Goodnight and Good Luck – Greg Owen

With the season officially over the off season starts in earnest for Banners On The Wall with the comings and goings at the Bison. The first of those is announced the day after the end of season awards dinner that after a final hurrah in a Great Britain jersey at the world championships in Hungary, Greg Owen will retire from the sport.

 

In his 1st Bison season, Greg Owen goes into the faceoff against the Newcastle Vipers in 2006.

In his 1st Bison season, Greg Owen goes into the faceoff against the Newcastle Vipers in 2006.

What we’ve lost?:

The Bison lose one of the premier EPL Brits. Having dropped down from the Elite League to be closer to home, Owen instantly became a top line centre at EPL level and a player the Doug Sheppard used in all situations; even strength, powerplay and penalty kill. The Bison lose their creative playmaker on the top line and high quality British centres are always in short supply. Owen does all the things centremen do well; he’s an excellent distributor of the puck, has great vision on the ice and is great in the face off circle. Never the most hard nosed of players, he was more finesse than brute force but that wasn’t his forte. That said he could throw a hit and the one game he chased a returning Ben O’Connor around checking him was brilliant. His two-way game as well was superb and you felt comfortable with him on the ice.

It also throws a possible return for Greg Chambers into a different light. Chambers has played for the Bison without Owen (his best statistical season and EIHL all star selection coming after Owen had departed for France) but the two were foils for each other. With Brad Cruikshank long departed for home and Owen now retired, Chambers is the last remaining member of the “Bison Line” that terrorised defences for Basingstoke and Coventry.

The Bison also lose an on ice leader but knowing Sheppard’s recruiting style with regards to character players, he won’t be short on replacements.

 

Where has he gone?

Back to his office to design another website.

 

Who replaces him?

At the moment we don’t know. Sheppard has the ability to play top line centre but it’s far too early to tell so far. We need to look at other signings further down the road to gauge that.

 

Final thoughts:

Oddly, I’m not that shocked by this but I’ll go into that more in a moment.

From a hockey perspective this is a massive loss for the Bison. Think of all the tickboxes that Owen filled; first line centre, point per game player, high end British player, powerplay, penalty kill, veteran, leader. This is a big hole for the Bison to fill, especially when the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. It will require all of Coach Sheppard’s recruiting cunning to get a player to cover that many bases. Greg Owen is one of the better British players of the last decade and at his position one of the top 5.

As I said though whilst obviously disappointed, I’m not shocked at the announcement. Young family, works outside of hockey and decides to call it a day, it’s somewhat the story of British hockey players. I will confess though to have hoped to see Greg back in Bison colours next season because at 31 he’s not really that old and as we saw this season, he can still go.

Family though must come first. That’s a no brainer and nobody will begrudge Greg more time with his wife and three daughters. I only hope for hockey’s sake he decides to have a crack at coaching at some stage.

On a more personal note if you look around the various hockey forums and social media, there is nobody saying a bad word about him. Greg leaves the playing side of the sport being remembered for his hard work and skill on the ice and friendly manor off it. Fans of Bracknell, Milton Keynes, Coventry, Briançon and Basingstoke got the week in, week out look at one of British hockey’s genuine nice guys.

It does feel strange to do an epitaph to a guy’s playing career at 31 I must confess but real life is bigger than the sport. Hopefully when Greg sits back and reflects on his career he will be happy with how it’s gone and that he gets to end it on his terms.

I hate speaking for people but I think I can for this; thanks Greg. Enjoy the retirement and don’t be a stranger.

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