EIHL teams build for a new season
The players may have hit the beach or the golf course, but the business of running an ice hockey team continues throughout the summer months.
Across the EIHL new-look rosters are being built, and fans are clicking through hockey stats to find out more about their new signings as they start to count down to the face off in late August/early September.
There’s still a long way to go before any definitive assessments can be made on who’ll lead the challenge for honours in 2016/17, and there ain’t no prizes for building your team faster than anyone else - but as the names fall into place you can get a feel for how things are shaping up.
So, what have the EIHL coaches and managers been up to?
Here’s a summary of the story so far ...
Coach Marc Lefebvre has been busy on Tayside strengthening the team which enjoyed a bit of a renaissance last season after their annus horribilis of 2014-15.
There are already several new faces for Stars’ fans to look forward to meeting as well as the return of some favourites.
Newcomers include Craig Cescon, who iced for Lefebvre in Coventry, and also played with Braehead Clan, while Vinny Scarsella has joined from Manchester Storm where he claimed 74 points in 60 games.
There’s a strong UK presence in the roster too with defenceman Cam McGiffen, a Team GB under-20s stalwart with EPIHL experience with Slough Jets and Peterborough Phantoms, Craig Moore, and Harrogate born Josh Grieveson who heads to Dundee from New England outfit, Middlesex Brown Bears in the USHS.
Three players signed so far, and web rumours linking them to almost every other name you can think of!
Skipper and team leader Matt Keith was the first to be unveiled, and he will again be a major player in the club’s drive for honours in 2016-17.
Bari McKenzie is back for a second season, while Clan’s first new signing is Craig Peacock from Belfast Giants. The UK forward spent seven seasons with the Northern Ireland outfit, winning two titles, scoring 150 goals and icing in 400 games.
Forget star skaters or enforcers, Storm’s first signing was Jon Hammond - the MC who makes the rink rock on match night!
With the ‘Voice of the Puck’ back on board, attention then turned to the ice pad with coach Omar Pacha snapping up Jack Prince, a GB forward who has spent the past four seasons with the University of Alabama-Hunterville in the NCAA Division One.
At the other end of the spectrum he has also added 32-year old Mark Heatley, a forward who has spent eight seasons in German hockey, and a noted face-off expert.
This week he also confirmed the return of defenceman Paul Swindlehurst.
Phil Paquet, Ryan Dingle and Shayne Stockton are confirmed returnees from last season - expect more announcements in the coming weeks as the club drip feeds more news to fill the quiet summer months, as well as new names as Todd Dutiaume looks ahead following the departure of assistant coach, Danny Stewart to Coventry.
They’ll start 2016-17 in their impressive new rink across the road from the Big Blue Tent, but light years ahead in terms of facilities.
Devils saw Leigh Salters and Tyson Marsh retire after the play-off finals weekend, but key returnees so far include netminder Ben Bowns, defenceman Mark Richardson - for a tenth season - and Joey Martin, their leading overall scorer, player of the year, players’ player of the year and an EIHL all-star team member. Devils view him as ‘’the complete package’’ and he will again lead the line come September.
Champions Steelers have been busier than anyone as they build a new team - and they have to be with Champions Hockey League to factor into a tight season.
They start training mid-August to get their squad ready for the tough schedule ahead.
Out have gone netminder Marek Pinc, Russ Moyer and Conny Stromberg, along with Jace Coyle, retirees Rod Sarich and Cullen Eddy, and last year’s player of the year Fredrik Vestberg.
Interesting to see coach Paul Thompson turn to his former club, both on and off the ice too.
He has a new assistant in Jerry Anderson, who he worked with at Troja Lundby.
He replaces Darrell Hays who leaves after one season as Tommo pursues ‘’a change of direction.’’
The Lunby connection also brought forward Markus Nilsson to Steelers, while the coach has wound the clock back further to bring back former netminder Ervins Mustukovs - he back stopped Steelers to the title in 2010-11 and has since been playing in Scandinavia, including Aalborg, another of Tommo’s former clubs.
Levi Nelson returns on a two year deal along with Messrs Mosienko, Ferrera, Fretter and Roy to list just a few of a lengthy forward line already in place,
On the blue line Fife fans can look forward to another season yelling at the bearded warrior, Zach Fitzgerald.
And look out for promising youngsters Liam Kirk and Colde Schudra. That last surname certainly rings a bell ...
One name Fife fans will be keen to see is Jeff Brown.
He’s the son of Flyers legend Danny - one of the stars of the fabled ‘Plumb Line’ which triumphed at Wembley in ‘85.
Brown junior is 25 years old and joined Panthers with a glowing recommendation from ex-player David Ling.
Returnees to the play-off champs include netminder Miika Wiikman plus Robert Lachowicz and top scorer Stephen Schultz.
No surprise to see Blaze ring the changes after their disastrous season.
Six big names have gone - included big bad Boris Valabik - with only Chris Bruton a possible returnee if new coach Danny Stewart picks him up.
Stewy has the vastly experienced Ashley Tait as his assistant as well as a player on the ice, and he has confirmed Fife’s Renny Marr as back-up netminder.
Ross Venus, Russell Cowley and Matt Selby all return to the Skydome.
Across the sea, Giants have been busy re-signing their key players from last season.
A lengthy list of returnees includes ex-Fife enforcer Matt Nickerson, David Rutherford, Michael Forney, Jonathan Boxill, James Desmarais, Mark Garside, Brandon Benedict, and Adam Keefe.
The latter will start his sixth season with Giants, and in that time has become a club legend. Last season he was the Players’ Player Of The Year, took the fans’ favourite Award and the club’s community service award.
Keefe has played over 300 games with Giants, won two league championships netted some 130 points.
Caps remain the only team to appoint a coach following the retirement of the popular Riley Emmerson.
The fans across the Forth are keen for news after last season’s promise crumbled to dust, but so far they have only Jay King confirmed as a returnee.