Tony Redmond

The news has come from the Basingstoke Bison this evening that following his retirement from the sport of ice hockey, the club intends to retire the #20 jersey of Tony Redmond.

Redmond’s association with hockey in Basingstoke began in September of 1992 when he joined brother Kenny at the then Beavers and spawned a career of over 600 appearances for the Beavers and the Herd in BD1, BHL, the Superleague, BNL, EIHL and EPL including spells with Slough in the BNL and EPL, Guildford in the BNL and finishing up his career last season with Bracknell Bees.  This is in addition to representing Great Britain at under 20 level.

Rather than go into the numbers and talk of stats and games won, I want to tell a story.

I’ve had a few conversations, not many, with Tony Redmond. He’s a nice bloke, almost a stereotypical jovial Scot to speak to. I got to enjoy the back half of Tony’s career; when I came to Basingstoke and started watching British hockey it was 2005 and I had missed Tony’s testimonial season by a year.  With time in Basingstoke came more knowledge of just who he was and the longevity that is bred by quality but my abiding memory of Tony Redmond will always be one game in that very first season of watching British hockey.

Some will say that’s unfair to Tony to narrow down a career to one game in a career that spanned a quarter of a century and to be honest, a game in the 2010/11 season against Manchester where Redmond had Tony Hand so deep in his pocket that Hand needed a miner’s helmet but I’ll take you back to the first ever game I took my dad to.

Saturday 4th March 2006; a few months before I would graduate university, I convinced my dad to come to a game. I enticed him into coming by saying that not only were we playing Belfast who were destined to win the title but also that they had a Stanley Cup winner in their roster in Theo Fleury.  The Bison at the time were bottom of a 9 team Elite League (London Racers had pulled out during the season) with Belfast at the top and I remember the conversation with my father just before faceoff well;

Dad: So they’re top and you’re bottom.

Me: Yep

Dad: And if they win tonight, they’ve won the title?

Me: Yep, the title is apparently in the building to present to them if they do.

Dad: You’re going to get stuffed aren’t you, son.

Me: Hockey’s a funny game, Dad. Don’t bet on it.

Curtis Huppe put Belfast ahead inside the first minute and the title party appeared to be well underway before Shawn Maltby (brother of former Red Wings forward Kirk) levelled a few minutes later. For some reason that night, the Bison were point blank refusing to go quietly. If Belfast wanted the title, they were going to have to fight tooth and nail for it and they were being beaten back by the Herd.

Then in the second period, someone (and the fog of poor memory makes me forget who) took the puck at the point. Tony Redmond had battled his way to the front of the net and was holding his ground. The shot came in and Tony got that all important little touch that took it past Mike Minard and into the back of the net just as he got knocked flying off of his feet with a grin on his face so big that it could swallow a battleship. Greg Owen would score late in the third and Maltby would score an empty netter with Fleury being ejected for remonstrating with the official. The Giants would clinch the title when Edinburgh beat Newcastle the next night but the Bison had stood defiant against the champions elect and had said “not here, not now”. It was a good night.

The joy of this story for me comes in the hindsight. At the time, Tony Redmond was just a hardworking player to me. He wasn’t flash, he wasn’t a showboat, he was a solid player who went out to do his job 100% then went home again.  There’s a photograph, taken by then official photographer David Taylor (thankfully not that David Taylor) that only gets better with age because for me it sums up everything I ever learned and saw on the ice from the Scot. He would do anything to get the team where it wanted and needed to be; go into every corner, play any position asked, mark any man, make any hit, make any play and while he did it he was doing it with a smile on his face because he loved being out there. The photo shows Tony doing what he did best; getting stuck in and having the time of his life.  I talk about banners going on the wall and this weekend we finally get to put April’s hard earned successes up on that far end but this #20 the club will put on the wall is the ultimate gratitude shown not to a showman but a workman, our workman.

(c) David Taylor

(c) David Taylor

Thanks for everything, Tony and here’s to what comes.

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