Building the Herd – Joe Rand

#86 Joe Rand

Position: Forward

Born: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Announced as signed: Bison website, 7th May

The building of the 2014/15 Bison roster continued late last night as Doug Sheppard announced the re-signing of Joe Rand for the upcoming campaign.

The inaugural Banners On The Wall player of the season in 2013, Rand will be entering his 3rd season in a Bison jersey and his 4th in British hockey.

(c) 5 Hole Photography

(c) 5 Hole Photography

I had no hesitation in coming back” said Rand speaking to Banners On The Wall earlier. “I even discussed coming back part way through the season.”

He also dismissed some of the rumblings he had been heading to another club. “I generally steer clear of the rumours and the forums so I wasn’t aware of it myself but I always wanted to stay.”

Despite not listening to the rumours, Rand has been keeping tabs on the recent arguments in British hockey following the decision of the Elite League to increase the number of imports allowed. “It’s all about them (British players) playing in the top league and if those spots are taken by another import then they don’t have the chance to learn at that level and learn those skills. It’s sad in that sense, I can see why it’s frustrating for some.”

Another change going forward for British hockey is the loss of Slough in the EPL, “yeah that’s sad” said Rand, “there’s obviously more to it than we know but there’s a team and a fanbase there and that’s gone. It’s a rink I had some personal success in too but yeah, it’s sad to see them go.”

Despite the changes to British hockey this off season, Rand doesn’t see his role with the Bison changing. “I feel healthy and my body’s not breaking down. In terms of in the room, I prefer to lead by example and hope that I’m someone the younger guys can look up. I even hope some of the older guys would speak to me too. We’re all friends and that good team chemistry is why we did so well.”

Looking back at last season, Rand saw the Bison’s success of the good foundation set in 2012/13. “We picked up from where we left off. We kept a good core and then added other great pieces like Miroslav and Karpov and Aaron and Chinny. There was no way we wouldn’t be successful. We did have a dip around January but we picked straight up from there. The frustration we felt when we missed out on the league title could have cost us the playoffs but we didn’t let it affect us.”

The defining moment of Rand’s season was his penalty shot goal in the playoff final which he is obviously proud of. “I just had to keep reminding myself ‘this is do or die’. When I was out there I was thinking back to the early days when I was skating on my backyard rink. It didn’t seem real at the time but it was a big thing. I do the same move on every shootout and when I went to the bench to get some water I asked the guys if I should do my move. I’ve scored on (Stephen) Fone with it before but I think I’ll need to get a new one now.”

Rand is soon to be married and that team spirit and friendship with his team mates has seen some of them invited on his stag do. “I’m not expecting to survive. My brother’s coming to be my bodyguard but some of the lads have been planning stuff for months. I’m in trouble.”

His survival aside, the Canadian born forward played his way through the junior ranks in his native Ontario before playing a season and a half with the Toronto St Michaels Majors on the OHL.

Rand’s major junior days finished in 2005 when he left the Majors to join the University of Toronto to play hockey and further his education. Rand played 5 campaigns with the Varsity Blues scoring 113 points in 118 contests in the Canadian universities league.

With his degree finished, Rand turned pro and signed in the Oberliga South in Germany for the Deggendorf Fire. Playing in a highly competitive league, Rand established himself as a major contributor scoring 35 points in 43 league games before adding 7 points in 5 playoff games as the Fire were ultimately knocked out by SC Riesersee who went on to win promotion to the German second tier.

After his season in Germany was done, Rand fell into the lap of Jeremy Cornish and the Isle of Wight Raiders. An instant hit with the Ryde faithful, Rand was the focal point of the Raiders attack where he formed a profitable partnership with Richard Facey and scored 93 points in 36 league contests earning himself ENL all star status.

After one year on the island, Doug Sheppard came calling and Rand joined the Bison for 2012/13. Whilst the label of having signed from an ENL side concerned some, Rand adapted to the higher level and quickly became a fan favourite through his tenacious work ethic and his ability to do whatever role was needed of him at the time. Rand’s first campaign finished with 20 goals and 50 points from 54 EPL games and helped the Bison to their first ever playoff weekend where they lost on penalties to Manchester in the semi final. Rand picked up multiple awards at the Bison’s end of season celebrations and walked away with this blog’s first ever player of the year crown.

Rand returned last season for his second campaign and continued much in the same vein, scoring 28 goals and 49 points in 49 games through the season. This included an impressive 4 goal haul against Slough at the Hanger. He was an integral part of the Bison roster that won the cup and the playoffs, punctuating the later with that penalty shot goal in the final against the Phoenix as the Bison secured the double.

On a day when the Guildford Flames announced the capture of GB international Danny Meyers, many more will be complaining about Brits dropping to the EPL allowing this signing to slip below the radar somewhat which is fine really. The Bison don’t seem to be interested in rocking the boat in terms of EPL signings at the moment, appearing content to announce the return returnees and the return of Joe Rand is one that is certain to please the Bison fan base.

The 2013/14 Bison were a side loaded with character and that is what Rand has; character. He was a perpetual motion machine and even on what might be considered off nights would be skater harder than most of both teams on the ice. When he came and there were concerns about signing an “ENL” import, it was his skills but also that attitude and character that won people over and have shown Rand as not only a big game player but a vital piece of the Bison puzzle under Doug Sheppard.

The question of course is how Rand will be used this time around. We’re all familiar with Rand’s skill set and how the best way to describe him is as an old fashioned power forward but will he be used as such? With so few of the roster signed at the moment it is difficult to say but if the majority of last season’s roster return, you have to imagine that Sheppard will stick to his guns and try for a similar make up in terms of roles and responsibilities. This would see Rand get used in the role he’s best at, doing a bit of everything.

As the roster however isn’t that set in stone, could we see Rand change his role? Given how Doug Sheppard likes to shuffle things around, guessing at linemates is a tough task at the best of times though given the roster currently only has 3 forwards announced a line of Connolly, Rand and Sheppard would certainly not be bad even if it’s one I wouldn’t put out there myself (I wouldn’t put Rand and Sheppard on the same line but that’s just me).

One thing that you could argue Rand should be asked to focus on is adding more scoring to his game. As a point per game player in the EPL, Rand’s scoring as things stood last season was fantastic. The foreseeable problem is this; the team is likely to be a 3 forward/1 import defence split. 2 of those imports are Rand and Sheppard. With all due respect to Sheppard, he is on the downswing points wise and if the Brits we sign misfire then the imports up front need to score points. Can Rand become a 60 or 70 point scorer if needed now he knows the league and the style of play required better? We wait and see.

It’s very easy however to speculate on the “what ifs” the Bison could face in May with the season a good 4-5 months away and less than a third of the roster signed. On the whole, the Rand signing is one that works for the Bison on a playing and a PR level. He has more than proven that he excels in the EPL (sorry Wightlink fans who believed the rumour he was heading back to Ryde) as well as being wildly popular with the fans. As I mentioned above, the news of this signing might have gotten lost in the talk about Meyers and people might sleep on Joe Rand. That’s fine; they all slept on the Bison last season and we all know how that went.

Welcome back, Joe. Yes, you can still dine out on the story of your penalty shot.

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