Building the Herd – Joe Rand

#86 Joe Rand

Position: Forward

Born: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 18th April

With the recent departures having changed the shape of the Bison roster for 2013/14, coach Doug Sheppard gave the Bison faithful an idea as to what to expect from the side next season by announcing the return of the 2012/13 Banners On The Wall player of the year, Joe Rand.

The 2012/13 Banners On The Wall Player of the Year - #86 Joe Rand

I knew I wanted to be back” said Rand, speaking to Banners On The Wall earlier today. “Doug’s a great coach, he knows his systems and he’s putting together a good team”.

I want to build off of year 1. I know what to expect from other teams and other players and want to have success. I’m the hardest critic for myself. You can always do better . I felt I had to prove myself stepping up to the EPL and work harder than the year before and I want to do better. You can’t be content. Once you’re content your game will lack.”

The 26 year old Canadian was slightly shocked at his popularity amongst fans, “I felt I was a bit behind the scenes but it’s an honour and it’s great that everyone notices your hard work day in, day out.”

There was an adjustment period (coming in) and I always find that difficult but my confidence grew and whilst we didn’t get the result we wanted or the fans wanted, my confidence kept growing (through the season). We didn’t score the most goals but it’s not about scoring the most goals it’s about scoring more goals than the other team.

However when asked about how the Bison’s season ended, Rand was more straightforward, “You don’t just forget and move on…you put more effort in to get to where you want to be.”

Playing in all 54 league games, Rand scored 20 goals and 30 assists for 50 points and along with this blog’s player of the year accolade took home both the player’s player and supporters’ player of the year awards at the end of the season.

It’ll be no real surprise to hear that I’m happy with this signing. I think you’ll struggle to find many Bison fans unhappy with this signing which when you consider that Rand is a below a point per game import in the EPL might look strange on paper. This is not an attempt to blow any trumpets anywhere but Rand has received plaudits from fans and coaches across the EPL this past season for a reason; he’s a talented hockey player and when his talents fail him, his hard work sees him through.

It sounds like a cliché because it is; how many times in discussions about players have you said you like someone because “they’re a hard worker”? You can’t send out a team of Joe Rand clones but you need players like him. They’re the engine room of the team, they keep going and keep going no matter what happens.

Rand is very Doug Sheppard like in that respect, both have that honest, back to basics North American way of playing the game; make the hit and take the hit to allow the play, getting to the front of the net, making that pass when required. When he first signed Sheppard too was something of an underappreciated player, his work rate so consistently high that he sometimes ends up missing out on the plaudits.

Some might argue that the love for Rand is given our expectations of him when the season started. The “ENL player” tag seemed to be a sticking point for some fans and wondered whether he would hack it at this level so when he performs above our expectations, we hail it as exceptional when really it’s just exceptional to what we thought we’d get. I’d dispute that and I think many others would as well, especially Jeremy Cornish and those on the Isle of Wight who were right all along; Rand didn’t just survive, he thrived. The step up from NIHL to EPL is an obvious one and it’s easy to see whether a player can sink or swim at this level. You might flatter to deceive for 5, maybe 10 games but a 54 game season? You’re either a magician or you really are that good.

I’d normally discuss how Rand is used but it’s something of a moot point at the moment for two reasons; 1. Rand and Sheppard are the only two players signed and 2. Rand will play anywhere he’s told and do it well. It will be interesting to see who returns and who he ends up linking up with. If a return for Joe Miller can be secured for example, that’s a partnership that works and can produce. If we sign someone else (insert your own name of choice here) then it might add a different dimension to the Bison attack. Time will tell.

I don’t see any negatives with this signing in the slightest and it’s also nice to have the first player of the year for the blog come back to defend his crown. Welcome back Joe; 2nd verse the same as the first but a little bit rowdier and a whole lot worse.

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