Happy Canuck Day!

As a Canadian living abroad – I get a little homesick every July 1st! I have had the pleasure of living in Europe for 10 years now – in both London, England and Dublin, Ireland. These are two great cites in two fantastic countries – no doubt about it – world class. But on July 1st I always day-dream about my favourite haunts, and pass times back home, and of course family and friends.

Don’t get me wrong – I am very fortunate living permanently abroad, I make a living working in hockey, covering the game and commentating on domestic UK, and international hockey. I also live in a city with a great musical and sporting culture – and as a ‘Murphy’, Ireland is a great fit. So, in honour of my homeland today I thought I’d share these classics:

Happy Canada Day wherever you’re celebrating. And if you are in Ireland, remember Molson Canadian, Moosehead and Tim Hortons are readily available to all of us who miss home!

You can follow Murph on Twitter here: @MurphOnIce

Face-Off Adam Keefe

Great to have one of the toughest and hardest working guys in the EIHL on the website this off-season! Adam Keefe is the Captain of the Belfast Giants, and a fan favourite to all who follow the club. But he’s also respected amongst his peers, and rival fans throughout the league. He’s a guy that all the other nine teams would have on their roster in a second! Murph caught up with Keefe back in Canada, as number 47 prepares for another campaign in Belfast…

 

Murph On Ice: Firstly, the off-season always means change to rosters, especially in the EIHL! Tell us about some of the Giants new additions thus far, Chris Higgins, Matt Nickerson, Jonathan Boxill, James Desmerais and Mike Forney really have Belfast fans excited for next season. Are you happy to have Nickerson on your team?!

Adam Keefe: Like the fans, I am excited as well about all the new signings and the ones still to come. Higgy was a big reason for our success on our run to the Elite League Title in 2014! His hands are “Magic” like the magic man Pavel Datsyuk himself. Just ask the guys at AVFTB. Great to have the “Belfast Datsyuk” back in town.

Adam Keefe is a fan favourite in Belfast. Photo Courtesy - OHL Alumni
Adam Keefe is a fan favourite in Belfast. Photo Courtesy – OHL Alumni

Boxill is a guy that has impressed me with his compete level the last couple of years. He has a bright future ahead of him in this league. He will be loved by the Belfast faithful when he pulls on the Giants sweater.

Forney’s numbers are impressive. He’s a dangerous player all over the ice and I think we lacked that last season. He will be a welcome addition to the team.

Nickerson obviously isn’t a very fun man to play against, and I thought we also lacked that D-man who made it difficult to get to the front of our net. He will punish players who try to get to the crease. He’s also a solid two way D-man and can contribute on the ice as well as with his fists. Obviously I am thrilled to no longer have to play against that monster of a man, and look forward to doing some damage this season with him.

Desmarais is a guy unfamiliar to our league, but has put up some big numbers in the Swiss league, and is another guy who will be a threat all over the ice. Nick Kuiper couldn’t say enough good things about him as a player and a person, and Nick is a guy that gets what it means to play in Belfast.

MOI: It has also been a neat time for your family this off-season. Your brother Sheldon Keefe has been named as the new Head Coach of the Toronto Marlies in the AHL. A fantastic opportunity for him, tell us a bit about how hard he has worked the past few years on the coaching craft. Also, do you guys discuss your on-ice play and does he have guidance for you throughout a season?

Sheldon Keefe is the new coach of the AHL Toronto Marlies. (Courtesy mapleleafs.com)
Sheldon Keefe is the new coach of the AHL Toronto Marlies. (Courtesy mapleleafs.com)

AK: My brother Sheldon has always been a hard worker. Both as a player and now as a coach. I think it was something instilled in us from a young age from our father who works very hard himself. Sheldon has transformed and rebuilt a career in the hockey world through his character and dedication to the game. I don’t think I know a man who has worked as hard as he has to get back to hockey’s mainstream. He deserves all the credit he’s gotten this summer. I’ve obviously followed his coaching career very closely since he took over as a Coach in Pembroke Junior A, once his playing career came to an end. Since then he has won five straight titles and one national title, before moving on to the Soo Greyhounds in the OHL, and turning around a struggling team and returning them to the playoffs. His recent promotion to the Toronto Marlies I believe is but a stepping stone on his march back to the NHL. We don’t really discuss my play very much, I don’t think I’m the kind of player he’d want on his team. (Laughs). My corsi isn’t great. However, I do like to pick his brain from time to time and try to learn as much as I can from him.

MOI: The EIHL and the quality of imports keeps getting better every year. Have you noticed big changes in your time in the EIHL? Any that really stick out for you?

AK: I believe the EIHL as a whole has continued to grow from year to year. A lot of it has to do with the depth of every hockey team improving. The biggest thing I’ve noticed from my first season is, there are no more “easy games” anymore. Every game is competitive, and anyone can win on any given night. I can only speak of the Belfast Giants professionalism on and off the ice. It was a great organisation to play for when I arrived here four years ago, and it only continues to get better and better each year that passes.

MOI: A few years back the Giants won the League with almost two months still to go. Last year with several off ice, and roster changes, it’s safe to say it was a tougher year. What can Giants and EIHL fans expect this upcoming campaign from the men in teal?

Keefe and the Giants hope to return to championship form next season. (Courtesy belfastgiants.com)
Keefe and the Giants hope to return to championship form next season. (Courtesy belfastgiants.com)

AK: Last season was definitely a disappointing year for fans and players alike. I can make one thing clear – we don’t like losing anymore then our loyal fans who come to support us every night. Win or lose they support us. The fire is still burning from last season’s let down, and we cannot wait to get back on the ice at the end of August and get back to our winning ways that we have become so accustomed to.

MOI: I mentioned Nickerson earlier, and Kevin Westgarth was with you last year, there’s some big tough guys in the EIHL – but fighting certainly was down last season. You’ve always been an honest tough player, willing to drop the gloves, but can you tell us a bit about the change in the EIHL in that regard?

AK: I think the lack of fighting may be a result of the league becoming much more competitive. In a league where the League Title is the top prize, every game is so important, and nobody wants to help the other team gain momentum and get back into a game when the other team may be trailing. That being said, I think the league has again gained some more characters from team to team, and I think we are in for a war to win a title this season. Should be fun!

Fighting may have been down in the EIHL last year, but Keefe is always game. (Courtesy belfastgiants.com)
Fighting may have been down in the EIHL last year, but Keefe is always game. (Courtesy belfastgiants.com)

MOI: How’s the training going back in Canada? Are you doing anything different this off-season to prepare?

AK: I’m not really doing much different than I have before. Over the years I have learned how to get my body ready to play, to keep myself healthy over the long gruelling season. I have a specific program that consists of gym workouts, swimming, boxing, hot yoga, and I try to stay as active as possible on the ice.

MOI: Competitions like the Champions Hockey League and the Continental Cup have been popular with fans over the past few seasons. As a player, and team that has been to the Continental Cup – give us a players and team perspective on things like the CHL, and Conti Cup that happen in an already busy season.

AK: There is no question it definitely hinders your chances of winning titles in the Elite League as it adds games to your already long and tough fixtures list, which can lead to key injuries or fatigue. But with that being said, we enjoy the challenge of competing on the European stage, and representing the EIHL well. I’m not a big believer in excuses, and I think it is possible to be successful in the Continental Cup, or Champions League as well as at home in the UK Elite League.

MOI: What are your goals both personally and team-wise for 2015/16?

AK: These days I only have one goal going into each season, and it’s to win Trophies. Anything less than that isn’t a successful season.

MOI: Your cousin Jordan Knox played in the EIHL last season with Hull, any chance you’d like to have him in Belfast with you at some point in the future? Also, sad to hear about the Stingrays?

AK: Yeah not great for the league when stuff like that happens, sorry for the Hull fans, you never like to see that. With my cousin – I was real excited to have the opportunity to play against him in the Continental Cup second leg in France, and it was even better when I heard he was coming to the Elite League. He is a good player with a strong work ethic, and a great head of hair. (Laughs). Obviously I would love the opportunity to play with Jordan. I am sure the situation would have to be right for both Jordan and the Giants organisation. He is the Captain of his own fishing boat back in Skinners Pond, PEI, working alongside his brother and father fishing lobster. I’ll be visiting him and the rest of my family in a few weeks’ time.

MOI: Your brother has made a successful career out of coaching after his playing days as we mentioned earlier, as a captain and a leader currently, is coaching or management within the game something you’d be interested in pursuing after your playing days?

AK: I’m starting to realise that there will be a life after playing hockey. I think as players we lose sight of that when we are in the thick of it all. We feel invincible. But in reality it will come to an end at some point. I have started to think about life after my playing career, and coaching/management is definitely something I am interested in, and have started to take some necessary steps to help prepare me for when the time comes. I’m hoping it’s in my blood.

MOI: Well Keefer, thanks for taking some time to chat – always a pleasure – and we’ll see you back on this side of the pond soon.

AK: Cheers Murph, thanks for having me on, see you in a few months.

You can follow Murph on Twitter here: @MurphOnIce and Adam Keefe: @Adam27Keefe

 

Welcome to the EIHL Manchester Storm…

Further to my post this morning…the Manchester Storm have been announced as the team that will replace the Hull Stingrays this upcoming season…keeping the league at ten teams.

From the EIHL:

Ice hockey’s Manchester Storm are back and when the puck drops in September, they will be playing in the top flight of British ice hockey – the Elite Ice Hockey League.

The Storm will be owned and operated by The Ice Rink Company Ltd, spearheaded by Mark Johnson, and will play out of Silverblades Ice Rink Altrincham.

The rebirth of the Storm keeps the EIHL at 10 strong teams for the upcoming campaign, as Manchester effectively replace Hull Stingrays in all competitions.

EIHL chairman Tony Smith and Director of the Manchester Storm, Mark Johnson. (Courtesy of EIHL)
EIHL chairman Tony Smith and Director of the Manchester Storm, Mark Johnson. (Courtesy of EIHL)

The Elite Ice Hockey League approached the new bosses of the Storm a week ago when it emerged that new circumstances meant that the participation of the Hull Stingrays in season 2015-16 was in jeopardy.

Earlier today it was confirmed that Hull would not be taking part in the upcoming campaign.

Manchester Storm were represented at an EIHL board meeting today and were unanimously welcomed into the league.

Mark Johnson, director of the Storm, said: “These are exciting times for ice hockey in the Manchester area and when we were approached by the EIHL to join the league, we pulled out all the stops to make it happen.

“This has become part of an even bigger picture for ice hockey in the region and we are looking forward to growing the fanbase and the grassroots of the sport in the area, alongside the re-birth of one of the iconic names in British sport.”

Elite League chairman Tony Smith said: “We would like to officially welcome Manchester Storm to the Elite Ice Hockey League.

“The name Manchester Storm is steeped in hockey tradition and it is great that it will once again be in the top flight of the sport.

“On behalf of the league I would like to place on record the important contribution made by the Hull Stingrays Ice Hockey Club, both on and off the ice, to the growth and development of the EIHL.

“Owner Bobby McEwan has worked so hard for the Stingrays and has been very passionate about the organisation. We are sad to see them go.”

You can follow the Manchester Storm on twitter: @Mcr_Storm

Heavy Hearts in Hull

Never nice to hear about a team folding – no matter the level, league or sport. For the fans it’s devastating – no doubt about it. For the clubs staff, both on and off the ice – it’s stressful and career changing.

It's a sad day for the Hull Stingrays and the EIHL.
It’s a sad day for the Hull Stingrays and the EIHL.

The Hull Stingrays this morning through owner Bobby McEwan, announced that the club was going into liquidation.

“It is with great sadness I have to inform you that this is the end for Hull Stingrays.”

The rumblings had been out there for a few weeks…the rumours were known to many close to the situation. This is a team that had struggled with the conference system, and the lack of bodies through the door, sponsor issues, plus rising costs to the owner:

“The loss of a major sponsor, increased operational costs, the introduction of ice-time charges as well as the shortage of fans attending our matches have left me with no other choice but to liquidate the club.” McEwan stated this morning on the teams website.

So of course on social media there were well wishes, and expressions of sadness for the club and its fans and staff. This is the good part of EIHL social media – at the end of the day – no matter who you support – everyone knows that this loss of a club is bad for the league as a whole, and the sport in this part of the world.

Carl Lauzon and Omar Pacha did some great work last season for the club.
Carl Lauzon and Omar Pacha did some great work last season for the club.

The negative on social media would be people placing blame and surmising of how this all went wrong etc. I’m not going to dwell on the negatives on social media too much – or even in the perceived facts of it all.

The reality is, that at this current moment on June 24th, the EIHL has gone from 10 to nine clubs (4 hours after this post the EIHL has announced that the Manchester Storm will replace Hull). A team that made some noise getting to the Playoff Final Weekend last year, and within a bounce of getting to the Grand Final, is no more in Hull. Players and off ice staff are left to look for new jobs – some will be successful – others will struggle. This is not the time to place blame or bring out the folks that like to say “I told you so” or those that will say they could do better, or even those that claim that McEwan didn’t do enough to save the team.

Now is the time for us all to realize how hard it is for our sport to survive and thrive in this part of the world. It’s time to support the remaining clubs old and new, by buying a ticket, by buying a webcast or by supporting the EIHL and it’s partners as a whole.

Negativity and finger pointing are a part of our social media world unfortunately – but today lets all just try and send good vibes to those that have lost their jobs – good vibes hoping that this won’t ruin their lives in the short term – good vibes that they all land on their feet, or skates as it were.

I enjoyed my visits to Hull over the past few years – I was always made to feel welcome as a fan, and as a television broadcaster. To the folks that made me feel that way – thanks to you all, and good luck. Hopefully our hockey paths will cross again soon.

-Murph

Bobby McEwan’s full statement:

“It is with great sadness I have to inform you that this is the end for Hull Stingrays.

“The loss of a major sponsor, increased operational costs, the introduction of ice-time charges as well as the shortage of fans attending our matches have left me with no other choice but to liquidate the club.

“There had been interest from parties willing to take control of the club but once that failed to materialise there simply was no other alternative.

“Reaching the play-off finals weekend and coming within a whisker of progressing to the final last season filled me with immense pride.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my three years in charge of the Stingrays – it was a dream come true for me. Sadly, that dream has now come to an end.

“It has been an extremely stressful time for my wife Debbie and I and this is the toughest decision I have had to make in my life.

“I would like to apologise to [player-coach], Omar Pacha, [assistant-player coach] Carl Lauzon and [captain] Matty Davies for not being able to build on last season’s success.

“Finally, I must thank our loyal supporters for all their backing over the years – I am just sorry it has had to end this way.”

You can follow Murph on Twitter here: @MurphOnIce

Semi-Final Excellence! Beating the EIHL summer blues….

It seems like a long time until September 5th – the date the Elite Ice Hockey League starts back up! To help curb your EIHL withdrawals this summer folks…here’s a look back at two incredible SF’s from the Play-Off Final Weekend in Nottingham. Neil Russell and Paul Adey joined me in the commentary booth:

SF # 1 – Sheffield v Hull 04/04/15 – courtesy Premier Sports TV:

SF #2 – Belfast v Coventry 04/04/15 – courtesy Premier Sports TV:

You can follow Murph on Twitter here: @MurphOnIce

Hockey – summer time musings…

It’s been a while – I miss writing on here for sure, but it’s been a crazy hockey season! With commentary duty spanning the Elite Ice Hockey League, Swedish Hockey League, Champions Hockey League, Team GB and IIHF top pool World Championships – there’s been little web time sadly. So, hopefully I can still string a few paragraphs together.

First off, to touch on all the above hockey, it was an honour to be a part of each and every league and competition as a play-by play guy!

Top Flight Action

Murph at the CHL broadcast meetings in Zug, Switzerland.
Murph at the CHL broadcast meetings in Zug, Switzerland.

The Swedish Hockey League and the Champions Hockey League were on a level that was so good – I had to pinch myself at times behind the mic. The creativity and speed at which hockey happens in the SHL and CHL is a joy to witness. I look forward to being a part of both those leagues, calling games again this coming season. The CHL will be especially neat with two EIHL teams competing next year. The Sheffield Steelers and Braehead Clan will both be in very tough make no mistake, but Paul Thompson of the Steelers, and Ryan Finnerty of the Clan will be ready behind their respective benches. Those games will be on TV – so stay tuned for all the info.

Speaking of the EIHL, last season saw a bit of history, as both the semi-finals from the Play-off Final weekend were live on TV for the first time. I was a part of over 12 hours of live coverage from Nottingham. A magical weekend which saw Chuck Weber lead the Coventry Blaze to glory in the seasons final competition. Not many people believed the Blaze had a chance – but Weber has made the entire EIHL sit up and take notice on how coaching, systems, and attention to professional detail really can make a huge difference.

Screen Shots

Weirdly I see some comments on-line from people saying that perhaps hockey is not a TV sport. I am shocked in 2015 that such a view could exist. Everyone is entitled to their opinion – and mine is that in 2015 any professional sports league has to live in that space.  In my opinion – it’s good for the game to see a network try and be the home of the sport and give people a place to view it at all levels.  Maybe we all should sit back, relax and enjoy the fact anyone covers any hockey in this part of the world. To those of you that enjoyed the EIHL on TV the past few years, thanks for the feedback, support and overall positivity – I appreciate it tremendously. I also know my co-commentators Neil Russell, and Paul Adey would second that appreciation.

Route 66

Murph spends some time with the EIHL Play-off Trophy.
Murph spends some time with the EIHL Play-off Trophy.

The IIHF was fantastic this past season as well. Canada were the class of the top pool – scoring 66 goals in ten games on their way to a first Gold Medal since 2007. Sidney Crosby and Jason Spezza seemed to be on a different level throughout, and Russia had little answer in the final, even with Alex Ovechkin jetting to Prague to be a part of the last few games. Canada were on a mission throughout and were a perfect 10-0 in the Czech Republic in a long overdue Golden performance.

Great Britain

For Team GB – what a tournament in Eindhoven. A silver medal, and coming within a bounce here and there of Gold and promotion. Paul Adey and I called those games on TV – and enjoyed the first go around for coach Pete Russell at the helm of Team GB. Undefeated right up until the final day, they just couldn’t find one last win to finish the job – but all involved should still be holding their heads high. The future appears bright with Russell behind the bench. And Ben O’Connor was the talk of the week, with a goal so good it went viral on-line, and left Adey and I scratching our heads!

Magic Man O’Connor:

Again an honour to call another World Championship campaign, both at the top pool, and Division 1 levels.

Lord Stanley, break out the Brandy

Hopefully you’re enjoying the Stanley Cup as your last hockey fix before summer well and truly begins! Blackhawks in six was my prediction…but either way, what speed and skill from both Chicago and Tampa Bay so far – a true joy to witness. I have been lucky enough to cover three Stanley Cups in my career, 2011, 2012 and 2013. Those were special trips – and to see a Stanley Cup game in person should be on every hockey fans bucket list.

Covering the Stanley Cup is a fantastic honour for any broadcaster.
Covering the Stanley Cup is a fantastic honour for any broadcaster.

Enjoy your summer folks, hopefully my blogging/writing here isn’t as rusty as it feels – but thanks for reading. I look forward to more writing next season – but even more-so – I can’t wait to get back calling lots of live hockey on TV in 2015/16! Until then cheers, and thanks for following, reading and watching!

-Murph

You can follow Murph on Twitter here: @MurphOnIce

Chasing an EIHL Title!

There’s some great EIHL action coming for all UK/Ireland viewers on Premier Sports as we try and capture a title winning game!

Don’t forget to tune in for all the broadcasts – as I’m joined by Paul Adey and Neil Russell in commentary. Next up February 8th – as the TV cameras head to Cardiff Bay as the Devils host the Sheffield Steelers!  See below for the rest of our upcoming games:

Embedded image permalink

You can follow Murph on Twitter here: @MurphOnIce

Premier TV Coverage!

There’s some great EIHL action coming for all UK/Ireland viewers on Premier Sports!

Don’t forget to tune in for all the broadcasts – as I’m joined by Paul Adey and Neil Russell in commentary. Next up December 14th – the Coventry Blaze host the Sheffield Steelers. See below for the rest of our upcoming games:

Some great action from the EIHL coming on Premier Sports!
Some great action from the EIHL coming on Premier Sports!

You can follow Murph on Twitter here: @MurphOnIce

Face-Off: Doug Christiansen

You have to respect anyone who has been a head coach, and a champion in hockey. It takes an incredible competitive mind to taste success in any league – and with the improvements in the UK over the past few seasons – a league title is no easy accolade. Doug Christiansen has been at the top of the EIHL – and has also led Team GB into battle as a head coach.

The guy is an astute student of our game – a master tactician, and a good quote as well! Doug has left the UK game, and has moved on to a big new challenge in North America. I caught up with him recently, enjoy our 1-on-1 chat here:

Murph On Ice – Thanks for taking some time to join me on the website here Doug.

Doug Christiansen – No problem Murph, thanks for having me.

MOI – First off tell UK hockey folks about your new gig and about the USHL overall – and explain how the opportunity came about?

DC – I worked with the Boston Bruins at their Development Camp this summer for their draft picks and prospects. I really enjoyed working with high level young players who are working to achieve their goals. The USHL is the top development league in the United States. We have 54 players rated to be drafted in the 2015 NHL entry draft, last season 51 players who played in the USHL were drafted including 16 alums. We have players from 13 different countries and over 95% of our players play Division 1 college hockey. My job is to bring the top young players throughout the world to our league. Our primary competition is Major Junior in Canada.  I scout, evaluate and recruit the top young players  throughout North America.

MOI – Obviously there was some great moments both as a player, and coach for you in the UK. Are there any specific highlights that stick out from your time on this side of the pond?

Christiansen and Murph in Riga with Team GB.
Christiansen and Murph in Riga with Team GB.

DC – Coaching the National Team was the biggest honour of my career. It was really special. I loved every minute of it. Domestically, winning the league title in Belfast was the highlight. We had a great team full of great men. They were a pleasure to coach. Coaching in Edinburgh was a great experience. I learned a ton and met some of my best friends in the UK. The Edinburgh teams played so hard and were such great people. We had great characters and we shared some great memories, as well as, some that were not as great. Coaching in Edinburgh was tough but I really have fond memories of working with Scott Neil, Jock Hay and everyone involved. Everyone who works with the Capitals truly loves the team.

MOI – Who are some of the best players you coached in your time over here and why? Favourite hockey people you worked with?

DC – Martin Cingel was a real friend in Edinburgh. He is a great family man and helped me through some tough times. Kyle Horne is an absolute beauty. Never a dull moment around him.

Corey Neilson is a much better person than he gets credit for. I loved beating him and he loved beating me. He pushed me to be better. He is a great hockey coach.

Jon Gleed was one of my all-time favourite players, he played the game the way it should be played. Josh Prudden was another player that I think highly of as a man and player.

Jeremy Rebek was an outstanding professional and great leader. Adam Keefe is all heart. Loved coaching him. Robert Dowd is such a good man too. I love how he has embraced Sheffield on and off the ice.

Rob Stewart and Jock Hay were really good friends that I shared a lot of laughs with, and plenty of long bus trips.  I trusted and respected their opinions.

Todd Kelman and I are far closer than people think. We went through a really rough time in Belfast that people have forgotten about. I truly believe leaving Belfast after the 2012-13 season was inevitable for both of us.  I think had 2012-13 never happened, we may still be there.

Christiansen had great success in Belfast. Photo Courtesy - belfastgiants.com
Christiansen had great success in Belfast. Photo Courtesy – belfastgiants.com

Jeff Mason is a class act. Great player. Great person. Frank Doyle is an outstanding man. Mike Hoffman was a true character and leader. He was a big reason we had success in Belfast. We have become good friends and are working together to grow the game in the USA. I think we will have some exciting partnerships in the future.

Of course, Jeff Hutchins is my best friend in the UK. He should be getting credit for the success of Paul Swindlehurst. Too few British players try to apply their craft outside of Britain, and Hutch helped develop Swindlehurst from an EPL player to a player at an NHL Rookie Camp. He deserves a ton of credit.

MOI – As a league the EIHL is always looking for ways to enhance the fan experience and help grow the game – are there any things that you think the EIHL could do to make hockey bigger over here?

DC – The league needs to identify standards that are mandatory. The league has grown tremendously. The quality of hockey is better than ever. The EIHL needs full-time employees with no ties to any teams. It needs someone to hold teams accountable. The problem is that the league teams do not want that. They want to run their business the way that they want to, and not be held accountable. The bar should be set at a level that pushes the game forward and forces teams to adapt.  Having a set level of professionalism across the board will make everyone’s experience in the EIHL better.

People say it is impossible or there is not enough money. They are wrong. There are people everywhere who want to be involved in sports who will do it for less money. The issue is the fact that the league shareholders want to run the league as they see fit. Accountability is a dangerous thing.  The frustrations the fans have with the league, are the same that the coaches and players have. For the game to reach its full potential, the league needs to take the next step and that is an independent league office whose full time job is to grow the league, improve the quality of play and improve the fan experience.

One thing that should be mentioned is how well Belfast engages the community, they’re actually out trying to make it a better city. There is a reason they were in Sports Illustrated with an eight page article. They set a standard not only for the EIHL but for all sports teams. Their work goes unnoticed far too often.

MOI – There always seems to be a few controversies in the EIHL with suspensions and discipline every year. The new Department of Player Safety seems to be moving in the right direction. Do you think it’s a good step forward for the teams and players knowing where they stand on disciplinary decisions with the new system?

DC – 100%. Video evidence, openness is the way to go. The league is far better than it gets credit for. The league can compete with the best leagues in Europe.  The league is held back by the perception that it is a goon league. It is far from a goon league. The best way to tackle that bias is to stop having incidents and punishing offenders.  The concussion trends and litigation in North America will reach Britain sooner rather than later. The EIHL having player safety rules in place is a big step toward that.

Being involved with the USHL has been interesting in seeing how discipline is handled. Every major infraction is reviewed, there are fines for referees getting calls wrong, and fines for teams for not sending in video up to $25,000. Accountability for everyone is important but that can only be done with a non-bias league office.

MOI – You joined me on TV in commentary for the Grand Final last year on Premier Sports – in your opinion is having the EIHL finally on TV consistently a good move for getting new fans out to the games and venues? Did you enjoy the commentary experience?!

DC – I really enjoyed the commentary. It was fun to watch two of my old teams. Of course, it was a bit awkward watching Sheffield but, frankly, I signed that team. They went through a lot and G (Gerad Adams) getting his first title was special for him and the players. The EIHL being on TV is a big step forward. The goal should be more live games and exposure throughout Europe. One major benefit the EIHL has is that it is the NHL of Britain. It is in the biggest cities, and is the highest domestic level. It can get partnerships with companies that can really grow the sport, a full time marketing person for the league would be able to pay for their own salary, while growing the league.

MOI – With your new role – and development of younger players a key point – what do you think UK hockey can do better to give young home-grown players a better chance of playing at higher levels?

DC – British hockey is at a crossroads. It has to decide if it wants to be a country that can compete for Olympic places and Pool A spots. Hockey is exploding throughout the world. Nations like South Korea, Norway and Switzerland put together long term plans for success. They followed those paths and had some bumps in the road. However, the progress is obvious. Switzerland has gone from being a country ranked in the 20’s, to a silver medallist at the World Championships, and an Olympic nation. Norway has done similar things. GB was ranked number 20 in last years rankings. It is getting caught, and passed by other nations that have full time employees. For example, Japan has highly paid full time coaches in charge of development.

Christiansen at home at the rink. Photo Courtesy - IIHF.com
Christiansen at home at the rink. Photo Courtesy – IIHF.com

Great Britain has to decide if it wants to be in a pool with Netherlands, Croatia, Romania etc. or move up. It is not all about dual nationals either. It is about player development at a young age. I truly hope Great Britain takes the next step.  I was disappointed that Ice Hockey UK employed a service to analyse the growth of the game and I was not contacted. Regardless of what people think of me, I was involved in five international tournaments and seven domestic seasons. Any thorough independent investigation would have contacted me even if it was only for a dissenters viewpoint. Hockey is big business throughout the world. Currently, too few overworked shareholders in the success of British hockey prevent the actual growth of the game. The game needs full-time attention. The EIHL needs to decide that international tournaments during the season are more important than a weekend of games. Every EIHL team could take the weekend off, and have the contracts with the players not pay them for the week. For example, the EIHL season is 30 weeks. The league pays the same 30 weeks but players get a 1 week vacation during the Olympic break. Import players would love it. A week in Paris or Rome. British players would be able to spend time with their families or represent their country.  The EIHL and IHUK have to decide what they want British Hockey to be.  There is nothing wrong with being in a group with Romania, but the nation can move up with the right strategic plan. It will take time.  They only way out is to develop and follow a strategic vision.  The rewards will be worth it!

MOI – Any chance we’ll see you around a rink in the UK any-time soon – maybe for a challenge cup junior match in the future between the USHL and a UK all-star team?

DC – I really hope I am back. I have a lot of great friends in the UK, and some fond memories. I am hoping to be back in Edinburgh for the British Open next summer at St. Andrews. I think the UK should look to bring a team of under-20’s to the USA for a tour. I think it would be great exposure for the players to be scouted, as well as, for the players to understand how the game is played here. I think it would be eye opening for them to see 10,700 people watching hockey for players under 20, like what happened last week in Sioux Falls in the USHL.

MOI – Thanks again for coming on to talk hockey Doug, good luck in the new job, and see you hopefully sooner rather than later..

DC – No problem Murph, enjoy the rest of the season over there.

You can follow Murph on Twitter here: @MurphOnIce

Doug Christiansen is also on twitter: @USHLPlayerDev

A Very Premier Deal!

In case you’ve been abroad this summer – or maybe just out of the UK hockey loop – here’s the official Press Release for the new broadcast deal for the EIHL with Premier Sports TV. I’ll be calling all the action this season…can’t wait to get started September 12th (click here for the fixtures so far). See you at a rink this winter!

Official Release:

RAPID SOLICITORS ELITE LEAGUE/ PREMIER SPORTS Press Release. 

WEDNESDAY 6TH AUGUST 2014

ELITE LEAGUE AND PREMIER SPORTS ANNOUNCE NEW TV DEAL 

The Rapid Solicitors Elite League have renewed their television deal with Premier Sports for the 2014-15 season.

This season’s exclusive deal includes live matches throughout the season, including the playoff semi-finals and final.

Tony Smith, the Elite League’s chairman, said: “It’s fantastic news that we have Premier Sports back with us for next season.”Last season’s deal raised the profile of the sport and it was great to have such live television presence.

“The show was well supported by Elite League fans and well received – and we look forward to working with Premier Sports again.”

Richard Sweeney, CEO of Premier Sports, said: “We are delighted to confirm coverage for next season of the EIHL, which complements our NHL, IIHF and CHL coverage.

“It means over 550 games of ice hockey are shown every season from August through to June.  “It is also great news that the playoff semi-finals will be shown for the first time on television.

“We look forward to working hard with our production partner to further enhance the live shows and, with the launch of free HD streaming for Sky-platform Premier customers, it is exciting times ahead for UK hockey fans.”

The channel has offered a promo code for new subscribers for ice hockey via Sky, yet to subscribe.

For those with Sky they can get their first 2 months for only £5, with no connection fee, to allow them to watch EIHL, NHL, the new Champions Hockey League and the IIHF World Championship. Use the code EIHL2014.

Virgin customers can subscribe for £7.99 per month, directly via the platform.

Visit www.premiersports.tv for more information.

The promo code is valid until the end of August 2014.

T&C’s apply. Visit www.premiersports.tv for more information.

You can follow Murph on Twitter in the upcoming season here: @MurphOnIce