#?? Paul Petts
Born: Gosport, Hampshire
Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 14th July
Along with the return to Basingstoke of Hallam Wilson, Basingstoke coach Doug Sheppard announced a second player as joining on a combined Bison/Buffalo two way contract in the form of Paul Petts.
20 year old Petts, another product of the Junior Bison played both u16s and u18s in 2011/12 and had a slow start as he scored 2 points in 18 games for the under 16s in their relegation season with 3 points in 2 games for the under 18s.
The following season with the u16s in the 2nd division, Petts scored 26 goals and 63 points in 18 games and continued to impress at under 18 level as he followed up a 6 point season with 15 points in 12 games in 2013/14.
2014/15 saw Petts continue his impressive performances in junior hockey as he went over 2 points a game in under 18s with 34 points in 16 games as well as appearing in 11 games in the NIHL 2 South with the Buffalo, scoring 3 assists.
The last couple of seasons have seen Petts be a very busy player. In 2015/16 as well as playing under 20s in Basingstoke and NIHL 2 for the Buffalo, Petts made his NIHL 1 South debut for his hometown Solent Devils, appearing in 8 games and scoring 1 goal.
Last season Petts continued his three way split between the Devils, Buffalo and captaining the Bison under 20s, Petts was handed his EPL debut by Doug Sheppard on 22nd January as he and Kyle Goddard were added to the roster for the Herd’s 5-0 win over Bracknell.
Petts’ career totals sees him with 58 points in 44 games at under 18 level, 56 points in 26 games at under 20 level, 26 points in 34 games with the Buffalo and 2 points in 18 games with the Devils in NIHL 1.
Where I’d had the opportunity to at least see a bit more of Hallam Wilson, I’d heard the name Paul Petts but couldn’t really offer much of an opinion on his play. I can give an idea as to what the plan might be for him but what sort of a player is Paul Petts? I turned to Buffalo head coach and head coach of the Bison Junior system, Simon Beere to offer some insight.
“Paul has developed in the season to one of the best two way players for his age nationally and this is proven by finishing top points scorer in the 20s league by some distance. He started at Basingstoke from u12s from Solent and has shown great dedication to progressing through our junior system. Originally a winger but he has shown himself to be a very accomplished centre with great awareness in all zones and situations. I strongly believe he’s one of the best blue line to blue line forwards we’ve produced so I’m hoping it can show in the future in a Bison jersey”
As for how Petts is used when he gets into the lineup, it’s a case of use whatever ice time he gets 4th line minutes with the Bison are always hard to come by and they need to be used to maximum effect. Whilst he has a good scorer’s touch, do not expect massive points from Petts when he’s used on five on five situations. However do not write him off with it. An injury to a role player here or a trademark Doug Sheppard shuffling of the lines there and Petts could find himself getting a couple of extra minutes. Simon Beere has pointed out that Petts is a hard worker and that’s the key trait that Doug Sheppard looks for in any of his players. In fact, a hard working, two way player with a scoring edge sounds somewhat familiar to anyone who remembers how Sheppard played.
I don’t think we’re going to see everything that Petts has in his locker this season unless someone gets hurt for a sustained period so we need to take every opportunity to really take a look at him when we do. His coaches think a lot of him and think he can do the business. He’s been given the opportunity. All Paul Petts needs to do now is take it.
Welcome to the top table, Paul.
#?? Hallam Wilson
Born: Winchester, Hampshire
Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 13th July
The Bison fans were treated to a two for one deal on young talent with this Thursday’s announcement. We start by looking at the player who spent last season in NIHL 1 South in Hallam Wilson who returns to the club on a two way deal with the Basingstoke Buffalo.
Bar a very brief stint at Bracknell, 19 year old Wilson played the rest of his junior hockey in Basingstoke with the Junior Bison. More of a goalscorer than a set up player, Wilson first played u16s hockey in 2011/12 when he scored 4 goals and an assist in 15 games as the u16s were relegated. The following season in u16s division two, Wilson played 17 games and scored an astronomical 67 goals and 99 points. He also made his under 18s debut scoring 6 goals and 12 points in 17 games.
Hallam made his senior debut in 2014 as he split his time between the Bison under 18s and the Buffalo. Wilson was made captain of the under 18 Bison and scored an impressive 33 points in 15 games. For the Buffalo, Wilson scored 2 goals and 8 assists in his first forays into adult hockey in NIHL 2 South.
Wilson continued the split between junior and senior hockey the next season as he started to make more of a mark on senior hockey. 10 games for the under 18s yielded 15 goals and 26 points and 13 games for the Buffalo saw Wilson add 11 goals and 20 points.
When the start of last season rolled around, Wilson had a choice. He could continue into the new under 20s league with the Bison or he could try his chances full time with the Buffalo or try something else. Whilst Wilson did appear in 2 games for the under 20s, the Winchester born forward spread his wings and headed into NIHL 1 for the first time with the Oxford City Stars. Wilson appeared in 25 games in yellow and blue scoring 9 goals and totalling 15 points, making him joint 9th in team scoring for the Stars as they finished 4th in the league before a disappointing playoff exit.
With the Stars dropping into NIHL2 in the reshuffle, Wilson chose to return to Basingstoke.
I get a feeling that today’s and tomorrow’s piece will have a slightly similar feel to them but of the two players signed today, they’re sort of at opposite ends of a very small spectrum. For players at the end of their junior career where they’ve mostly been playing in juniors, the demise of the EPL has come at an opportune time because the pathway has become much more direct. For younger players who were on the cusp of breaking into the EPL, its demise muddies the water somewhat as the new structure needs to even itself out in terms of its standard. This later option is where we find Hallam Wilson.
Wilson was at a point where if he wanted to press on, he needed to leave Basingstoke. The gap between the Buffalo in NIHL 2 South and the Bison in the EPL was a big one. For someone wanting to reach the next stage, there was that platform of NIHL 1 in the middle and Oxford offered the opportunity. Wilson was at the Stars at an opportune time as the organisation has become much more professionally run. Simon Anderson, the then coach, was one for giving opportunities and ice time to the younger players and for a first season at that level, 15 points in 25 games from an 18 year old is a pretty good return.
Hallam Wilson was always one of those names that was mentioned to me at games as a youngster to keep an eye on and it seems that we’re hopefully going to get a chance to have a really good look at him. Secondary scoring is something that this site has always made a point of emphasising and when used, if Wilson can get himself on the scoresheet then it potentially swings the balance between more of his games being in division 2 or being in division 1. For the time being, he’ll need to take whatever opportunity he’s given.
Welcome back, Hallam. We’ll be keeping an eye out.
#93 Dan Weller-Evans
Born: Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr, Cymru
Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 6th July
Yep, we did an audio one for Dan last year but why speak about him when the chance came up to speak to him!
Photo thumbnail copyright of 5 Hole Photography
#?? Ashley Jackson
Born: Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 29th June
The Herd’s roster building process continues and with the majority of players signed up either returning players or players with a connection to the club, Doug Sheppard has announced the first true new player of the summer with the signing of Ashley Jackson from Invicta.
A look through Elite Prospects does not yield much for the 29 year old Jackson. The stats available for the former Medway Bears junior player are few and far between, though impressive. Having never played much of a full campaign until last season, Jackson’s stats with the Invicta Mustangs in NIHL 2 South and the Dynamos make for impressive reading where he has never been below a point per game. Jackson made 9 appearances in 2 seasons across 4 years for the Mustangs scoring 24 goals and 30 points at the ENL/NIHL 2 level before moving up to the Dynamos in 2014.
Jackson appeared sparingly in 2014/15 appearing 6 times and scoring 4 goals and 7 points before taking the 2015/16 season off the ice and returning to the Kent side for 2016/17 which was his first full senior season of ice hockey. Jackson more than impressed as he scored 18 goals and 37 points in 20 regular season games before an impressive 5 goals and 10 points in 6 playoff games as Invicta won the NIHL1 South playoff title with their shock win over Chelmsford. Jackson was also named to the NIHL 1 South first all-star team. The NIHL 1 South all star awards are organised by ProHockeyNews.com and were voted for by the coaches and senior players in the league.
So why are there all the gaps in the numbers? Why are there so few stats on the Bison’s latest signing? If you head to Google and type in “Ashley Jackson hockey” then you will quickly see why. Jackson is one of Britain’s highest profile and best field hockey players.
Ashley and his brother Wesley came through the ranks at East Grinstead Hockey Club, one of the oldest and best teams in the country. Jackson made his England debut at the age of 19 in 2007 and impressed during the 2007 Champions Challenge and 2007 European Nations Cup campaigns. It was enough to earn Jackson a place on the GB team for the 2008 Beijing Olympics where GB finished 5th. In 2009, Jackson was the first English player to be named the FIH World Young Player of the Year as England won gold at the EuroHockey Nations Championship.
Jackson’s club hockey shifted between East Grinstead and Dutch side HGC based near Den Hague as well as continuing to star on the international stage. Jackson and England won the Hockey Champions Trophy before they finished 4th at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi which they followed up with a bronze medal at the 2011 EuroHockey Nations championship. The next year saw GB finish 4th at the 2012 Olympics in London where Jackson scored 6 goals and was joint second top scorer in the tournament.
Swapping between his off-ice and on ice exploits, Jackson then won bronze with England at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow before stepping off ice to concentrate on playing for Holcombe and his third Olympic games in Rio as GB finished 9th. After one season with Holcombe where he won the English title, Jackson returned to East Grinstead
Since 2015, Jackson has also taken a starring role in Hockey League India with the Ranchi Rays. Jackson is the league’s top scorer and won the 2015 HLI title with the Rays where he is also captain.
Along with representing Great Britain at three Olympic Games, Jackson is England’s record goal scorer and is the only Bison roster member to be verified on Twitter.
That was a more lengthy description of someone’s exploits prior to signing than we generally give someone but it made sense to give some context to the player that the Bison have just signed. Doug Sheppard has signed a legitimate two sport athlete and someone that doesn’t just bring hockey skills to the table for the Bison.
Jackson is an elite sportsman; you don’t compete in multiple international tournaments and three Olympic Games if you’re not. As mentioned above, Jackson played both versions of hockey as a junior before choosing to focus on the grass over the ice so he didn’t come to the sport from a standing start.
However it’s really obvious to see that those skills he uses in field hockey have served him in good stead. Jackson is known for his scoring and that’s been the story in both codes. That sort of scoring threat will always be welcome on the ice and Jackson’s ability and physical skill to make space for himself to score is going to come in handy especially with the loss of Ciaran Long to Manchester.
There are some big questions that lurk over the signing and the first major one is just how much we see of him. Doug Sheppard says in the Gazette that Jackson “wants to commit to ice hockey” but fans will wonder about how much field hockey will play a part.
Jackson has been a topic of discussion in field hockey circles as there seemed to be a “Will he? Won’t he?” surrounding his involvement with GB for the 2020 Olympics but that appears to have ended with Jackson being out of the GB squad going forward. However the lure to return to India for their season may well be strong. The season is short; only 10 games but in a franchise league where your club is owned by cricket legend MS Dhoni, you’re the captain and leading scorer and the chance is there to make a decent chunk of money, do the Bison lose Jackson for all of January and February? That’s aside from any commitments he might have to club hockey in Britain.
Sheppard won’t have made an agreement to sign Ashley without both sides being happy with it. If Jackson is to miss playing time then the club will hopefully make this clear when and what time he will be out, if at all.
The flip side is that we may get a full season out of a player who, whilst he doesn’t have loads of senior ice hockey games under his belt, is a naturally talented athlete with a knack for goal scoring and in a season where he played 20 regular season games was voted an NIHL all-star by the players and coaches. Even if the EPL was still around, that seems like a good chance to take on a player.
Where he fits in will be interesting. Does Jackson go onto the second line or third line? The roster needs bulking out at the moment before we know 100% but with such a natural scorer do you try him out with Davies and Antonov as his centre and see who he clicks best with? The other big aspect to Jackson’s game is that he’s a really good two way player with a lot of energy and Sheppard will need to factor that in to how best to use him.
The Bison have signed a proper genuine professional attitude. He’s a winner and with that comes a winner’s attitude and determination. It’s a bit of a novelty signing but it won’t be if Jackson delivers in the way he did last season for the Dynamos.
Welcome to Basingstoke, Ashley.
#15 Joe Baird
Born: Southampton, Hampshire
Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 22nd June
The Bison continued their recent run of Thursday signings with the return of another well know face and a veteran presence in the form of Joe Baird.
Baird, 37 is about to enter his 23rd season in which he’ll have made an appearance in senior hockey. Having dressed for 1 Basingstoke Beavers game in the 1994/95 season, Baird has played for the club across both its names and in what will now be its 6th different league competition. A former Bison junior, Baird left the club in 2002 and plied his trade at a number of southern sides in the old EPIHL going from Wightlink (2002-2005) to Bracknell (2005-2009) to Swindon (2009-2013) before returning to Basingstoke at the start of the double winning 2013/14 campaign. Baird will enter his 5th consecutive season with the club when the season begins in September.
Joe has played 652 career EPIHL regular season games together with 65 playoff games for a total of 227 points in regular and post-season play with a total of 1636 penalty minutes in his EPL tenure. Baird’s personal PIMs record came in 2006/07 when he tallied 169 minutes of penalties in the regular season whilst at Bracknell where the Bees won a league and playoff double.
Joe has won the EPL league title twice, the playoffs twice and the cup once. His numbers for the Bison/Beavers organisation stand at 426 games in all competitions with 80 points and 448 penalty minutes. He is also a former GB u18 and u20 international.
I won’t lie; this one is a bit of a surprise for me. I genuinely had an inkling that 2017 would have seen the end of Joe Baird’s hockey career. With all that the off season has thrown at us and all that had been thrown about before the 2016/17 season had even ended, you wouldn’t have blamed him for calling time. I don’t think anyone blamed Matt Towalski from stepping away from hockey, it seems the ideal time to do it. At an outside chance, I thought that maybe a role with the Buffalo would have wetted Baird’s appetite but no. Joe Baird is a Bison once again.
Baird has his detractors; he’s not the fastest of skaters anymore which sees speedier forwards get the wrong side of him. People feel that he also takes too many unnecessary penalties into the bargain down to a mixture of being too slow and being too physical at times.
With 5 trophies to his name, 3 of those since 2014 with this club, it’s pretty easy to argue that Joe Baird should be allowed to go out on Joe Baird’s terms and especially where the Bison as a club are concerned. If Baird feels he can play on then play on he shall and the organisation should certainly take his wishes into account.
That’s not to say that Doug Sheppard should just blindly re-sign players because they were here the previous season. If there are upgrades to be made then they should be made. Sometimes that means putting sentiment aside.
However Doug Sheppard still sees a place for Joe Baird in this team, Joe Baird still wants to play and so Joe Baird is back. It’s as simple as that and I think I can see why Sheppard has brought him back and to my mind, there’s two reasons for it.
The first is simply the style of play that the Bison will be playing. Look at the three defencemen that the Bison currently have on the roster; it’s now Dan Scott (big lad who likes to play the body), Elliott Dewey (big-ish lad who likes to play the body) and Joe Baird (not the biggest lad but likes the play the body). Doug Sheppard is clearly not changing his overall ethos of how he is putting this team together and the blueline are going out to shut people down and make sure they stay shut down. The drop to two imports means a fair few imports who were usually the faster and more skilled players on the team are gone. It means that Baird has a role because the way we’re going to play defensively suits his style and it’s the style that has seen the Bison concede the fewest goals and allow some of the fewest shots in the EPL the last two seasons.
The other reason why Baird is back is the good old mantra of veteran leadership. The Bison has always been a team of multiple “leaders” in that sense. Aaron Connolly is still in his early twenties and is the named leader of the Bison but you can’t beat experience. In the shifting seas that we find the club in, on ice you need a steady head. You need someone who has been and seen and done it all and that’s where Baird will come in. He might be slow, he might take daft penalties but in crunch games who is generally a really solid player on the team?
I don’t propose that Baird is about to be on the Bison’s top pairing for the coming campaign, he likely 4th or 5th defenceman to be paired with one of the younger players to help show them the way. Whether you like him or not, Joe Baird has forgotten more about hockey than most of us. The Bison believe that he has an on ice role to play in their systems and with some younger players coming onto the roster as a result of the move to NIHL 1 South, it makes sense to milk that experience for all that it’s worth.
Welcome back, Joe.
#17 Grant Rounding
Born: Johannesburg, South Africa
Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 15th June
With the start of the Bison’s first season coming ever closer, coach Doug Sheppard has continued to add meat to the bones of the Bison roster by announcing that British/South African forward Grant Rounding will return for his 4th consecutive season in the Herd’s colours.
26 year old Rounding had his best season points wise for the Bison in 2016/17 as he tallied 5 goals and 11 points across the campaign from the third and fourth line. Rounding, who has been massively unfortunate with injuries, also managed to complete a full campaign with the Herd.
The former Bison junior moved from Basingstoke to Bracknell for his junior hockey and played the majority of his under 16s hockey with the Stingers before making his senior hockey debit with the Bracknell Hornets in 2006/07 whilst playing with the under 18 Drones. Rounding’s time with the Hornets ended in 2007/08 when he scored 22 goals and 41 points in 18 games as well as scoring 8 points in 11 league and cup games with the Hornets.
Rounding then became a Hornets mainstay for the next few seasons in the ENL playing 63 times across the next few seasons where he scored 59 points as the Hornets picked up the 2010 ENL South title. Rounding also made his EPL debut with the Bees scoring 2 points in 20 games.
The next season saw what started as a productive campaign with the Isle of Wight Raiders as Rounding went a point per game on the island before a broken leg ended the season after just 16 games. Rounding returned home to rehab the injury and returned in 2012 with the Hornets before moving to the Bees full time for the rest of the 2012/13 season where the scored 9 points in 49 games.
2013 saw Rounding sign on for his first full season with the Bees and an impressive 19 points in 52 games caught the attention of Doug Sheppard who lured Rounding back to Basingstoke after the Bison had won the double.
Grant’s totals with the Bison stand at 33 points from 117 league, cup and playoff games for the Herd which includes being part of the 2016 league title winning side.
On his re-signing last season, we wondered what we would see out of Grant Rounding. Having taken two seasons to play just under one season’s worth of games, the hope that Grant would be able to go through a season without serious injury and that we’d see the most of Grant Rounding.
We certainly got one of these. The fact that Rounding made it through the season with minimal time missed is an achievement in itself. Hockey is a short enough career without losing time to major leg injuries. There was a major point of wonder that Rounding wouldn’t have maintained the speed that he had before the injuries but he remained arguably the fastest skater on the team for straight line speed.
Whether we saw the most of the most of Grant Rounding is a bigger question. The piece in the Gazette mentions that he had limited ice time during the season which is entirely fair. The move to 5 imports meant that the bottom 6 were always going to be squeezed a bit for ice time and on the occasions where Rounding found himself on the fourth line, it meant that he got very few chances to do much at all.
When he did get on the ice, it was something of a mixed bag for the South African. He played frequently on a line with Tomas Karpov but the combination didn’t have the same success as the Czech’s partnership with Alan Lack. Then again, it’s massively unfair to expect Grant Rounding to be the same as Alan Lack. They have massively different styles. However for whatever reason, Karpov would set the table and Rounding just couldn’t finish. He seemed massively snake bitten at times and the puck would just miss his stick or go an inch the wrong side of the post of trickle across the crease. They seemed to have a decent enough understanding of where the other would be but just couldn’t get the crucial last touch.
That being said 11 points in a season where he didn’t get tons of ice time is still a good return and, as he rightly points out in the Gazette, he’s going to have a lot more to do this season.
The drop from five imports down to two means that the guys who were on the fringes will have more time and more responsibility. It also throws up a question as to how many lines that Doug Sheppard will choose to run though I believe if the option is there there he will run four and Rounding shifts between the third and second lines depending on the situation and form. With one import allowed on the ice at a time, that’s 4 British skaters on the ice and that gives Rounding the opportunity to get that increased ice time and to hopefully get into that groove of regular scoring. Rounding has said that he wants to get to a point a game and this season and all its changes should provide the best opportunity in recent times for him to do that.
There are currently 6 forwards announced as being on the roster at the moment so it remains to be seen just where Rounding will fit into the lines. Do they retry him with Karpov and hope that the connection yields better returns or try him elsewhere? What Doug Sheppard will do is know where Rounding’s best asset, his speed, will be of most use to the roster. We know he’s going to be a lead forechecker on the roster and see a lot of penalty kill time as a result but just who he does that with is going to remain unanswered, at least for now though hopefully they find a way to keep up with him.
Welcome back, Grant.
#63 Aaron Connolly
Born: Northfleet, Kent
Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 8th June
With other NIHL South 1 clubs making big player announcements, the Basingstoke Bison threw their own weight around by announcing the return of the club captain, Aaron Connolly.
A product of the Invicta and Chelmsford junior systems, 24 year old Connolly returns for his 5th season and what will be his 3rd as captain of the Bison. Connolly moved to the Bison from Slough in 2013 as a 20 year old and made an immediate impression on his team mates and the Basingstoke fans. Connolly was named an alternate captain in the wake of Joe Miller’s departure to Telford midway through the season and played a major role in the Bison lifting its two trophies that campaign. Connolly scored the first goal in the cup final second leg against Milton Keynes after just 20 seconds as well as the empty net goal in the playoff final victory over Manchester.
With Nicky Chinn’s (short lived) retirement announced at the end of 2014/15, Connolly was named the new captain of the Herd to start 2015/16 and had a superlative laden season as he captained the Bison to their first league title in 23 years as well as picking up the “coveted” BOTW player of the year trophy. Connolly’s season was cut short in the penultimate game of the regular season when a hit from behind from Milton Keynes defenceman, Martti Järventie fractured his skull meaning the captain had to pick up the league trophy in his street clothes.
He was involved in a spot of controversy in October last year as an altercation with Swindon player/coach Aaron Nell led to the Wildcats star forward injuring his shoulder and missing the remainder of the campaign. Although the season yielded a lower points total, Aaron continued to play his game his way as the Bison finished 3rd in the final EPIHL season and made the playoff semi-finals against Telford.
After his development in Kent and Essex, Connolly landed in the senior hockey proper with the Chieftains in the 2009/10 season where he went a point per game. The next season, a promising first half of the season saw Connolly move full time to Slough where he helped the Jets to EPL Cup success. Connolly played the next two full seasons with the Berkshire side, adding an EPL playoff success to his cup already won with the Jets.
A former GB under 18 and under 20 international, Connolly has played 297 games in the EPL regular season and playoffs. In 211 league and playoff games for the Bison, Connolly has tallied 164 points with 216 penalty minutes.
As soon as the Bison ended up in a league with Invicta and Chelmsford (albeit for a hot minute in the case of the later) there was always going to be rumours of a departure back that way for Connolly. Thankfully after a fruitful 4 years in Hampshire, Doug Sheppard has convinced the man sometimes called the heartbeat of the Bison to stay with the club on its newest venture.
From a Bison perspective, this announcement is good and easy to do PR. Arguably the most popular player in the team in the eyes of the fans, Connolly has a good reputation with his team mates as well. Given that the Herd announced the departures of Declan Balmer and the equally popular Ciaran Long yesterday, this is news that will very much soften the blow for the Herd’s fans.
Some people I know who aren’t Bison fans don’t like Aaron Connolly. They say that he’s over rated or, after the altercation with Nell, a thug. I think both of those are wrong. Firstly because the altercation with Nell started after Nell ended up interjecting in a fight he was the third man in to. The injury was unfortunate and the league was denied one of its best British players as a result.
As for Connolly being over rated, that’s a different kettle of fish. People who have had Connolly play against them seem to get two versions of him; they either notice him or they don’t. Bison fans (and Jets fans before them) waxed lyrical about his talents.
Some aspects of Connolly’s game are easy to see. He’s vocal, he’s high energy, he’s got a decent shot on him in a bit of space. Some aspects though mean that you have to watch him regularly to appreciate him. He’s not vocal a bit of a game, he’s vocal every game, all the time. He’s not high energy once in a blue moon; he’s constantly trying to make things happen every shift. I’ve accused him at times of working hard rather than working smart but he’s always working. He doesn’t score 25 goals every season, he has had quiet spells the last couple of seasons where points didn’t seem to want to come but out of nowhere he will score.
When he was made the captain back in 2015, we theorised on BOTW that hopefully it wouldn’t change Connolly’s game too much, that he wouldn’t feel the need to play “like a captain”. Thankfully for most Bison fans, Aaron Connolly’s way to play like a captain was to play like himself. The Bison as a unit have run off of his influence since he joined the club. When he was injured at the end of the title winning season, the Bison visibly missed him in the playoffs. When he was ejected in the semi-final this past season, the Bison visibly missed him. You don’t have to like him but you can’t deny the impact he has on one of the league’s best sides.
Welcome back, skipper.