Building the Herd – Tomas Karpov

#44 Tomas Karpov

Position: Forward

Born: Benešov, Středočeský kraj, Česko

Announced as signed: Bison website, 10th May

All smiles; Tomas Karpov returns for his 4th season in Bison colours. (c) 5 Hole Photography

All smiles; Tomas Karpov returns for his 4th season in Bison colours.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

With the announcement that last season’s captain was returning, Doug Sheppard decided to make everyone in Basingstoke a bit happier and moved to confirm the return of last season’s top scorer, Tomas Karpov. 27 year old Karpov enters his 4th season with the Bison, the third of his three year deal as he completes a business management degree at the University of Winchester.

Speaking to Banners On The Wall, Karpov offered the following;

Looking back at my career, I feel like the signing in Basingstoke three years ago was the best decision I have made in my professional ice hockey career. I enjoy being on a winning team that is led by a great coach, has a truly great group of guys and being supported by the best fans in the league.

Also I am very grateful to be able to play the game I love as well as doing my degree at the University of Winchester, which is helping me to develop other areas much needed for life after hockey.

And of course don’t tell the monkey!”

Karpov’s history is well known; a Sparta Prague junior product, after some time in the Western Hockey League with Moose Jaw and Calgary, Karpov returned to his homeland and spent his time mixed between playing for Sparta and being loaned out to Czech 2nd division sides like Berounsti Medvedi and Dukla Jihlava.

After starting the 2012/13 season with Medvedi, Karpov was allowed to leave and headed to Telford in early January 2013. Whilst the Tigers were not the challengers for honours that they are now, Karpov impressed as he notched 38 points in 23 games to close out the season.

That was enough to attract the attention of Doug Sheppard who convinced Karpov and then Tigers team mate Tim Burrows (who is now playing for Cardiff Fire in the NIHL) to sign in Basingstoke. Whilst Burrows moved on to other things, Karpov set the league alight. His partnership with Andy Melachrino paid multiple dividends and when Michael Wales joined from Slough, the combination caused problems for defences across the league. As the Bison ended their silverware drought, Karpov was at the forefront as he finished the campaign as the team’s top scorer as well as a first team all-star and the BOTW player of the year.

Karpov was rewarded that summer with a 3 year contract and, as part of the sponsorship deal with the university, a place at university to go with it. Whilst 2014/15 was an injury hit campaign but saw the Czech forward still go over a point per game. The most recent campaign saw a return to fitness and form as Karpov returned to his position as the team’s top scorer and first team all-star en route to the Bison winning the title whilst passing the 200 point mark for the club in all competitions.

Karpov is also a former Czech under 18 international and is, to my knowledge, the only Bison player to have played at a Spengler Cup.

So, the player we all knew was coming back is back. I don’t begrudge the Bison as an organisation re-announcing Karpov because in the weird and wacky world of British hockey where contracts at times don’t seem to be worth the paper they are written on and where I got asked if Karpov was moving to MK at playoff weekend, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Two re-signings, two absolute no brainers to start off the recruitment announcements from Doug Sheppard. Where Aaron Connolly is the energy and the heart of the Bison line up, Karpov is the creative engine.

The Bison are a team with a lot of emotion, sometimes too much as we’ve seen and all acknowledge but that’s not something I’d attribute to Karpov. That’s not to say that Tomas is some sort of emotionless Ivan Drago like figure who adheres to every 1970s stereotype of an Eastern European person but his hockey brain is his strongest trait. He seems to see the play half a step ahead of everyone else and that’s where he can work his magic. The best example I can immediately think of is his first goal against Swindon in the title clinching game in March; on the puck in front of Stevie Lyle and Ciaran Long in acres of space in the slot screaming for the puck, 99 out of 100 players put that puck on Long’s stick but not Karpov. He knows Lyle has seen Long and is cheating across off his right post to cover. He also knows that his backhand is faster than Lyle’s lateral movement and in the puck goes.

Whilst people will have their favourites, any discussion about the best out and out player in the EPIHL has to include Karpov. Whilst he has never topped the league scoring charts, his sheer consistency and quality instantly put him in the discussion. Many would wonder why a player in his prime years would commit to a second division British hockey team. He’s explained his reasons for signing in his mind but it was also a shrewd signing then and now. Investing in a player and his personal development allowed the club to have a genuine game breaker and headline maker. Even more crazy when you think that at times last season, he was a third line centre! Whilst I’ve made the point about how he uses his head, on the ice and off it, you can tell that when push comes to shove that his heart is in this as well.

Welcome back, Tomas; more of the same please.

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