Un-Muzz-led – Michael Wales talks on his future to BOTW

After the news last week that he was leaving the Bison for pastures new, Banners On The Wall caught up with Michael ‘Muzzy’ Wales to discuss the next step in his career on and off the ice.

Rumours abounded by Michael Wales is heading east in the next stage of his hockey story. (c) 5 Hole Photography

Rumours abounded but Michael Wales is heading east in the next stage of his hockey story.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

So Muzzy, the rumours have been circulating since the Bison announced your departure; what are your plans for 2015/16?

I have been offered a job by HMS Homes in Dubai, they are an independent real estate company and I will be part of their sales/leasing team.

Hockey wise I am already in talks with both teams in Dubai. It was important to me that I can continue playing, I’m not ready to retire from the game and I am really looking forward to playing in a different country. The league is still developing along with ice hockey in the UAE and to be a part of that and help with its development will be amazing.

Dubai is a bit of a change from Basingstoke and Milton Keynes, how did the move come about?

After my ankle injury and a few changes in my personal life, the last 12 months have been a real battle for me so I started thinking about the future and where I wanted to be in the next few years. A very good friend of mine mentioned there was an opportunity to work in Dubai for an English company so I went for it. I have been a mortgage consultant before so I know the industry and I have been in sales for the last 12 years. When the job was offered it was an offer I couldn’t refuse!

Looking back over your 18 months with the Bison, they were certainly eventful. With the benefit of hindsight, how would sum them up?

I was so grateful that Doug gave me the opportunity to join an already title challenging team. I knew a few guys already but within a couple of weeks it felt like I had been part of the team from the start. To ‘win the double’ was an amazing experience, I know the fans in Basingstoke had been waiting along time for a trophy and to give them two in one season was something special.

Obviously breaking my ankle was a bad experience for me personally, there were times when I wondered if I would actually ever play ice hockey or in the EPL again. Thanks to the hospital in MK, the support of the team, my family and Gemma I managed to fully recover and be ready by the end of September.

Last season was tough for everyone in the team, it seemed like every time we got some consistency or started a run one or more of us would get injured and stop us in our tracks; for instance I had just got back to game fitness and was playing well only to pick up a freak rib injury that seemed to last months. This is an example of what every player goes through throughout most seasons but it’s something that the fans don’t necessarily know about.

Looking back with the ups and downs we had, we were a few points off of second place and I thought we were unlucky not to be in Coventry defending our playoff title. I obviously can’t say the season was a success but when you win the double the year before its always going to be an uphill battle to have a “successful” season the next.

Obviously when it was announced you were leaving Basingstoke, many people immediately assumed you’d be heading back to Milton Keynes. It’s obviously been a couple of years since you played there but would you say you’re still a Lightning guy at heart?

The MK Lightning will always have a special place in my heart. I owe a lot to Milton Keynes and everyone involved in the Lightning organisation. I played for the MK Kings in the BNL for two seasons but left to play in the EPL. Four years later I returned back to play for the Lightning In the EPL and very quickly Milton Keynes became my adopted home town. I met my wife here and I have an unbelievable group of friends all because of the opportunity given to me to play Ice Hockey in MK.

You’ve been a fixture of the EPL for many years. As you leave the league how do you think it’s developed over the years and how do you see its future?

The league has gone from strength to strength every season and I am sure it will continue to do so. When I look back on what happened in the past I’m sure there are instances that will not be repeated, for example one season we won the league in MK before the end of January and Peterborough winning the treble. The league is now too competitive for this to happen again.

One of my concerns is how the ownership of the league’s teams are taking shape, I hope that it is going to continue keeping the league as stable as it has been but only time will tell.

My personal view is when you have the majority of teams set up as semi-professional organisations with semi-professional players, they will always struggle against teams that train twice as much and players that only have to worry about hockey week in week out.

To give players the opportunity to play ice hockey full time is amazing and I hope more players get to experience that during their careers but to expect the rest of the league to compete with full time professional setups week in week out for a 60 game season is not realistic.

I will definitely be keeping a close eye on what happens this summer and I think next season will be the most interesting for many years.

Best player you’ve played with and against in your EPL career?

This is a tough one. I can’t look past Tony Hand. I grew up with a poster of him on my wall which I got from a Wembley finals weekend. He is a true Legend of ice hockey so to then grow up, play against him and become friends is a great honour and one I won’t forget.

The best I’ve played with is very hard to answer, luckily I have played with many great players in their own right from Steve Moria to Gary Clarke.

I do think that Frantisek Bakrlik is one of the most gifted players I’ve seen in the EPL. I have played in many games where he has changed the outcome single handedly and his shot belongs in the NHL.

2 sided question; how would you like to be remembered as a player and how do you think you will actually be remembered?

I’d like to be remembered as someone who was willing to do whatever it takes for his team to be victorious. I may not be the biggest guy in the world but I was always told “as long as you turn up” you are doing your job.

I think I’ll be remembered as the player you love to hate, someone you hate playing against but would be happy for me to be wearing your teams shirt one day.

I always loved going to most away games and getting abused by the fans. It was like putting petrol on a fire, it just made me want it more just so I could smile right back at the ones who were abusing me.

Final message for the fans?

I may be moving abroad but I’ll be back one day. This isn’t me retiring or walking away from British ice hockey, I’d love to be part of hockey in the future. Whether that is playing, coaching or if work goes well who knows I may even come back and buy a team. It’s been done before!

Thanks for the memories and I look forward to seeing you all soon.

Banners On The Wall wishes Muzzy all the best with his new venture.


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