusual for a #7 pick to make it in any position) but all eyes will certainly be on him and his draft pick teammates.

For me personally, I’m very keen to seen how Brock McGinn and Daniel Altshuller do.  McGinn is the younger brother of Jamie McGinn (Colorado Avalanche) and Tye McGinn (Philadelphia Flyers), and with an impressive 85 points last season with the Guelph Storm, he could well be a permanent addition to the Checkers this season.  Altshuller was drafted the same year as McGinn – 2012 – and has also been playing in the OHL since then.  His save percentage last season with the Oshawa Generals was 0.917% with a GAA of 2.56 – which is comparable to both John Muse and the newcomer to the team, Drew MacIntyre.  I don’t know if Altshuller will be ready to join the Checkers this season, but it surely can’t be too far off for him now.

Hopefully I’ll be able to keep up with the news from development camp.  As always, I’ll probably be quicker to update on Twitter than here, so feel free to follow me there @CarolinaKaniac.  But if nothing else, I’ll be back next weekend with a recap of what’s been going on in Raleigh.

EIHL Fixture List Calendars

Being the spreadsheet geek that I am, as soon as I saw the fixture list for the 2014-15 EIHL season, I decided to import it directly into my Google calendar.

And since I was doing that anyway, I figured I should share them for everyone to use. I’m no technical expert, but you should be able to just click on the link and have it import to your calendar directly. If you’re using an Android device or Google, use the top set of links. If you’re using an iPhone or Apple device, use the iCal links. I hope.

Disclaimer: I’ve never done this before, so if there are any problems, just holler and I’ll try to fix them!  All information is from the original fixture list that was posted HERE.  If you spot a mistake, please check the original list first!

Google Calendar Links
Belfast Giants
Braehead Clan
Cardiff Devils
Coventry Blaze
Dundee Stars
Edinburgh Capitals
Fife Flyers
Hull Stingrays
Nottingham Panthers
Sheffield Steelers

iCal Links
Belfast Giants
Braehead Clan
Cardiff Devils
Coventry Blaze
Dundee Stars
Edinburgh Capitals
Fife Flyers
Hull Stingrays
Nottingham Panthers
Sheffield Steelers

Taylor Lipsett and Andy Yohe Team USA Retirement

My initial discovery of sledge hockey came during the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi.  I was already rooting for Team USA in the hockey, so it seemed natural to switch on and watch Team USA in the sledge hockey too (or sled hockey as they call it in the US!).

Unsurprisingly, it took me about 15 minutes of watching to fall in love with the sport.  And the team.

While my support these days is completely with the GB team, I will always follow Team USA as well.  Which is why I was saddened to hear about the retirement of two of their players.

Taylor Lipsett - photo from USAHockey.com

Taylor Lipsett – photo from USAHockey.com

Taylor Lipsett

Taylor was still in his teens when he helped Team USA win a silver medal at the 2004 IPC Sledge Hockey Championships.  He’s played with teams across the US, including the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago Blackhawks team and, most recently, the Dallas Stars team.  He’s been to three Paralympic games, coming away with a bronze and two gold medals.  Over the years he’s played a total of 84 games for Team USA, accumulating an impressive 58 points (33 goals, 25 assists).

Suffering from osteogenesis imperfecta (more commonly known as brittle bone disease) meant that Taylor spent most of his childhood in body casts.  But after discovering first wheelchair hockey, and then sled hockey, he found a sport that he was not only good at, but loved doing too.  Off the ice, Taylor works for Bank of America as a portfolio manager associate –  he’s currently studying for an MBA – and hopes to become a financial advisor for professional athletes.

Yohe

Andy Yohe – photo from USAHockey.com

Andy Yohe

Andy had been part of the USA National Sled Hockey Team for four years when he was first given the Captaincy in the 2009-2010 season. Now in his 30s, Andy is a lot older than some of his teammates (especially the teenagers Brody Roybal and Declan Farmer), but it doesn’t slow him down on the ice at all.  Despite taking a couple of years off from international competition, and switching from a forward position to defense, he has 18 points over 41 games.

Before the accident that saw him lose both legs, Andy played roller hockey for the Bettendorf (Iowa) Young Guns.  He played for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago Blackhawks from 2003-2011. Off the ice, Andy works for a prosthetic and orthotic company, and he and his wife have two children.

Both players will be sorely missed – not just by their teammates, but by the fans across the world who love to watch them play.  I wish both of them all the luck in the world, and hope that they achieve everything they want to.