Building the Herd – Greg Chambers

#24 Greg Chambers

Position: Forward

Born: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Announced as signed: Bison website, 16th August

 

Well ladies and gentlemen for all the rumours that have swirled, names that have been mentioned and opinions that have been voiced, the 2012/13 Bison roster for opening night is complete with the announcement from coach Doug Sheppard that he has filled the final import slot with former GB international Greg Chambers who signs from Guildford Flames.

Chambers spent 4 seasons with the Bison between 2005 and 2009 during which he scored 253 points in 202 EIHL games. Chambers was part of the Herd’s best line of the EIHL era for the club playing alongside Brad Cruikshank and Greg Owen. The line caused all manor of problems for defences; Cruikshank as the grit and grind, Owen as the centre distributing the puck and playing the two way game and Chambers was the skill and expert sniper. Whilst a Bison, the now 29 year old Chambers was a 2nd team EIHL all star in his final season and on international duty was named to the 2008 division 1A World Championship all star team when he top scored in the tournament with 11 points in 5 games. He was also part of the 2007/08 “Bison 10” that made the Knockout Cup final, losing on aggregate to the Coventry Blaze.

Chambers played junior hockey alongside NHL star Eric Staal for the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League before turning pro in 2003/04 with Pensacola Ice Pilots of the ECHL where he accumulated 42 points in 57 games. That was Chambers’ last season in North American hockey as he joined Varese in Italy’s top flight in 2004/05 before Mark Bernard signed him for the Bison the following season.

After the Bison’s drop to the EPL, Chambers moved to Coventry Blaze to play under national team coach Paul Thompson. Playing alongside former team mate Greg Owen, the Blaze lineup was bolstered at the signing deadline by the arrival of Cruikshank. “The Bison Line” as they were dubbed teamed up to help the Blaze’s drive to the 2009/10 EIHL title. The three remained together the next season but it wasn’t as productive for the Blaze. Chambers played 104 games for the Skydome based side accumulating 34 goals and 84 assists for 118 points in 104 games before dropping to the EPL and signing with Guildford last season. Chambers’ debut foray into the EPL brought Chambers the EPL title and the cup but due to the Flames rotation of imports saw nights when he wasn’t in the line up and due to injuries spent the back end of the season playing on defence as he turned in his lowest points total in a season of 38 points since his time in Italy.

Can open, worms everywhere.

This is a signing that is going to make noise everywhere. Guildford fans, Coventry fans and a variety of others are throwing comments around, newer Bison fans are trying to remember seeing him play for Guildford last season and a few Bison fans that have been around the club a little while longer are almost spitting feathers. There’s no way around it, the return of Greg Chambers to the Basingstoke Bison is going to set the fans and forums alight with discussion and opinion.

 

The one person it seems the most sensible to get an opinion from is Chambers himself. So we did. Greg was kind enough to answer some of my questions from his home in Toronto. (As always, the grammar has been cleaned up but the content has not been touched.)

 

Obvious first question; what made you decide to come back to Basingstoke?

I have always enjoyed my time in Basingstoke and with the team that Shep has put together it would be an honour if we could win some trophies for the fans.

 

Last season with Guildford you were in and out of the line up, played on defence for a sustained period after Branislav Kvetan was injured and won the EPL title. Some would say that was a roller coaster year, what about you?

It is always a great feeling when you get to win a championship. With regards to the roller coaster year I would agree with that but when I signed with Guildford I knew that I would be missing games at some point during the season.

 

Newer Bison fans since the drop to the EPL won’t know much about your 4 years with the club in the EIHL. What led you to come to Basingstoke in the first place having played in Italy?

After my season in Italy I was talking to Shanker and he had just signed in Basingstoke and then within the next few days Mark Bernard had phoned me and offered me a contract.

 

The EIHL Bison went through some highs (the Knockout Cup run) and a lot of lows (not getting paid for extended periods), how do you look back on those times?

The Knockout cup run was a great experience that season, with being so close off a trophy in the away leg it was a heart breaker for the guys that year. Then the lows with everything that went on behind the scenes was a nightmare and I will leave it at that.

 

You won the EIHL title with Coventry in your first season alongside Shanker and Greg where the Blaze fans dubbed you “the Bison line”. How did it feel winning the title alongside those guys?

My first year in Coventry was one of the best experiences I have had in my hockey career so far, and to win it with Shanker and Owey was awesome after some of the things that we had been through together.

 

You had 2 decent years in Coventry as well as staring for GB on occasions. Having been coached by him at club and national level; what’s Paul Thompson like as a coach?

Thommo is a great coach and taught me a lot about other aspects of the game I never really thought of before.

 

A lot of people say you’re a talented player but some criticise your effort on the ice at times. How do you respond to that?

Everyone has their own opinion, but I personally feel that I play the game to the style that suits me best.

 

Now you’re back in the fold at Basingstoke, has Shep given you any idea how you’re going to be used?

I am going to play on a line with Greg Owen and I believe Joe Miller

 

There are obviously team goals but what are your goals for yourself for the season?

My Goals for this season are to be a leader and put up points for the team

 

You and Doug have been friends for a while, is it odd with your friend being your boss? What’s he like as a coach?

I wouldn’t say it’s odd with a friend being your boss, but at the end of the day he’s my boss at the rink.

 

 

Fluffy question to end; you played junior with some guys who are now legitimate NHL names. Are you still in touch with any of them?

Yeah I keep in touch with all the boys from Junior, we had a close group of guys that get together and have a team reunion every summer.

 

Now you’ve heard from the man himself, I’ll throw my two cents in.

Doug Sheppard is not an idiot. He will have weighed the pros and cons of this signing against the budget offered to him and made this signing. This is, as I said above, a risk. However it is a calculated risk. Sheppard is bringing is a player who, whilst has known perceived downsides to his game is someone who plays the sort of game Sheppard wants the team to play, has a bucket load of talent, is someone he knows and someone he can easily slot alongside his other signings. Chubbs has told us that he’ll line up alongside Owen with Miller on the other wing. Now Miller isn’t Cruikshank but he plays a very Cruikshank like game in many respects. Sheppard is taking a formula that he knows works, has adapted it for EPL play and is running with it. Chambers it appears is part of that equation.

It’s not my place to tell you how to feel about a player we’ve signed. I sit down, I trawl through what I know, what I find out and try to present my opinions in a coherent way at an attempt at “analysis”. Over the summer I spoke to and received messages from a lot of Bison fans. Some people didn’t know his history with the club, many did. Many who remember the 2008/09 season, the worst season of hockey many of us remember and feel that Chambers didn’t put in as much effort where others (for others read Jeremy Cornish) did. He obviously disputes that and of course remember that was he was taking a ton of flack yet ended up a 2nd team EIHL all star. Irony isn’t dead in British ice hockey…or at least it wasn’t in 2009. In short, if you don’t like the signing then don’t like the signing. I won’t tell you how to think and if you want to have a good rant, comment box is below so feel free to use it.

I normally sign off these things with a welcoming phrase and some sort of barely humorous quip related to the player but instead I’ll close with this. Lets leave any baggage we have to one side for 30 seconds and examine the signing differently; over a point per game in the EIHL including 2 seasons over 70 points, former GB international who can effectively play on the wing or on defence and comes to us having won the EPL league and cup double. If you’re told that without hearing the name, I’d venture many of the critics of the signing would be happy. I don’t begrudge them their animosity because I understand where they’re coming from. However from a practical fan standpoint we can’t do much but evaluate Sheppard’s judgements on recruitment when the now complete 2012/13 roster hits the ice. We have to trust that Sheppard knows what he’s doing. The Herd is, according to the coach, ready to go. All that’s left to do is see how it goes.

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