Tag Archives: Ice Hockey

Goodbye CHL, Hello ECHL

2014 ECHL Kelly Cup Champions, Alaska Aces [Photo from ECHL.com]

2014 ECHL Kelly Cup Champions, Alaska Aces
[Photo from ECHL.com]

The last year or so hasn’t been easy for the Central Hockey League in North America.

Despite an expansion in 2013 that introduced Brampton Beast – the first Canadian team – into the league, they’ve struggled to keep things running smoothly.  The newest team, St Charles Chill only lasted a single season before announcing it was ceasing operations in May this year.  And both the Arizona Sundogs (with their recent signing ex-EIHLer Drew Fata) and the Denver Cutthroats have suspended operations, although press releases indicate that they hope to return for the 2015-16 season.

But even if they do, they won’t be returning to the CHL.

As announced today, the remaining seven teams of the CHL will be merged into the ECHL for the upcoming season.  Allen Americans, Brampton Beast, Missouri Mavericks, Quad City Mallards, Rapid City Rush, Tulsa Oilers and Wichita Thunder will be expansion teams for the league, taking the ECHL up to a total of 28 teams across 20 states and 1 Canadian province.

The 2014-15 season is due to start on 17th October, and the hope is that date can still be met.  But there will be a lot of work to be done between now and then, including new schedules, divisional alignment and the format for the Kelly Cup Playoffs.

On the ECHL website, Commissioner Brian McKenna stated that “There will be logistical challenges in the short term, however, in the long term, it is certainly in the best interest of the ECHL, the new Members and minor-league hockey in general.”

No hockey fan ever wants to see a league fold like the CHL has done, but we – and the seven teams who will need to get used to their new home this season – can only be grateful to the ECHL.

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.

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

UK Forums All-Stars Weekend

2014posterHere’s another event to file under “how did Kim not know this existed?”.

If you’re like me and have been living under a puck-shaped rock for the last 5 years, the UK Forums All-Stars are a group of recreational hockey players who get together every year for a charity match to raise money for charity.

(Edited: I’ve just been informed that it’s not just rec players involved – there are some complete hockey novices giving it a go as well!)

To be fair, when you say it like that, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. But when you realise the full extent of these events, it’s all very very different.

Over the past years, the group has raised over £80,000 for charity. As of the time of writing, this year’s event has already raised over £17,000 and that’s not even including ticket sales at the weekend. This is not a bake sale type of charity event we’re talking about!

The charities this year are – as always – extremely worthwhile causes: Breast Cancer Care, Dreams Come True, Help For Heroes, Prostate Cancer UK, British Heart Foundation, Autism Plus, Blue Cross Animal Welfare and the Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

The players are all split into teams, each one representing one of the charities. Some of the players are offering extra “incentives” on top of their hockey skills when it comes to raising money, including offers to shave beards into horrendous moustaches, and a back waxing!

The main event itself happens on the weekend of 26th/27th July at Ice Sheffield, but the whole shebang actually starts tomorrow evening with an Evening With Dave Simms.  You can see the full schedule on their website, but from what I can tell, it’s going to be a pretty awesome couple of days. In addition to the hockey (roughly 14 hours of it over the two days!), there is also going to be a raffle – again with all monies going to the charities – with some fantastic prizes that very generous sponsors have donated.

If you want to find out more, go visit their website or follow them on Twitter.  And I’ll hopefully see a lot of you there, cheering the teams on!

Happy Birthday, Sheffield Spartans

10405395_679006002146955_1647051849765093642_nOne of several teams to play out of IceSheffield, the NIHL team Sheffield Spartans are coming up on their 10th Anniversary, so I thought it might be a good time to learn a little more about the team.

Formed for the 2005/06 season, as a replacement for the Scimitars, the Spartans pride themselves on their strong ties to local ice hockey.  Their core squad has always been made up of players who have worked their way up through the Sheffield junior system, including those rostered for this anniversary season.  Since they formed, a number of their players have gone onto play professionally, including Ben Bowns and Robert Farmer of Team GB.

One of the Spartans’ talented young defensemen, Jonathan Kirk, was named Best Young Player in the league for 2013/14.  The award is voted for by coaches and players from within the league, and is well deserved for the 19 year old who finished the season with personal best of 25 points (11G, 14A).

The 2014/15 season is shaping up to be one of the Spartans’ best yet.  With the first signing of the season bringing local boy Shaun Wild back into the fold, the team are anticipating big things.  A playoff berth is their initial goal, but hopefully their anniversary year will be memorable for even more reasons!

If you want to head along to IceSheffield and watch the Spartans when the season starts, details of their upcoming fixtures will be posted on their website (www.sheffieldspartans.co.uk).  You can also follow the team on Twitter (@SheffSpartans) or on Facebook (/SheffieldSpartans).

Interview with Team GB’s Olivia Mason

As a member of Solihull Vixens, Olivia Mason played 13 games this season and came away with as many points, while as a member of Team GB, she helped her team bring home the silver medal in the Women’s World Championship (Division 2A).

She very kindly agreed to answer some questions for me regarding her UK and International careers, as well as women’s hockey as a whole.

Me: So let’s start at the beginning: What got you into ice hockey?

Olivia: I went ice skating for my little brother’s 7th birthday and we both became addicted.  From there we were fixated with the Coventry Blaze and my brother then joined the junior development system with the Blaze. I was jealous of all the attention he received so I decided to give it a go and have never looked back! Neither of us have.

Me: I’ve been doing some reading up, and learnt that you went over to Canada to study and play hockey at the prestigious Athol Murray College of Notre Dame.  There are some huge names in the NHL who played for their team.  How did that amazing opportunity come about?

Olivia: I was looking into schools abroad just randomly and came across Notre Dame, and it turned out that my brother-in-law who was playing for the Blaze at the time (Danny Stewart who is now coaching Fife Flyers) actually went to school there for four years and played junior hockey there. I took it upon myself to find sponsors to help fly me over to look around and after being there for a week and skating with a few of the girls, I fell in love with the place, received a scholarship and left for the year a few months later. I was only 16, so it was a huge adjustment, but I loved every single minute of my time there and it will always be a huge part of my life. I strongly encourage anyone to do it.

Me: You’ve been playing on an international stage for Team GB since you were a teenager, as part of both the Under-16 and Under-18 teams.  How does that differ from playing for the Women’s Senior team?

Olivia: I played for England U16s for a few years before heading to Canada, and was part of the U18 GB squad while I was away but I didn’t experience world championships until this year. Playing for the GB senior team is obviously massively different from playing England U16s – not only was that seven years ago, but the talent and the standard of women’s hockey here has improved drastically so it’s pretty incomparable. Saying that, a lot of the girls who I played with in the U16s were part of the GB team this year so it was nice to see so many girls still involved. GB Senior Women is the highest level of women’s hockey in this country, so coming from any league or team is a big jump. I found it challenging at first to adapt from Women’s Premier League to World Championships, as I’m sure a lot of the girls not only on GB but other teams at worlds did too, because the hockey was obviously a lot faster and physical compared to what I’ve ever played. So it was a great experience and gave me chance to see where I’m at individually as well as the team on a whole.

Me: Speaking of which, obviously losing the gold-medal game at the Worlds this year must have been a disappointment – even though everyone is so proud of the silver medal you brought home – but overall, how was the experience?

Olivia: It was definitely disappointing. I mean, losing any game in a competitive sport is hard, but being one goal away from winning gold was most definitely heart breaking.  As a squad we began training early in the season and in the first camp we were told by the coaching staff that our ‘motto’ if you like, was “Gold Medal Thinking”. Gradually throughout the season, as camps became harder and the team selection got closer, we became more and more determined and fixated on winning gold. We wanted to prove a point, which was that we are a very talented and hard-working team, who quite simply deserved gold. Although we didn’t achieve what we set out to do, I know we worked our absolute hardest from start to finish of every single game and we most definitely proved a point – as well as making us even hungrier for next year! Nothing beats the feeling of standing on your blue line after a win, screaming your national anthem with 21 of your best friends.

The entire experience is something I will keep with me for the rest of my life. We had an absolutely incredible group of girls who all became best friends pretty much – you’d think after spending 26 hours on a bus and 12 days continuously with the same people would become boring and irritating, but I can honestly say it was absolutely the opposite. On and off the ice we made amazing memories – it’s actually difficult to put it into words how great it was. The hockey was obviously fantastic and I know the other teams there were worried about playing Team GB, which is always nice!!

Me: And the reason the two of us started talking originally: Women’s hockey in the UK.  I know you agree that the sport needs a lot more promotion and support in order to get it the attention it deserves.  How do you see that happening?  What can be done to spread the word?

Olivia: I think the main issue with Women’s hockey in the UK right now is funding. A lot can change with funding – maybe more games in the league? I for one don’t feel like 14 games in a season is enough. More money allows teams such as Whitley Bay Squaws from the Division 1 league to come up to the Premier league, as they dominate their division, but can’t afford to travel down to places like Streatham, Bracknell, Slough, Guildford and Milton Keynes. More competition means the hockey has chance to improve.

In terms of promotion, I feel like the GB team especially had a decent amount of promotion before we left for Italy, but as for the women’s leagues we get next to none. I think the problem is that women’s hockey is stereotyped in terms of standards – not only in the UK but all over the world. People would rather travel to watch the men, because the hockey is faster and more physical. I’m not quite sure what the solution is for that, other than maybe getting women’s teams out on the ice between periods of men’s games to show everyone what we’re capable of?

As I said before, support especially is slow progressing, especially for the GB women’s team. I’m really hoping that if we win the bid to host World’s in Scotland next year, [Note from Kim: we did win the bid!] we will see a lot of fans there to support us. I’m also hoping that by medalling and receiving a lot of support on Twitter especially over the week of World’s, people will be more encouraged to come out and watch a bit more women’s hockey.

Last note on support and promotion: I think the guys playing in the EIHL and EPL especially, have a lot of ‘power’ over the fans in UK hockey and it would be nice to see them encouraging their fans to support the girls.

Me: Canada is getting closer to a women’s professional league with the CWHL, but even they’re still quite a way off.  Do you see anything similar ever happening in this country?

Olivia: Unfortunately I can’t say I do – not any time soon anyway. If Canada are only JUST putting a professional women’s league together after years and years of success with women’s hockey not only in the midget and college level, but international level too; I think the UK might have a ways to go. It’s where funding comes into play again – in order to have a professional women’s league there needs to be money to accommodate to players, ice time, travel etc… I’m hopeful that maybe one day there will be a possibility.

Me: Potentially a controversial questions, but there’s been a lot of talk recently, thanks to women such as Shannon Szabados and Noora Raty, about the possibilities of women playing in men’s leagues, including the NHL.  Do you feel that this is the right aim, or should we be looking for women’s leagues to simply gain equal footing with men’s?

Olivia: I mean if they’re skilled, strong and capable hockey players I don’t see why women can’t play with the men. I’m on the fence about it, because I know leagues such as the NHL host the best players in the world. Not only that, it’s an extremely physical league and I can’t say I can see a girl being able to comfortably play. Lower leagues I think there’s absolutely a possibility – but whether it happens or not? I don’t know. I think the aim right now is to gain equal footing with the men. It’s probably the more realistic approach to improving women’s hockey.

Me: What are your long-term hockey goals?  Do you want to stay with the WPL, or would you look at moving abroad for more opportunities?

Olivia: Long-term I want to play for as long as I can and at the highest standard as possible. I have one year left of my degree and I’ll then consider looking at teams abroad – more for the experience of travelling and experiencing leagues outside of the UK and Canada.

Me: Other than your own, of course, which hockey teams (UK or abroad) do you support?

Olivia: I’ve grown up in the Coventry Blaze system, so that’s a given. I’m also a fan of the Fife Flyers due to my brother-in-law coaching up there. However, I’m neutral when they play against one another!   I’ll always support the Notre Dame Hounds, as they are my Alma mater.  And I support both St Louis Blues and Toronto Maple Leafs – having friends from Notre Dame on both teams.

Me: Who is your hockey role model?

Olivia: I would say my little brother – David. He’s a great player and an incredible leader and he’s always there giving me advice whenever I need it. He’s part of the GB 20s and has gone through the England and GB system since he was 11 years old. He came to Notre Dame and made his way from the bottom boys team in his first year, to the top AAA team in his last year – as well as winning Athlete of the Year in his senior year at Notre Dame (which is pretty impressive). He’s now playing junior hockey in Utah and is doing extremely well – for a 19 year old boy he’s achieved so much already and he’s such a great role model for young British hockey players. He’s definitely my best friend and we’ve always been competitive, so I hope one day I’ll at least beat him on the ice somehow!!

Me: You wore #10 for GB and wear #19 for Solihull.  Why those numbers?

Olivia: I remember my brother wore 10 when he first started hockey, so I chose the same number and it stuck with me. Funnily enough, we didn’t choose numbers for GB this year and it just so happened I was given that number! There isn’t any exciting story behind number 19, unfortunately as a rookie on the team I got last pick of numbers!

Me: Do you have any pre-game superstitions or rituals?

Olivia: Not really, I always put my equipment on the same way – left skate before right every time, left leg tape before right etc. I’ve also always taped my stick black, because the first time I ever used white I scored an own goal and thought it was because I switched to white! I was only U12s but I’ve never gone back!

Me: What’s your favourite hockey-related memory?

Olivia: I have far too many to list them all; Notre Dame is classed as a hockey-related memory and it was the best thing I ever did. I really wish I’d gone earlier than I did!  Obviously playing for GB Women will always be one of the best memories!  Meeting Hound Alumn Vincent Lecavlier was pretty cool too!  Being the first girl to ever play in a Varsity game for Coventry University this year, as well as scoring their first goal was something I won’t forget either.

Me: What would you say to any young girl who is considering ice hockey as a sport?

Olivia: What are they waiting for!? I’ve met people ALL over the world through hockey- male and female, some of which I will be friends with for life. I think I know at least one person in every country from playing hockey in different places (or near enough anyways!). It’s an extremely exciting sport – the adrenaline rush you experience when you play in front of a big crowd or for your country is indescribable. It provides you with so many opportunities to travel and see new places and experience new things. I strongly encourage it. It really is the best sport in the world.

Thank you again to Olivia for taking the time to talk to me, and I’m looking forward to seeing her on the ice next season – and in 2015 at World’s, of course!

 

Tri-Service Tournament Schedule

10333301_10152102825807894_2754142620130390837_oAs previously mentioned, this week, IceSheffield plays host to ice hockey players from various branches of the British Armed Forces in their regular Tri-Service Tournament, with more FREE hockey than you’ll know what to do with!

We’ve managed to get a copy of the schedule, so you can catch as many games as possible.  Pad 1 and Pad 2 refer to the two rinks at Ice Sheffield.  I make no claims as to the accuracy of this information, but this is the schedule that I have been provided!  Don’t forget to check with the Tri-Service Tournament Facebook Page for any last minute changes!

[Edited: Updated with final scores]

Tuesday 3rd June (Round Robin Rounds)

08:00 [Pad 1]  RAF Eastern Crusade vs RN General Service (Final Score 5-0)
08:45 [Pad 1]  RM Bootnecks vs RLC Chiefs (Final Score 4-2)
09:45 [Pad 1]  RE Sappers vs REME Stallions (Final Score 3-2)
10:30 [Pad 1]  RAF Cosford Stars vs Army All Stars (Final Score 0-8)
11:30 [Pad 1]  RAF Eastern Crusade vs RAF Scotland (Final Score 2-1)
12:15 [Pad 1]  RAF Bluewings vs RM Bootnecks (Final Score 3-2)
12:30 [Pad 2]  RN General Service vs RE Sappers (Final Score 4-3)
13:15 [Pad 1]  RLC Chiefs vs RAF Cosford Stars (Final Score 8-2)
13:15 [Pad 2]  REME Stallions vs RAF Scotland (Final Score 3-1)
14:00 [Pad 1]  RAF Bluewings vs Army All Stars (Final Score 1-3)
14:15 [Pad 2]  RAF Eastern Crusade vs RE Sappers (Final Score 2-0)
19:00               Royal Navy vs Royal Air Force (Final Score 1-3)

Wednesday 4th June (Round Robin Rounds)

08:00 [Pad 1]  RM Bootnecks vs RAF Cosford Stars (Final Score 4-3)
08:45 [Pad 1]  RN General Service vs RAF Scotland (Final Score 0-0)
09:45 [Pad 1]  RLC Chiefs vs Army All Stars (Final Score 0-3)
10:30 [Pad 1]  REME Stallions vs RAF Eastern Crusade (Final Score 0-2)
11:30 [Pad 1]  RAF Bluewings vs RAF Cosford Stars (Final Score 5-0)
11:30 [Pad 2]  RE Sappers vs RAF Scotland (Final Score 3-1)
12:15 [Pad 1]  RM Bootnecks vs Army All Stars (Final Score 0-3)
12:15 [Pad 2]  RN General Service vs REME Stallions (Final Score 2-2)
13:15 [Pad 1]  RLC Chiefs vs RAF Bluewings (Final Score 2-1)
19:00               British Army vs Royal Navy (Final Score 9-1)

Thursday 5th June (Knockout Rounds)

All  the teams from Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s games are ranked in order, and compete in the knockout rounds to win the relevant cup, plate and bowl trophies.

KO Game 1  08:00 [Pad 1]  RM Bootnecks vs RAF Scotland (Final Score 2-1)
KO Game 2  09:00 [Pad 1]  REME Stallions vs RAF Cosford Stars (Final Score 3-2)
KO Game 3  09:15 [Pad 2]  RAF Bluewings vs RN General Service (Final Score 1-2)
KO Game 4  10:00 [Pad 1]  RE Sappers vs RLC Chiefs (Final Score 0-4)
KO Game 5  10:15 [Pad 2]  RM Bootnecks vs RAF Eastern Crusade (Final Score 0-4)
KO Game 6  11:15 [Pad 2]  REME Stallions 2 vs Army All Stars (Final Score 1-4)
KO Game 7  11:15 [Pad 1]  RAF Cosford Stars vs RM Bootnecks (Final Score 0-6)
KO Game 8  12:15 [Pad 1]  RAF Scotland vs REME Stallions (Final Score 0-2)
KO Game 9  13:00 [Pad 1]  RM Bootnecks vs RAF Bluewings (Final Score 1-3)
KO Game 10  13:25 [Pad 2]  RE Sappers vs REME Stallions (Final Score 1-0)
KO Game 11  12:15 [Pad 2]  RN General Service vs RAF Eastern Crusade (Final Score 5-4)
KO Game 12  14:25 [Pad 2]  RLC Chiefs vs Army All Stars (Final Score 0-3)
Bowl Game 1  14:15 [Pad 1]  RAF Cosford Stars vs RM Bootnecks (Final Score 1-2)
Bowl Game 2  15:15 [Pad 1]  RAF Scotland vs REME Stallions (Final Score 2-0)
19:00               British Army vs Royal Air Force (Final Score 3-2)

Friday 6th June (Knockout Rounds)

KO Game 13  [Pad 2]  09:00  RAF Bluewings vs RLC Chiefs (Final Score 3-1)
KO Game 14  [Pad 1]  09:00  RAF Eastern Crusade vs RE Sappers (Final Score 0-1)
Bowl 3rd Place [Pad 1]  10:00  RAF Cosford Stars vs REME Stallions (Final Score 2-0)
Plate 3rd Place [Pad 2]  10:00  RLC Chiefs vs RAF Eastern Crusade (Final Score 2-1)
Bowl Final [Pad 1]  12:00  RM Bootnecks vs RAF Scotland (Final Score 2-4)
Plate Final [Pad 1]  13:00  RAF Bluewings ve RE Sappers (Final Score 6-1)
Cup Final [Pad 1]  14:00  RN General Service vs Army All Stars (Final Score 1-4)
Followed by the on ice presentations