Goodnight and Good Luck – Joe Rand

It was out of the blue on Sunday afternoon that the Bison announced popular import forward Joe Rand has taken the choice to step back from hockey. The club have announced that Rand remains part of the Bison roster as injury cover but has possibly played his last game for the club.

(c) 5 Hole Photography

(c) 5 Hole Photography

What have we lost?

I’ve long heard Rand be called a variety of things; the heartbeat, the engine, the workhorse and all of them are probably close to accurate. Rand was a versatile player who did whatever was asked of him. He played on a scoring line, he played on a checking line, he was the screen on the powerplay, he was on the penalty kill, he took penalty shots, he took faceoffs, he threw hits. If we’d needed him to then he probably would have gone in goal.

Rand is a “do anything, do everything” player who seemed to have a knack of popping up to score when he needed. He was instantly popular as a result.

Where has he gone?

A new full time contract to Real Life IHC

Who replaces him?

The club say the announcement is coming on Thursday in the Gazette. Rumours will no doubt abound but we will have a piece out on Thursday evening with thoughts and analysis.

Final thoughts:

If you had told me that the first ever Banners On The Wall player of the year was calling it time, I’d have assumed it was closer to 2020 than 2015. However as ever, real life steps in the way of hockey. It’s a shame but it’s the way it has to be.

I remember when Joe Rand first signed for the Bison; the hard working and infinitely patient Heather Jepson, secretary of the Wightlink Raiders and a woman who rarely gets enough credit worked some magic and I managed to have a chat to Joe about his joining the Herd. He was coming off of his second professional season, a campaign where he scored close to 100 points on the Isle of Wight and had been instantly popular with the fans at Ryde. The one thing that stuck with me is just how open he was. He was so relaxed about answering questions from what was, at the time, a guy who was still getting his head around the whole interviewing players lark. I was trying to expand what I did and how I did the blog so figured why not speak to the guy. I was nervous that I wouldn’t get much out of him. I need not have worried.

That signing was initially met with some trepidation. Could an ENL import step up and perform at the EPL level? Rand just went out and played, nearly sweeping the board at the end of season awards in 2013 for the club in an emphatic statement of his abilities. If you go back to that initial piece I wrote about him in the summer of 2012, I managed to grab some words from Jeremy Cornish who said Rand “plays well in all situations and never takes a shift off.” He proceeded to not take a shift off for over 3 years. His production had suffered slightly this campaign and we now know the reason for that. Even so, whilst his points were down the effort level remained constantly high.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the double season and that penalty shot;

That moment was the most stressful thing I ever remember but ultimately probably up there for the “Most Joe Rand” moment every; he kept his cool, stepped up, did his job, no over the top celebration, just a pump of the fist and got on with the job. That entire double winning roster just worked in so many ways and the memory that playoff weekend of the line of Rand, Chinn and Connolly just hammering anything that moved was a lesson for any team wishing to win on our league’s biggest stage.

I always think the test of a player in Basingstoke is sort of two fold; the first is how quickly jerseys with their name appear on them. It’s a way of telling who is popular in the moment. The other is how they are talked about years later. Now I’m not saying throw #86 on the wall, our club has been very stingy in that regard and with great reason. We’re less than 2 weeks away from putting only our 3rd number into retirement forever and its because we want that honour to mean something. However names linger and remain. I’ve been watching the Bison for 10 years and the names of the players that really connected with the fans last forever. All gave an effort but few left a lasting impact. Nobody really mentions Danny Stewart to me but loads mention Brad Cruikshank. Very few ever lovingly remember Mark Jackson or Wes Jarvis but loads remember Stephen Foster or Greg Owen or Mark Bernard and others. The English Premier Ice Hockey League may not be the highest standard that our club will ever play in but I have to seriously think that the name Joe Rand has worked its way into that list of names that will be remembered.

Thanks for everything, Joe; all the best to you, Heidi and to what’s to come. First beer’s on me.

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