Building the Herd – Declan Balmer

#24 Declan Balmer

Position: Defence

Born: Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 30th April

Declan Balmer (centre) has put pen to paper on a 2015/16 return for the Bison. (c) 5 Hole Photography

Declan Balmer (centre) has put pen to paper on a 2015/16 return for the Bison.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

With all the comings and (mostly) goings from the Bison in recent days, coach Doug Sheppard has used his traditional Thursday announcement to herald the return of one of last season’s team in the form of GB under 20s international defender, Declan Balmer.

The 19 year old Balmer appeared in 45 games during his debut season in Basingstoke scoring 8 points along the way, his first and only goal for the club coming in the second game of the season away at Chelmsford in the EIHA Challenge Cup.

Hull born Balmer spent his formative hockey years at the world’s most versatile arena before a switch to Bradford where he played under16s, under 18s and made his senior hockey debut for the Bulldogs in 2011/12 in NIHL2 north where he scored 15 points in 24 games.

From there Balmer moved to Solway to start 2012/13 and after impressing he moved full time in to Peterborough in the January where he remained till the end of 2013/14 appearing 72 times for the Phantoms scoring 9 points before joining the Bison for this past term.

Balmer has also appeared for GB under18s and 20s making 25 combined appearances and finishing off his time in international junior hockey with a gold medal with the u20s in Estonia.

I like Declan Balmer the hockey player. In some ways he’s a writer’s nightmare because he doesn’t generate much to say with the way he plays. He plays a straight forward stay at home defensive game with a bit of toughness. What else is there to really say?

However he’s also a writer’s dream because it’s really easy to get to the point and he’s a hockey fan’s dream because every team needs a Declan Balmer. Every team needs a guy who is no muss, no fuss; a guy who will throw down when needed but mostly just patrols the blueline solidly. He goes out, throws the hit when it’s needed, makes the pass when it’s needed, supports his defensive partner and his goalie then gets off. He repeats that and when he does his job well you almost don’t notice him.

At 19, Balmer obviously isn’t the finished product. There are parts of his game that need tweaking which will just come with time. Luckily for Sheppard and the Bison, his quality is such that he can be trusted with the ice time at the moment to get more experience to refine the things he needs to improve. It’s a self perpetuating cycle that works out in the team’s favour and his own.

Declan was the last defenceman announced for the roster in 2014/15 and so it was really easy to see where he fitted in and what the make up of the defence. He’s currently the second defenceman announced for 2015/16 which means how the defence will look and operate remains something of an unknown but it’s pretty obvious to see how Balmer will be used. If Vantroba returns then the two of them will obviously see time together but given he’s moved a little bit already in senior hockey, Balmer has had to adjust to new defensive partners quickly wherever he’s gone so if a new import defender appears then the readjustment shouldn’t be a problem for him.

On a Bison defence with Reynolds and Vantroba, it’s hard for anyone else to take many of the plaudits. Kurt and Miro play a much more obvious game; one being literally everywhere and the other being the two-way defender with a big shot. Balmer isn’t that kind of player and he’s never going to get many people shouting and screaming about what he does but what he does is necessary. Some will baulk at just under 100 PIMs on the year but that’s a side effect of the game he plays and we need. There’s consequences to the physicality he exudes and when you consider that number includes the 20+ minutes from the bogus call in the playoff quarter final, that’s not a bad return. Sadly the stats don’t exist to measure how many powerplay goals we gave up on Balmer penalties but you get the point. We have to take one with the upside we get from the other and the downside is greatly outweighed by the upside.

Welcome back Declan.

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