The UK Elite League is filled with skilled guys on the ice, and great, charitable people off the ice, and these folks make you happy and appreciative to be around hockey in every way.
One of those guys is Mac Faulkner of the Cardiff Devils. Many people around the EIHL will tell you he’s the best all-around player in the league. Others will say that there is no better leader – and that Mac is the total package as a captain. He’s also one of the players that gives back off the ice – and always has time for a chat with a fan or an autograph. He’s one of my favourite people to talk hockey with at the rink – and I was lucky to interview him recently.
Enjoy my one-on-one chat with Mac Faulkner here:
Murph On Ice - Thanks for taking the time to join me on the website Mac.
Mac Faulkner - No problem Murph, thanks for having me on.
MOI - You have had 5 great years playing over here in Europe – what are the biggest differences between your time playing in Italy and now playing in the UK?
MF - In comparing the two leagues I would say that there are a few differences but in general the leagues are fairly similar. Many of the same players I played with, and against in Italy, Ling, Fata, Marsh, Blight, and Henrich are now playing here. I would say that the UK may be a slightly more physical league. My first year in Italy when some teams had 10-12 imports maybe Italy was a slightly deeper league. I think I may be splitting hairs here, in general I would say that both leagues would be competitive with each other, as evidenced by a hard fought, and close game between Nottingham and Asiago in the Continental Cup this season.
MOI - This has been an up and down year for your club – with plenty of well documented moves on and off the ice. As a leader in the dressing room – how have you approached keeping the guys focused and together to just concentrate on hockey?
MF - It’s not as much of a “me” as it is a “we”. There are many variables that are out of our control as players, such as injuries to Dan LaCosta, and coaching changes. We have a lot of guys who have experience, and this has helped keep our team on an even keel. As players you can only control how you play, how much you enjoy the game, and how you treat each other. Each guy has stayed very positive, and come to the rink ready to work and play hard, and that’s a testament to the quality of people we have on our roster.
MOI - There appears to be a little more parity throughout the EIHL this season, with any team capable of an upset on any given night. How surprised are you at the league standings at this point, and some of the results this season?
MF - There is definitely more parity in the league this season, but to be honest I’m not overly surprised. The south is always going to be ultra-competitive, but the organisations in the north have good hockey people running them. You knew Finner was going to do a good job in Braehead, and Todd and Danny in Fife, and Clouts in Hull have put together teams that have the ability to win night in night out. Dustin Sproat, a former teammate and friend gave me the heads up on Dan Bakala early in the season. This isn’t a flash in the pan, he’s a very good goalie. With him in net, and players like Kashirsky, who won an ECHL championship last year, and Rawlyk, Dundee has a very balanced team. We haven’t played Edinburgh in a while, but they play very well at Murrayfield and can catch you sleeping on some nights. With all that said, it makes it more fun to play as a player. Each game requires preparation, effort and execution to give yourself the opportunity to win, there are no easy games. This is what makes for good hockey for the players and fans, and it should be interesting down the stretch to see how it all plays out.
MOI - Belfast have really stayed consistent and are off to a big lead at the top of the table – do you think that they can be caught by anyone as there’s plenty of hockey left to play?
MF - Tough to say. Without doubt they are playing very good hockey. They are well coached, are balanced and play a consistent game supporting each other all over the ice. It will be tough for any team to catch them down the stretch. One added component, and this is not to take anything away from their season so far, but they have stayed healthy. In any league where you play 60-70 games, the team who tops the league at year en, will tend to have many key factors to their success, and staying healthy would be one of them.
We have the opportunity to play them in the semi’s of the Challenge Cup. If you’re going to beat a team like Belfast you have to play a disciplined, 60 minute game and limit your turnovers. We are looking forward to the challenge, and to show the league and ourselves that we are better than the outcomes of last weekend.
MOI - What are your goals as a club for the remainder of this season?
MF - Fairly straight forward. We’re in the Challenge Cup semi’s and one goal is to win that Cup. The other is to have a strong rest of the season. Obviously we want to finish as high in the standings as possible, but as importantly we want to be playing the right kind of hockey, so that when the playoffs roll around, we are prepared to compete and play at the level required to get to the finals in Nottingham, and have success there as well.
MOI - Who is the toughest competitor you’ve faced this season and why?
MF - Marshy (Tyson Marsh). Every day in practice he battles. Best player in our league in my opinion. Runs our PP and is one of the top scoring defencemen, plays 25-30 minutes a night, plays against the other team’s top lines, first out on the PK and fights when needed. We are lucky to have him in Cardiff. Our league has lots of very good players. I could go on about guys off each team who push you to work every night if you are going to have any success against them.
MOI - Off the ice you are a big part of the community in Cardiff. Tell us about some of the wonderful charities that the Devils, and yourself are proud to be a part of.
MF - I’ve really enjoyed working with Hockey Players 4 Kids, and this year Jamie Elson and the Devils Community Foundation have worked with us and supported our efforts. Over Christmas we were able to donate to 3 local hospitals and Ty Hafan. Our fans and the CDRA were huge in fundraising enough that enabled us to buy the presents for all the children. What has been great is all the guys jumping on board from our team. Blighter and Marshy are now each running literacy programs in local schools and Ben Davies, Plumton, Morissette are working with me in a few other schools. It has been a blast and I can’t thank the guys enough for their time and effort.
MOI - The hockey community in the UK is a tight group – lots of players I speak with love the atmosphere and passion around the EIHL. Do you agree, and do you see yourself playing over here for many seasons to come?
MF - This is a great league filled with good players and people, and I couldn’t agree more with you. In terms of hockey, I take it year by year. I still enjoy coming to the rink every day and trying to get better as a team and as a player. You never know what path lies ahead, but I would love to play as long as I can.
MOI - Thanks again Mac, and good luck the rest of the way.
MF - Cheers Murph.
You can follow Murph on Twitter here: @MurphOnIce