Posts Tagged ‘bristol’


I was imagining that my first post of 2012 would have been a cheerier one. However, we were told on Thursday at training that our barn is going to be closing down and we, the Pitbulls (and the junior teams, the rec team, the university team and ice skating club) would become homeless at the end of the season.

 

The lease on the rink is running out and the rink is set to be converted into student accommodation. Not that I have anything against students or further education, but the situation is far from ideal. In fact thinking it purely from the hockey point of view, I feel like the people who have put the Pitbulls together and ran the team have had a severe kick to the teeth due to the decision.

 

As I’ve had a chance to reflect on the news for a few days, I have come to realise that the biggest loss of the rink closure is not the loss of hockey, but it is the loss of a place that has become a second home to myself and all my team mates. It could potentially also mean the loss of a group of guys who have become like a second family. We have all sweated and bled on to the ice to provide our fans and supporters with an entertaining night out and we as players have relied on each other. We have experienced highs and lows every week that we turn up for training and suit up, ready to hit the ice. Like I’ve said many times before on this blog, being on the ice is one of the best feelings I can imagine.

 

Beyond hockey  however, I have read and recanted numerous tales from Facebook and Twitter on people’s memories of the rink. I have come to know stories of people who have met the love of their life on the ice, memories of nights spent with friends and most of all, people lamenting the loss of a place to meet up and spend time.

 

As I’m not a native to Bristol and I have only spent two seasons with the Pitbulls, I have only a handful of memories compared to most of the other guys on the team who took their first strides on the ice at the facility. However, the situation sounds all too familiar; when I first arrived in the UK in Southampton to study I was told that the town used to house a rink, but it was torn down (now what stands in its place is a Range Rover and Jaguar dealership) and a new rink was promised by the council. Given that I have been in the UK for 8 years and there’s no new rink in sight (OK the Southampoton rink has been shut for nearly 30 years now) one can understand why the loss of a ice facility is a BIG deal to everyone who uses the facility.

 

In what is the Olympic year for the UK, there has been a lot of discussion about the state of British sports. How can the UK nurture the next sporting talents if facilities for sports of all kinds are being cut down. In a broader scale, the economic downturn has cut funding from many sports and leisure centres that provide both the young and old the opportunity to partake in sports, be it hockey, skating, soccer or boxing. Sports is an enabler. If I didn’t do sports in my youth I wouldn’t have learned valuable social skills and I probably would’ve spent more time than I did out in town partaking in teenage debauchery. Sports taught me a great deal of self discipline and respect to others.

 

However, as I’m trying to look for a silver lining in the news of the rink closing down, I am hopeful that it will not mean the demise of hockey in Bristol. I am hopeful that the powers that be build a new rink that is suitable for hockey and figure skating. Hockey is a growing sport in the UK and I’m sure that all our opponents would agree that there needs to be a team in Bristol. Say what you want about the state of the facility, it’s more fun to play more games than have fewer games on the schedule.

 

As my parting thoughts, I would like to see as many of you readers sign this petition to show your support for the rink. It only takes 30 seconds of your time and we (the people who use the rink) would really appreciate the support: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/save-the-ice-rink/

Be sure to also check out the following Facebook Groups and websites: https://www.facebook.com/BristolNeedsARink,


Remember the days when sayings like Winning and Tigerblood were the talk of the town? Yeah neither can I, or I can remember winning and it’s Twitter hash tag #Winning making the rounds. Oh how appropriate that hash tag would be right now.

 

I knew the team would be strong and would have a good chance at challenging teams, but to start the season in this fashion has been great. I think the win against Romford showed that the team has some real character and balls! In the lead up to the Finns winning the world championship there was a lot of talk in the press how the team had more balls and courage to do stuff and I think the win against Romford really showed that the team is capable of doing anything when we set our minds to it.

 

The game was tough, I’m not denying that and I give all credit to the Romford guys. They kept us honest for the whole 60 minutes and did not give up. I like games like that. I remember being on the bench in the third and keeping a watchful eye on the clock, thinking “Another 5 minutes and we’ve got this”. I was on the ice when the buzzer went and, well what can I say? It was pretty epic.

We’ve got another game coming up this weekend and we need to work hard in training, as there were still a few things that left something to be desired for in the Romford game. The passion is definitely there, but we just need to make sure the passion shows from the word go and we don’t turn up flat.

 

Looking forward to it already.


Well the wait is finally over. The puck has dropped and the season is under way. I think I’ve been looking forward to this ever since the doctors cleared me to play after the concussion. The thought of not being able to play really re-ignited my love for the game again and definitely made me work hard during the summer.

As most of the hockey world knows, this off season has been really dark for the hockey community. With the deaths of Wade Belak, Rick Rypien and Derek Boogard over the summer and of course the devastating loss of the entire Yaroslav Lokomotiv team. It wasn’t an easy wake up this morning, after receiving a news alert to say that the surviving player Alex Galimov had passed away due to the injuries he sustained in the crash. I had held out hope that Galimov would pull through, despite the grave injuries he received. Never the less he put up one hell of a fight.

No matter what level you play this game at, losses like the ones mentioned above are terrible. Even if we don’t know the players on a personal level, we’ve all watched them play and admired their skills they’ve displayed on the ice and the moments of jubilation they have provided to the fans of the game. I don’t even want to begin to imagine what the players’ families and friends are going through, but looking at the pictures and videos from the memorial services around the globe, the loss is visibly heart breaking.I’ve read stories that have reduced me to tears and seen fans remember the players in a way that has brought a smile to my face, not because the stories were funny, but because they were so touching and you could tell how much the game and the guys meant to people all around the world.

As we started our season, we respected those who lost their lives and remembered their families in the Yaroslav plane crash and the 9/11 disaster by a minutes silence. Personally I was touched by the rink falling totally silent for a minute as we paid our respects to the lives lost. To me, it doesn’t matter what level of the game we play the game, we are all part of the same hockey community and regardless of skills or ability, the reasons why we play the game are much the same.

In closing, my thoughts go out to the victims’ families and friends at this difficult time.

Our first game was something that we wanted to skate away with a W under our belts and that we did. We played an amazing first period in the game took command early on. We were hungry to win this game since it was our first game of the year and given that our last season’s games ended in us losing both of them.

 

There are lots of positives we can all take away from the game, though we did take our foot off the gas in the third. Hockey is a 60 minute game (or 65 if you’re lucky enough to play overtimes) so the work ethic must be there throughout the game. But after all it was the first game of the year. Yet we can’t use that as an excuse as teams we will be facing from now on will have games under their belts and will probably get the wind of our success. I’m not taking anything away from the team, but we have to work hard moving forwards. The win was awesome no bones about it!

 

Personally I enjoyed playing, up until midway through the second when my skates started chewing my feet to bits. As I write I’ve got blisters on both my feet and they feel puffy. The skates have been on their way out. Looking at prices for new skates, they cost more than our fridge freezer! Seriously!!! For the money some of these skates retail at I’m hoping they cook me my breakfast and serve it in my bed.

 

There’s some exciting stuff coming up on this blog so keep your eyes peeled. I’m looking to do some video blogging, which will probably scare off the readers as they’ll have to look at my ugly mug.


This off season/pre season has been different from others that I’ve had, for many reasons. I don’t think that ever during my career my body (and mind) were so beat from the season. The mind pretty much due to the concussion rather than the mental strain from the season.

 

So for the first time in my life I was faced with a wholly new challenge. My hip was in a pretty bad shape, my head was a total mess and I was tired. Pretty much from finishing the last game of the season I knew that the summer was going to be far from easy, but then again, hockey doesn’t really give you a long summer holiday.

 

I think I gave myself about a week off from the ice and then started to hit the gym. While it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do with the ongoing concussion symptoms, I needed to do something. Running made my head feel worse and the doctors said that I was OK to do light weights and go easy. Too bad I have a different idea of going easy to the doctors.

 

So I was able to train really hard through April and I thought that I had overcome the concussion issues. My body started to feel better and I felt stronger physically, but I was still hitting a wall. I was helping out at one of my wife’s trainings on the ice and I was doing a regular skating drill we did throughout the season. I was probably going at about 60% and I just literally didn’t know what the hell was going on. I went pale, blacked out and almost passed out. From skating at about 60%.

 

This then lead to heated debates and arguments about what I should and shouldn’t be doing and being a bone head I told everyone to STFU and let me decide what’s best for me. As a compromise I agreed to take a week out of training to give myself some extra time to re-coup.

 

If you follow me on twitter, or are unlucky to have me as a friend on Facebook, you know what happened to me on my first run after I resumed training. I was about 800meters from the office and I was doing a visualisation and mental exercises while running. I was so focussed that I didn’t see a pothole and I ran into it and twisted my ankle…. BAD! Where the ankle hurt for a few days, I was back at the gym lifting weights and on the bike 3 days after I hurt it. My thinking being, if I focus on exercises where there’s no risk of the ankle buckling or giving way, I’ll be OK.

 

The other issue I dealt with was the hip, which I mentioned at the start. As soon as the season had finished I entered into a rigorous physio therapy programme with Matthew Radcliffe, who is a the head physio for Southampton FC. Matt did a great job with me and seriously put me through the paces. I don’t think that I’ve ever worked so hard at physio, which I enjoyed as it was actually doing functional stuff that I knew would help and it kept me interested as I felt like I was actually having a workout.

 

The physio for the hip has worked as the times I’ve been on the ice, I’ve been skating pain free, which has shown me how much fun it can be. I was officially discharged from the hip physio and where I’m happy to know that I’ve been discharged and fit, I still have to do continuous exercises to ensure that the hip doesn’t flare up, that combined with a new pre-activation session.

 

Additionally, I’ve also been discharged from the ankle physio, which effectively brings to an end a regime of physio therapy that started in April. I think this summer I’ve been in physio for a longer period of time than ever before.

 

On the other hand though, my gym workouts have gone so well that I am actually feeling really good about the shape I am in and it is a definite step up compared to where I was starting from at the start of last season. Maybe more importantly the off season training has taught me more about mental toughness and discipline than anything else. I feel like the work I’ve put in, both in training and in physiotherapy has made me a stronger person and helped me to examine the game from a entirely new point of view. Despite the off ice training being hard and difficult at times, I have actually had fun doing it and I’m actually smiling at the gym, the same can be said of the times that I have been on the ice. Hockey is definitely fun again, which is something that I’ve missed among all the injuries I suffered with.

 

As for last season, well it is just that, it’s last season. I will take lessons from it, but for now my eyes are fixed on the 2011-2012 campaign. I think the most important lessons I have learnt this off season are those of patience, hard(er) work and trying out new things. I feel that I’m mentally stronger and I feel that I’ll be able to have fun instead of whitekncuckle the stick. There’s 6 days till we take to the ice as a team again, so I’ll be looking forward to seeing some of the guys I’ve not seen over the summer.

 

I can’t come up with a better ending to this than what a Finnish hockey journalist Jari Mesikammen (aka Karhuherra on twitter) said in his recent column: Forget about summer, drop the puck already!


Had my first taste of ENL hockey on Saturday when I had an exhibition game against the ENL1 side of the Pitbulls. I think it was first time in nearly 10 years when I saw that many people watch a hockey game (that I was playing in). Where the ENL1 side had more experience and maybe half a step more pace, I thought that all in all we put up a good fight.

There is an infinite amount of potential in the team and once everything gels together, then I think that the Pitbulls ENL2 side will be somewhat of a force to be reckoned with. The coach definitely has a good direction and vision for the team of how he wants us to play and how he wants us to work. Personally I’m a fan of his coaching style as I was once the same when I was coaching the Spitfires, before handing the reigns over to Captain Canada.

One thing I keep getting asked by team mates and people is why Bristol? Why didn’t I sign for Basingstoke or a team that was closer by? Sure I know that the journey to training is a bit long, but at the end of the day there were reasons why I wanted to sign for Bristol. When I was looking for a team and contacting the teams in the South, Richie, who owns and runs the Pitbulls, was the first one to get back to me and explain what the team was about and how they did things. Few of the other teams that I was in touch with were promising as well and where I got to skate with them, my knee operation put me out of the action for a while and once I was allowed to resume skating I was told that all ‘import’ positions had been filled.

The main reason why I wanted to sign for the Pitbulls was simple. I wanted to develop as a hockey player. I believe that an old dog can still learn new tricks and with the quality of players on the team (both ENL1 and 2), combined with the coaching staff, I felt that it was a good environment to learn and develop. That’s from the individual side of things. The other reason was that I wanted to play for a team that took things seriously and was able to fight for winning games, again few ticks in the Pitbulls box there.

So how about the game against the ENL1 side then? Where we lost, I think we put up a fight and showed that the dog has some fight in it. Like I mentioned before, there’s a lot of new guys in the team (myself included) who just need to learn how to play together. Once we gel together and the pieces fall together it will be a good strong team.

The new season is just around the corner as well and it is with eager anticipation that we look forward to a few weeks of intense training so that we are ready to face Slough on the 3rd of September in its Hangar. My personal anticipation is that it will be a close game. Slough is a new team, though many of the players there have experience in ENL2 hockey and looking at the roster, the team sure has a few old Basingstoke Buffalo guys playing for them as well. I think we have a slight advantage in that our pre-season has been longer, though Slough hosted its try-outs while I was still recovering from my knee op so I don’t know how long they have been on the ice for.

None the less, I’m sure it will be a tight game and a new rink for me to play in. From then on it is pretty much flat out till Christmas and I’m really looking forward to it.