Building the Herd – Tomas Hiadlovsky

#?? Tomas Hiadlovsky

Position: Netminder

Born: Trenčín, Trenčiansky kraj, Slovakia

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 28th May

Bison coach Doug Sheppard has fired a shot across the bow of the rest of the English Premier Ice Hockey League with the signing of the Bison’s first import netminder in their tenure in the EPL with the capture of Tomas Hiadlovsky from the Edinburgh Capitals.

26 year old Slovak, Hiadlovsky has spent the last 3 seasons in Scotland and has regularly impressed fans across the Elite League. Whilst the Capitals have not set the league alight, making the playoffs just once in the last 3 seasons, Hiadlovsky has been a regular recipient of praise from fans and pundits alike getting a couple of EIHL player of the week awards along the way. In the 3 years with the Capitals he made 164 appearances facing a combined 5634 shots and a combined .891 save percentage posting 5 shutouts across that spell.

Hiadlovsky came through the youth system at Dukla Trencin, the same youth system that bred long time EPL forward and Guildford legend Milos Melicherik. After appearances at under 18 and under 20 level, Tomas got his senior debut in the Slovak 2nd tier with HK 95 Povazska Bystrica at the end of the 2006/07 season.

Tomas made a brief move to the Czech Republic to join Slovan Usti nad Labem but returned to his native land to join the Slovak under 20 national side who play in the country’s top flight in an attempt to aid their development.

From that point on, Hiadlovsky split his time between the Slovak top flight and second tier playing for a variety of sides; Senica, the u20s, back to Trencin, Prievidza, Trencin and Senica again, a brief loan spell at Puchov before finishing his time in his homeland with home town Trencin in the 2011/12 playoffs. Hiadlovsky was recommended to then Capitals coach Richard Hartmann by former Czechoslovak international and a member of the 1994 Slovak Olympic Squad, Eduard Hartmann (no relation). Hiadlovsky iced in 88 games in the Slovak top flight and 58 games in the second tier before his move to Britain.

Hiadlovsky represented Slovakia 4 times internationally at under 18 level and was once named to Slovakia’s World Junior Championship squad but did not ice.

So…this was rumoured but somewhat unexpected. When the rumour was leaked by British Ice Hockey, the club even had Sheppard address it in the Basingstoke Gazette article announcing Declan Balmer’s return saying “it’s just a rumour”. Given how little the club ever comment on stuff and the fact Hiadlovsky is now a Bison player, I put this to the club. Their response? “Well Anthony, we never said we hadn’t signed him.” Cheers guys.

This is a big signing for the Bison. For the club to go down the import netminder route is a change of direction for the club but one that it appears they feel necessary. Hiadlovsky is a proven netminder in British hockey in a tier above the EPIHL so for Doug Sheppard to commit to making an import his number one goalie (because let’s face it, he’s going to be the starter) meant that he was going to sign someone good. Whilst Hiadlovsky’s numbers in the EIHL aren’t world beating, he was the netminder on one of the lower budget teams in the weaker conference but regularly stole games for them. In terms of netminders in the league, he’s played at levels above the current announced import netminders with the only named starter playing at a higher level being Stevie Lyle. Hiadlovsky is 26 and still arguably on the upswing given that netminders peak later.

Nearly every EIHL fan I know has sent me a message today saying what a good netminder Sheppard has signed. Hiadlovsky has been stealing games at EIHL level for three years and somehow has been convinced to join one of the EPL front runners. This of course brings up the big question; why not sign a British netminder? I’ll answer a question with a question that none of us may know the answer to; who was available and at what price? There is that argument that the Bison as a club need to do better at bringing netminding and defensive prospects on but if someone like Jordan Lawday isn’t quite ready and there’s nobody immediately on hand to sign or bring in then

We also need to look at the uncomfortable hard facts; the Bison allowed the second fewest shots in the league but Dean Skinns had a save percentage below .900. I have a lot of time for Dean Skinns, we all should because not only is he a very good netminder on his day but he clearly loves being a part of the club. He wasn’t the same after being concussed in the home game against Guildford and staying in when he should have been pulled. The defensive corps has been kept the same because there is no reason to change that much, the place that needed strengthening was in net. Now what happens with Skinns is currently unknown and Sheppard confirmed today that they are still negotiating with Dean but imagine if he stays. That’s a hell of a 1-2 punch even if 14/15 wasn’t Skinns’ best year. There’s a bunch of permutations that we could get in to but we’re straying from the main point here.

Tomas Hiadlovsky joining the league’s netminding ranks is the biggest signing since Stevie Lyle came to the league. He gives the Bison the chance to win every night in this league. The defence has firmly taken shape, there’s a decent amount of fire power already announced and now we have an EIHL quality netminder starting in net. It changes the Bison’s structure somewhat and places a lot on the shoulders on Hiadlovsky to perform being an import netminder but this is not someone new to Britain and some of its quirks, this a goalie established in this country. The phrase “statement of intent” is used a lot, maybe even overused but how else do you describe this?

Welcome to the Herd, Tomas; if you save shots like Janis Auzins but don’t start fights like Janis Auzins then we’re going to be just fine.

Building the Herd – Miroslav Vantroba

#18 Miroslav Vantroba

Position: Defence

Born: Spisska Nova Ves, Slovakia

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 14th May

More of Miro; Slovak defenceman Miroslav Vantroba has signed on for 2015/16 in Basingstoke. (c) 5 Hole Photography

More of Miro; Slovak defenceman Miroslav Vantroba has signed on for 2015/16 in Basingstoke.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

Basingstoke Bison coach Doug Sheppard continued to show faith in last season’s defence by announcing that import defenceman Miroslav Vantroba would return for 2015/16.

The big Slovakian blueliner will be 36 when his third season in Hampshire starts in September after a successful first 2 campaigns for the Bison. Over 2 seasons, Vantroba has made 102 appearances scoring 17 goals and 63 assists making him the Herd’s highest scoring defenceman last season and one of the highest scoring defenders in the EPIHL.

Vantroba having made his senior debut with his home town team Spisska Nova Ves in 1999. After time with Kosice and a one season stint in the Czech Republic with Karlovy Vary and a return to Kosice, Vantroba had a 3 year stint with MHC Martin where he won the 2008/09 Continental Cup alongside recently announced Dundee Stars netminder Vlastimil Lakosil.

Moves to Banska Bystrica and Zvolen followed before his last season in Slovakia where the split time between Spisska and Nitra. Vantroba’s senior career in Slovakia spans 675 games with 642 in the top flight for a total of 244 points and 709 penalty minutes in the regular season. Vantroba has also made 61 playoff appearances in the Extraliga with 11 points. He also made 4 appearances for his country in international play.

So a 4th member of the 2014/15 defence is back and we’re really starting to get the feeling that any other defensive signing is purely going to be depth at this stage. Reynolds, Balmer and Baird are back and now the return of the big number 18 really means that whatever direction Sheppard chooses to go with the netminding this term, it’s business as usual for the defence and the systems they had in place last year. This is reassuring to a degree. Stability is a good thing as well as in rare supply in British hockey but also over the last 2 seasons, that Bison defence has the second best goals against per game ratio at 3.08. (Unsurprisingly, that best is Telford whose GA per game over the same period is 0.09 better but they only conceded 119 goals in 14/15) When you consider the change from Sullivan to Balmer for year two as well as Selby’s addition then injury and the usage of Michael Wales and Stuart Mogg on defence, for all the criticisms of Sheppard’s development of younger defenders you can’t deny that whatever tactics being used defensively are working. It is that consistency at the back that has kept the Bison as challengers during Sheppard’s tenure as the coach in the EPL and in games when the attack has misfied. That is in no small part to Vantroba who uses his size well, skates well and has really good positional awareness. Having a top 2 of Vantroba and Reynolds who are individually two of the best defenders in the league is a good foundation that Sheppard has kept together for a reason. It’s a signing that has paid large dividends for the Bison which isn’t bad given that when he originally signed Vantroba, Sheppard hadn’t ever seen him play.

When I discuss Vantroba with people, some don’t like him. They feel that he makes too many mistakes, isn’t responsible in his own zone and gets caught high too often. Now Vantroba is guilty of making mistakes and getting caught high but on the whole if he was as bad as his critics claim that he is, those numbers I’ve quoted wouldn’t look like that. The argument that he’s not responsible in his own zone certainly doesn’t hold water with me. Whilst being caught high is a downside to his game given his tendency to join the rush, it’s also partially symptomatic of the Bison’s game plan. The high press the Herd play is a high risk strategy but it’s also high reward and ultimately an argument that it’s causing a major downfall for the Bison over the course of the season isn’t borne out by the numbers. In individual games, yes it has cost them, the playoff quarter final second leg against Manchester is a good example but you can’t shoulder that defeat solely on one man.

I rarely use scoring numbers to justify signing a defenceman, what I’ll call the “Marcel Petran justification” and I won’t do so here. Vantroba’s a defenceman first and the secondary scoring is just that; secondary however his offensive contributions are a definite upside to his game. I was interested to read Sheppard call Vantroba “the first true quarterback of the powerplay I have ever had” in the press release because Greg Chambers was also very good at it but there’s no denying that it’s another of Miro’s strengths. If anything his contribution to quarterbacking the powerplay has become an easier task because of the additional offensive threat on the first powerplay unit by having Greener or Karpov on the half boards or Long at the other point. Obviously it’s no secret that on a good day, Miro will spend the better part of the whole powerplay on the ice and it’s somewhat obvious that he’s probably going to shoot the puck in that time (and let’s face it, most teams in the EPL follow the same pattern) but having someone who runs the powerplay a high standard and can get pucks on net efficiently is a plus.

Getting down to brass tacks, for me Miroslav Vantroba is one of the best defencemen in the league. There’s obviously arguments as to who is the best and there’s an element of subjectivity involved but adding in some of the objective things we can look at like the team’s results and his own numbers show that he is a top tier player in his position in the league. Age isn’t on his side and we don’t know how many years he has left in him but I certainly wouldn’t argue with him spending the majority of those years in a Bison jersey.

Welcome back, Miro.

The BOTW Podcast – episode 16

So we’ve been away for a month, did we miss anything?

Anthony returns and this episode is just a catch up of all the news. The host of the Centre Ice Show on Peterborough City and Youth Radio, Dan Breen joins Anthony as they talk over the news from the EPIHL and Elite League; covering the gambit from Manchester to Milton Keynes and beyond.

Remember to subscribe to The BOTW Podcast on iTunes HERE (go on, leave us 5 stars) and make sure you let us know what you like on Twitter or the BOTW Facebook page once you’ve listened.

The BOTW Podcast; the news, action and views from the EPIHL and all levels above, below and in between.

Building the Herd – Joe Baird

#15 Joe Baird

Position: Defence

Born: Southampton, Hampshire

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 7th May

Joe Baird is back for another season in Bison colours. (c) 5 Hole Photography

Joe Baird is back for another season in Bison colours.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

The steady stream of news continued out of the Bison camp with the announcement of another returning defenceman in the form of alternate captain, Joe Baird.

Entering the 3rd season of his second spell with the Bison, Baird has been a stoic leader on the ice for the Herd with his no nonsense, defensive game taking prominence over points. Since rejoining the Herd in 2013, Baird has tallied 19 regular season points and 204 PIMs along with scoring the crucial go ahead goal in the 2014 playoff final.

Baird made his first senior appearance in the 1994/95 season in a Beavers jersey remaining with the club through the name change to the Bison in the old BHL as well as appearing for the club in the Superleague and BNL before leaving the club in 2002.

Joe went across the Solent spending 3 seasons and making 100 appearances for the Wightlink Raiders before heading to Bracknell between 2005 and 2009, making 179 appearances for the Berkshire side with 64 points and was part of the Bees side that won the 2006/07 league and playoff double along with making 3 guest appearances in the Elite League for the Bison in 2008.

After 4 years at Bracknell, Joe moved to Swindon in 2009 where he would spend 4 years with the Wildcats and would clock up another 180 appearances and 52 points before answering Doug Sheppard’s call in 2013.

Baird has 556 career EPL season games with 182 points (42+40) and 1366 PIMs. With his 3 games as a guest in the Elite League, Baird has the rare honour of having played in 5 different leagues for the club (BHL, Superleague, BNL, EIHL, EPIHL) as well as having made his 500th career EPL appearance for the Bison. Baird is also a former GB under 18 and under 20 international.

It’s the first full week of May and we know half of the Bison defence which is odd though not disconcerting by any means. There’s no reason for Sheppard to massively tinker with the blueline corps that’s regularly been top or close enough to having the lowest shots allowed total in the league.

Many people won’t look at the re-signing of Joe Baird and be rather non-plussed given the other announcements in the league this week. In fact in speaking to one person, they said the Bison had “lost the PR war” this week.

I understand that argument but I’m less inclined to agree with it because 1. as has long been my credo, you can’t have a team of “superstars” as it rarely works and 2. you need the guys who are honest, go to work, no fuss players who won’t score tons of points but will do the job.

Baird will be 35 when the 2015/16 season starts. He’s had a few injury issues in his career and probably isn’t going to beat Grant Rounding in a foot race. He occasionally does get caught out for pace on the rush, he does take a lot of penalties. Even with those downsides, Sheppard keeps faith.

Whilst Baird isn’t the fastest skater in the world, the one thing he is good at is being responsible in his own zone. That sounds really obvious to say, a defenceman should be responsible in his own zone but think of defencemen caught of position chasing the man or chasing the puck and leaving gaps, not sticking to the system. This is rarely an issue with Baird. He knows what his job is; take the man, clear the zone, get the puck away from our goal. If others want to race up the other end and do the flashy point scoring bit, more power to them but that’s not what Joe Baird is needed for. He’s an old school player. You’ll occasionally hear of a guy who patrols the blueline and that’s Baird to a tee. Add that to his experience, leadership and the respect he garners in the room then he’s an ideal player to retain. Sheppard has tried to keep a core and feels that Baird is a key part of that. He’s been an alternate captain since his return so we know that he has the trust of the coach as well as his team mates.

Like with Balmer, it’s easy to kind of just look at signings like this and just go “meh”. Whilst Baird has his critics and his shortcomings, there has to be something there. Sheppard doesn’t generally suffer fools or those who can’t contribute gladly. With the loss of Chinn to retirement he needs elder statesmen to be there to show composure in a crisis and show the younger ones the way. It may sound dull to say he’s reliable but without reliable in hockey, you have little.

Welcome back, Joe.

Building the Herd – Declan Balmer

#24 Declan Balmer

Position: Defence

Born: Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 30th April

Declan Balmer (centre) has put pen to paper on a 2015/16 return for the Bison. (c) 5 Hole Photography

Declan Balmer (centre) has put pen to paper on a 2015/16 return for the Bison.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

With all the comings and (mostly) goings from the Bison in recent days, coach Doug Sheppard has used his traditional Thursday announcement to herald the return of one of last season’s team in the form of GB under 20s international defender, Declan Balmer.

The 19 year old Balmer appeared in 45 games during his debut season in Basingstoke scoring 8 points along the way, his first and only goal for the club coming in the second game of the season away at Chelmsford in the EIHA Challenge Cup.

Hull born Balmer spent his formative hockey years at the world’s most versatile arena before a switch to Bradford where he played under16s, under 18s and made his senior hockey debut for the Bulldogs in 2011/12 in NIHL2 north where he scored 15 points in 24 games.

From there Balmer moved to Solway to start 2012/13 and after impressing he moved full time in to Peterborough in the January where he remained till the end of 2013/14 appearing 72 times for the Phantoms scoring 9 points before joining the Bison for this past term.

Balmer has also appeared for GB under18s and 20s making 25 combined appearances and finishing off his time in international junior hockey with a gold medal with the u20s in Estonia.

I like Declan Balmer the hockey player. In some ways he’s a writer’s nightmare because he doesn’t generate much to say with the way he plays. He plays a straight forward stay at home defensive game with a bit of toughness. What else is there to really say?

However he’s also a writer’s dream because it’s really easy to get to the point and he’s a hockey fan’s dream because every team needs a Declan Balmer. Every team needs a guy who is no muss, no fuss; a guy who will throw down when needed but mostly just patrols the blueline solidly. He goes out, throws the hit when it’s needed, makes the pass when it’s needed, supports his defensive partner and his goalie then gets off. He repeats that and when he does his job well you almost don’t notice him.

At 19, Balmer obviously isn’t the finished product. There are parts of his game that need tweaking which will just come with time. Luckily for Sheppard and the Bison, his quality is such that he can be trusted with the ice time at the moment to get more experience to refine the things he needs to improve. It’s a self perpetuating cycle that works out in the team’s favour and his own.

Declan was the last defenceman announced for the roster in 2014/15 and so it was really easy to see where he fitted in and what the make up of the defence. He’s currently the second defenceman announced for 2015/16 which means how the defence will look and operate remains something of an unknown but it’s pretty obvious to see how Balmer will be used. If Vantroba returns then the two of them will obviously see time together but given he’s moved a little bit already in senior hockey, Balmer has had to adjust to new defensive partners quickly wherever he’s gone so if a new import defender appears then the readjustment shouldn’t be a problem for him.

On a Bison defence with Reynolds and Vantroba, it’s hard for anyone else to take many of the plaudits. Kurt and Miro play a much more obvious game; one being literally everywhere and the other being the two-way defender with a big shot. Balmer isn’t that kind of player and he’s never going to get many people shouting and screaming about what he does but what he does is necessary. Some will baulk at just under 100 PIMs on the year but that’s a side effect of the game he plays and we need. There’s consequences to the physicality he exudes and when you consider that number includes the 20+ minutes from the bogus call in the playoff quarter final, that’s not a bad return. Sadly the stats don’t exist to measure how many powerplay goals we gave up on Balmer penalties but you get the point. We have to take one with the upside we get from the other and the downside is greatly outweighed by the upside.

Welcome back Declan.

Un-Muzz-led – Michael Wales talks on his future to BOTW

After the news last week that he was leaving the Bison for pastures new, Banners On The Wall caught up with Michael ‘Muzzy’ Wales to discuss the next step in his career on and off the ice.

Rumours abounded by Michael Wales is heading east in the next stage of his hockey story. (c) 5 Hole Photography

Rumours abounded but Michael Wales is heading east in the next stage of his hockey story.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

So Muzzy, the rumours have been circulating since the Bison announced your departure; what are your plans for 2015/16?

I have been offered a job by HMS Homes in Dubai, they are an independent real estate company and I will be part of their sales/leasing team.

Hockey wise I am already in talks with both teams in Dubai. It was important to me that I can continue playing, I’m not ready to retire from the game and I am really looking forward to playing in a different country. The league is still developing along with ice hockey in the UAE and to be a part of that and help with its development will be amazing.

Dubai is a bit of a change from Basingstoke and Milton Keynes, how did the move come about?

After my ankle injury and a few changes in my personal life, the last 12 months have been a real battle for me so I started thinking about the future and where I wanted to be in the next few years. A very good friend of mine mentioned there was an opportunity to work in Dubai for an English company so I went for it. I have been a mortgage consultant before so I know the industry and I have been in sales for the last 12 years. When the job was offered it was an offer I couldn’t refuse!

Looking back over your 18 months with the Bison, they were certainly eventful. With the benefit of hindsight, how would sum them up?

I was so grateful that Doug gave me the opportunity to join an already title challenging team. I knew a few guys already but within a couple of weeks it felt like I had been part of the team from the start. To ‘win the double’ was an amazing experience, I know the fans in Basingstoke had been waiting along time for a trophy and to give them two in one season was something special.

Obviously breaking my ankle was a bad experience for me personally, there were times when I wondered if I would actually ever play ice hockey or in the EPL again. Thanks to the hospital in MK, the support of the team, my family and Gemma I managed to fully recover and be ready by the end of September.

Last season was tough for everyone in the team, it seemed like every time we got some consistency or started a run one or more of us would get injured and stop us in our tracks; for instance I had just got back to game fitness and was playing well only to pick up a freak rib injury that seemed to last months. This is an example of what every player goes through throughout most seasons but it’s something that the fans don’t necessarily know about.

Looking back with the ups and downs we had, we were a few points off of second place and I thought we were unlucky not to be in Coventry defending our playoff title. I obviously can’t say the season was a success but when you win the double the year before its always going to be an uphill battle to have a “successful” season the next.

Obviously when it was announced you were leaving Basingstoke, many people immediately assumed you’d be heading back to Milton Keynes. It’s obviously been a couple of years since you played there but would you say you’re still a Lightning guy at heart?

The MK Lightning will always have a special place in my heart. I owe a lot to Milton Keynes and everyone involved in the Lightning organisation. I played for the MK Kings in the BNL for two seasons but left to play in the EPL. Four years later I returned back to play for the Lightning In the EPL and very quickly Milton Keynes became my adopted home town. I met my wife here and I have an unbelievable group of friends all because of the opportunity given to me to play Ice Hockey in MK.

You’ve been a fixture of the EPL for many years. As you leave the league how do you think it’s developed over the years and how do you see its future?

The league has gone from strength to strength every season and I am sure it will continue to do so. When I look back on what happened in the past I’m sure there are instances that will not be repeated, for example one season we won the league in MK before the end of January and Peterborough winning the treble. The league is now too competitive for this to happen again.

One of my concerns is how the ownership of the league’s teams are taking shape, I hope that it is going to continue keeping the league as stable as it has been but only time will tell.

My personal view is when you have the majority of teams set up as semi-professional organisations with semi-professional players, they will always struggle against teams that train twice as much and players that only have to worry about hockey week in week out.

To give players the opportunity to play ice hockey full time is amazing and I hope more players get to experience that during their careers but to expect the rest of the league to compete with full time professional setups week in week out for a 60 game season is not realistic.

I will definitely be keeping a close eye on what happens this summer and I think next season will be the most interesting for many years.

Best player you’ve played with and against in your EPL career?

This is a tough one. I can’t look past Tony Hand. I grew up with a poster of him on my wall which I got from a Wembley finals weekend. He is a true Legend of ice hockey so to then grow up, play against him and become friends is a great honour and one I won’t forget.

The best I’ve played with is very hard to answer, luckily I have played with many great players in their own right from Steve Moria to Gary Clarke.

I do think that Frantisek Bakrlik is one of the most gifted players I’ve seen in the EPL. I have played in many games where he has changed the outcome single handedly and his shot belongs in the NHL.

2 sided question; how would you like to be remembered as a player and how do you think you will actually be remembered?

I’d like to be remembered as someone who was willing to do whatever it takes for his team to be victorious. I may not be the biggest guy in the world but I was always told “as long as you turn up” you are doing your job.

I think I’ll be remembered as the player you love to hate, someone you hate playing against but would be happy for me to be wearing your teams shirt one day.

I always loved going to most away games and getting abused by the fans. It was like putting petrol on a fire, it just made me want it more just so I could smile right back at the ones who were abusing me.

Final message for the fans?

I may be moving abroad but I’ll be back one day. This isn’t me retiring or walking away from British ice hockey, I’d love to be part of hockey in the future. Whether that is playing, coaching or if work goes well who knows I may even come back and buy a team. It’s been done before!

Thanks for the memories and I look forward to seeing you all soon.

Banners On The Wall wishes Muzzy all the best with his new venture.

Goodnight and Good Luck – Matt Selby

It was something of a rushed press release late on Friday evening but the Bison announced that Matt Selby was leaving the club.

Speaking to Banners On The Wall about his departure Selby said “I just want to say thank you to everyone and a special mention about Shep (Doug Sheppard) and all the support he has given me over the past couple years. To the fans; thanks for everything and always been supportive and to the club as a whole for been a great organisation! I met some great people in my time there and the place is a part of me. The boys were like family. I had a wake up call last season and at this time on my life I feel the right thing to do is move on.”

Matt Selby won't be back in Basingstoke for 2015/16 (c) 5 Hole Photography

Matt Selby won’t be back in Basingstoke for 2015/16
(c) 5 Hole Photography

What have we lost?

More on the obvious in a bit. When fit and well, Selby is one of the best defensive prospects in the league and arguably the country. His positioning is good, his physicality is great asset to the side and we saw that he’s not afraid to throw down when needs be. Selby had arguably been misused by the Blaze as a forward and the Bison had used him in his best position and given him ice time in a variety of situations and he looked comfortable doing them. The Bison lose a player who was going places.

Where has he gone?

At the moment, we don’t know. Rumours abound that Selby will join his GB under 20 coach Pete Russell at Milton Keynes but I’m not so sure. Whilst Milton Keynes is the obvious choice there are a couple of teams within distance of Selby’s home in Coventry that would be easy for him to travel to and play for like Peterborough who have just won the playoffs and have new owners or Swindon rebuilding (of sorts) with new coach Stevie Lyle. That said, I’ve been informed that champions Telford are not on the list of potential candidates for his services.

Who replaces him?

At the moment, not a clue. The press release said that an agreement was in place and then Selby agreed to go elsewhere meaning that said Sheppard has to scramble and see what’s out there. However there is time and a chunk of the available talents are still unsigned.

Final thoughts:

I might be reading too much in to this but there’s something of a subtext in the Bison’s press release from my reading of it;

An agreement had been in place for the 19-year-old to return to the club for 2015/16 season and ice once he had fully recovered from his injury. However, the Birmingham-born player has decided to take an opportunity elsewhere, and as a result, will no longer play for the Stampede.”

By my reading of that, the club is saying Selby agreed to return then was enticed to go somewhere else. If that is the case, the release from the Bison could have been a lot harsher (remember some of the releases regarding Steve Moria) and to see the club not go all guns blazing is rather refreshing.

It’s a double edged sword this one; the Bison stood by Selby during all his injuries. They worked with the GB doctors to try and get him back to full fitness to be ready for the World Under 20s championships where he captained GB. He was scheduled to come back and then chooses to leave for another club after all that had been done. Some could say the club would be justifiably annoyed.

However hockey is a short career and nobody blames players for making hay whilst the sun shines. Selby’s career may have been actively shortened by the concussions he received in 2014/15 so if another club has made him an offer that made better financial sense than the one that Basingstoke could offer him then who is anyone to stop him and who should? Selby’s weighed up his options, made his decision and as outsiders to it we should respect his decision.

My biggest concern with Selby is that whatever club he plays for, he rushes back to play when he really shouldn’t. Selby is 20 years old and has the potential to play for another 20 years if he takes care of himself. Coming off an injury so bad that he ended up being featured on a BBC Radio 4 documentary about head injuries in sport, this is a crucial time. I’m not saying this because he’ll be playing against us but look at the long game; a player who has the potential to be a national team stalwart in a couple of years has had 2 on ice concussions in a couple of months. Don’t rush him back.

When he is back to fitness, I’ll still enjoy watching him play. Selby is an easy player to like because he’s one of those guys who plays with a smile on his face. He loves the sport and enjoys getting stuck in out there. The hope is that he’ll continue his upward trend and be back in the top flight playing the right position before too long

All the best Matt, take care of yourself.


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