Goodnight and Good Luck – Nicky Chinn

Whilst the man himself mentioned this after the Bison’s playoff quarter final exit, I’ve waited till the end of the season proper and the club’s official word on the matter for this one. Chinndros heads off into the sunset so it’s only fitting that we give him a proper goodbye BOTW style.

Bison captain Nicky Chinn has announced he is retiring from hockey (c) 5 Hole Photography

Bison captain Nicky Chinn has announced he is retiring from hockey
(c) 5 Hole Photography

What have we lost?

We lose the very definition of a wily veteran. After 27 years in the sport, Chinn has seen and done pretty much everything. The Nicky Chinn we’ve seen during the EPL years of the Bison has not been the “rock’em, sock’em” Chinn of his youth but the mouthpiece of the team, the gritty forward who could pass the puck onto a sixpence, the leader.

Chinn’s contribution this season was a mixed one but ultimately since he came back to the Bison with all that shock and disappointment after that spell at Milton Keynes, Sheppard has used him wisely. He’s not been asked to carry the load on the ice; he’s been part of the supporting cast which is ultimately what he was needed for. The Bison didn’t need Chinn for his playing ability, they needed him for his hockey sense and his leadership. Did he get it right 100% of the time? No, waffling Jacob Corson-Heron in the first leg of the playoff game with Manchester being a prime example but we can’t argue that on his day he did all that was asked of him and more.

Where has he gone?

Make your own jokes on that one though I hope coaching is on his radar in some capacity.

Who replaces him?

In terms of the playing ability from last season, getting a really good passer and checking forward is in some ways a relatively simple task but as we’ve established it’s all the other attributes that Chinn brings that will be hard to replace.

When Chinn re-signed it was just after the furore surrounding the release of Tony Redmond and I commented that if the club weren’t re-signing #20 then Chinn was an able replacement for a variety of reasons. Now we find ourselves needing to replace Chinn, which way does Sheppard go?

He could go out and sign a veteran presence; David Longstaff has been released by the Flames and wouldn’t go amiss in the Bison’s top order. Matt Towalski or Matt Foord of Bracknell, both of whom shouldered a lot of leadership responsibilities on that poor Bees side last term could be used effectively on the third line to boot. Maybe see if Lee Richardson could be tempted away from Swindon? There are options down this route.

The other option in terms of leaders on this team is to just look and build from within. Joe Baird and Aaron Connolly have been more than able alternates, Joe Rand or Michael Wales are experienced guys who are more than capable or do you go down the route I’ve felt has never been needed and give Kurt Reynolds the captaincy. I’ve always been of the opinion that Kurt should just be left to play and doesn’t need a letter to lead the team as such but with Chinn going, I understand the argument that it might be the time to put Reynolds at the head of the team.

It’s a thorny issue for Sheppard to address and I’m interested to see how he does with it.

Final thoughts:

I didn’t watch hockey during the days when Nicky Chinn was causing chaos across the leagues. As we all know from here, and I’ve told the story many times, my first memory of Chinn was Mark Desantis punching him in the face in a pre-season game with Slough in 2007. It wasn’t the most auspicious way to be introduced to the man who would captain the club to the end of its title drought.

As I said above, the Nicky Chinn we’ve seen since the inception of Banners On The Wall has been a different one from his younger days. He wasn’t as fast or arguably as physical at times as he once was but boy, could you see the quality in him. His hockey brain is still second none and whilst at times the body doesn’t always follow the head, like the other great older masters of British hockey they never lost the knack for being in the right place at the right time.

One thing I’ve said in the last couple of Building the Herd pieces about Nicky is that he would always know when it was time to go. He’s a man very aware of his legacy in the sport, what he’s done and what he could do. He wouldn’t have held on any longer than he thought he could have done so and he has apparently chosen this time as the time to say goodbye.

Chinn has always been an interesting Bison captain for me. He’s not very vocal or visible outside of the rink bar the occasional Twitter outburst but on the ice you can see why he’s in charge. In some ways, his retirement was indicative of that; no big fanfare of the kind Hand or Moria rightly got but when the job was finished, he simply said it was the end and headed off into the sunset. There’s very little pretence about Nicky and I’ll admit I like that about him.

That being said, we should rightly make a fuss of him. Whilst 2013/14 will always be the crowning point of his years in a Bison jersey, for any player to play 27 years in the sport he loves at a decent level where he regularly contributes is simply outstanding. There have been years better than others, I’m sure Nicky will admit that, but overall when people look back at the career of Nicky Chinn it will generate discussion, memories and I’ll pull out the 2014 EPL Playoff semi-final DVD to show any child I have what I simply refer to as “that goal”.

There’s an argument that from a playing standpoint we could replace Nicky Chinn but there will never really be another like him for a variety of reasons. From young upstart tussling with all and sundry to points scoring machine to elder statesman and entertainer, they just don’t make them like Chinny anymore.

Wherever you go and whatever you do Skipper, you go with the gratitude of all of us who watched you play and played with you. Don’t be a stranger.

So long, farewell... (c) 5 Hole Photography

So long, farewell…
(c) 5 Hole Photography

*Additional* It seems that he couldn’t stay away. 1 month after this piece was written, Nicky was tempted out of retirement and joined Stretham Redskins of NIHL1 South as player/assistant coach. We naturally wish Nicky all the best. Whilst he is not leaving the game as we all thought, he’s still a loss to the club and the sentiment of the piece still stands.

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