Welcome to the 1-on-1 “Face-Off” segment here on Murph On Ice – where we bring you Murph’s conversations on a regular basis with some of the best hockey minds around!
Murph had the pleasure of chatting with a passionate hockey advocate in Ireland with over 20 years experience in the game, and an assistant coach of the Northern Ireland Tridents for the World Police and Fire Games. Enjoy his interview with Beni McAllister.
In August 2013, Belfast will become the first city in the UK or Ireland to host the much coveted World Police and Fire Games.
Murph On Ice – Great to talk to you Beni, it’s been too long, thanks for taking the time to join me here on the website!
Beni McAllister – My pleasure Murph, always good to chat with you, thanks for having me on!
MOI – When it was announced that the World Police and Fire Games would be held in Belfast in August 2013 – did you even think it possible that you’d be involved coaching Northern Ireland in hockey?!
BM – No! But I’m very proud to be involved with this team and it’s preparation for the World Police and Fire Games. The NI Tridents will represent the whole country in the event, so I suppose you could say it is as close to a ‘National’ squad as the joint services are ever going to field in this country. The mood in the ‘camp’ is electric, it’s not often you get an opportunity to prepare and play in such a prestigious event in a small country like Northern Ireland. So everyone from coaching staff to the players is looking forward to making history in local NI Hockey, and leaving behind a real legacy for the sport for years to come!
MOI – There’s no doubt there will be some tough opposition from the likes of Canada and the USA. Tactically how are you and the other coaches approaching the tourney?
BM – At this stage we have been focused on basics and we’ve tried not to think much about the competition, remember 18 months ago this team didn’t exist and 80 percent of these guys had never skated before. We have had to focus a lot on basic skating and basic hockey skills. In saying that, if you had to go out and select a bunch of guys to start a hockey team with, you couldn’t have gathered a better, more enthusiastic bunch!
MOI – Mark Morrison is a local Belfast guy that had a good career in the Elite League with the Belfast Giants – how important is it to have a head coach with his pedigree to help the team get ready for 2013 in front of the home crowd?
BM – Very important! Mark is a great ambassador for the sport of Ice Hockey in Northern Ireland and brings a lot of experience and passion to the rink during every training session. As a former professional player, Mark is a well grounded guy who is very approachable, and that is good for the team. It allows them to have someone who knows the game at the highest level from which to draw experience for an international event such as this.
MOI – What do you see as areas of strength for the Tridents at the big event? And conversely areas that you’ll be looking to improve before the opening game?
BM – As I mentioned before most of these guys are new to the sport of Ice Hockey, so we are working a lot on position and making sure they know where they need to be during play, which seems to be working. The difference in these guys in 18 months is like night and day, and as I said, they are a very enthusiastic bunch and are willing to push themselves to their limit every week. So I believe that same enthusiasm will be their main strength during the games.
MOI – From a coaching standpoint –what are your main responsibilities to get the team up to scratch Beni?
BM – I have been working on their fitness on the Ice! Most of these guys are professional Public Services Officers who are fit off the ice, but as you know that doesn’t make them fit on ice! So, lets just say they have been having a few punishing skating drills, and they have been very glad to see that Zamboni coming on at the end of their skating session! There are very real challenges however that face the coaching staff in the preparations for the Games. For example, as you know Ice Hockey is now limited to only two rinks in the whole of Ireland with the closure of the Dundalk Ice Dome – where previously there was a few years’ of great Irish hockey. It’s not easy to get Ice Time in Northern Ireland as the Odyssey is not open for public skating, and that leaves only one rink to facilitate all the local teams. I have been involved with Ice Hockey and coaching now for nearly 20-years from way back when Coleraine Jet Centre had an Ice Rink, and we had the Coleraine Jets Ice Hockey team, and some Junior Development teams. With it’s closure 10 years ago, it has meant a lot of travelling to play Hockey with Belfast being an hour and 15 minutes from home. Although, this is better than when we used the Dundalk Ice Dome, which was a 250 mile round trip, sometimes three times a week! But as you know Murph, Ice Hockey is an addiction and you will travel wherever it takes you!
MOI – The home crowd will obviously be supportive of the Tridents – do you look at this support as added pressure on the group, or just the advantage the team will need in close games?
BM – I think it will be a massive boost for the guys to have this home crowd behind them for the first time taking part in the World Police and Fire Games. And they will use that home support to push that little bit extra during each game!
MOI – And finally Beni, what can UK hockey fans look forward to and expect from the Tridents when the puck drops on opening night of what will be a hugely important event for the entire area?
BM – I think the fans can look forward to a lot of good hockey games, with the standard being at the top level with some of the teams coming from Canada and America – those will be awesome! It’s going to be an amazing event for Northern Ireland, and local Ice Hockey fans will be blown away by this event!
MOI – Thanks again Beni, good luck the rest of the way with the training and preparation, and I’ll see you in Belfast soon.
BM – Anytime, my pleasure! Cheers Murph for this opportunity to promote the Tridents Team coming up to the Games.
“Face-Off” is a regular feature here on Murph On Ice. Keep an eye out for Murph’s next 1-on-1 as he continues to bring insight from the greatest hockey minds around.
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