Thursday, July 24, 2014


Hockey From Over 'ome!!

Hockey From Over ‘ome!




On these hot, steamy, summer days, I Like to think about hockey. During the championships in Wellington for the Dudley Hewitt Cup, an avid hockey fan, Ben Houston, slipped me an article about hockey. Following a bit of research, I am pleased to share a tidbit or two about the great game, as it is played in the British Isles.


Those of us who know Ben can easily assume that he would not be a strong supporter of the Sheffield Steel, nor of the Nottingham Panthers. Ben’s team, of course, is the Belfast Giants. The Giants won the league title last year in fine form, finishing the season with 48 wins and six losses.


Former Wellington Duke Dan Lacosta played for the Cardiff Devils last year, posting a 2.71 goals against average. Dan had quite a circuitous route to the Elite League. After he left the Dukes, he played in the Ontario Hockey League. He spent several seasons in the minors, and also played four games with Columbus in the National Hockey League.


There are quotas in the league for the number of imports a team can use, eleven per side; however, there is plenty of home-grown talent taking the ice every game. The Devils dressed seven players who were born in Wales.


There are ten teams in the Elite League, and there are several thousand fans who attend each home game. These fans have been weaned on soccer, and they quickly adapt to hockey. They like the game as it is played North American style. When the players drop the gloves, and show a little animosity, the fans do not head to the canteens. They are accustomed to the rules of soccer, where a bit of fisticuffs leads to an immediate dismissal, and probable suspension. Off to the sin bin for five minutes, then back out for your next shift!!


Other teams in the League? From Scotland: Glasgow-Braehead Clan, Fife Flyers, Dundee Stars, Edinburgh Capitals. From England: Hull Stingrays, Nottingham Panthers, Sheffield Steelers, and Coventry Blaze.


Belleville’s Randy Uens also spent a season in the British Isles. He split his time between the Trafford Metros and the Sunderland Chiefs. He enjoyed his year there, as do most Canadians. It gives you a chance to see a bit of the world, some pocket change, a vehicle, and a place to hang your hat at night. The dressing room is full of other hockey pals from home, so there is always that bit of Canadian camaraderie as well.



The article that Ben gave me focused on the Belfast Giants. Fortunately, politics is left at the door of the Odyssey Arena. Team owner, Todd Kelman, is a Calgary native who played for the club and is now its manager. Kelman is quoted in the January issue of the Globe and Mail: “We’re a really good thing for Northern Ireland and Belfast, because we’ve made a conscious decision not to get involved in all that.”


One of the players on the Giants phrased it succinctly: “You go around town and speak with a North American accent and they know right away that you are not on either side and you have nothing to do with the conflict.”


The best players in the league can make $ 50 000 per season, not exactly chump change where I come from. The level of play is very good, at the level of the East Coast League. Next time Ben heads to his old home, I’ll get him to pick up a program for me.


James Hurst

July 22, 2014  




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