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 Police Inspector, an avid hockey advocate in Northern Ireland, and Team Captain of the NI Tridents for the World Police and Fire Games. Enjoy his interview with Kyle Gordon.

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 Kyle, thanks for taking the time from Belfast to join me here on the website!

Kyle Gordon – My pleasure Murph, 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 and on the ice representing Northern Ireland in hockey?!

Kyle Gordon is the Captain of the NI Tridents, who will play in the 2013 WPFG.

KG – In short, I didn’t, no.  The reason for that is that Hockey is not one of the more common sports in Northern Ireland, as we are a nation of football and rugby lovers.  In addition, I was aware that neither the Police Service, nor any of the other Services within Northern Ireland, had an ice-hockey team despite having proud and successful sporting histories within the local community. Any move towards forming a team to represent Northern Ireland at the Games was going to take a considerable effort from the members, and support from senior representatives and sponsors.

MOI – What’s the mood around the NI Tridents camp as you guys prepare for what will be a pretty tough battle with more experienced teams from Canada and the USA?

KG – I think there are two distinct ‘moods’ in the camp; one is obviously of sheer excitement at the prospect of raising the profile of hockey in Northern Ireland through the Games and having an opportunity to experience playing much more experienced teams and gaining from that exposure.  The other mood is one of realism, and a realisation that as you say, we have a tough battle ahead against the other teams who have more experience as individuals, and also as a team playing regularly at a higher level than we are fortunate enough to have access to here in Northern Ireland.  All that being said I think the spirit and energy of The Tridents will help raise our game during the competition.

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?

Tridents Coach Mark Morrison is a former Belfast Giant.

KG – I think it is clear that we know the scale of the challenge that faces us in the run-up to the Games, and any help we can avail of in the next 18 months will be vital, and utilised to the maximum by the team.  Coach Morrison is an outstanding individual who brings to our team the know-how and experience of the professionals.  His guidance, and that of Assistant Coach Beni McAllister, in the formation of the team to date has been invaluable, especially considering we only formed in 2010.  He has us running regular pro-hockey line drills and on-ice conditioning every session which has been tough but essential training for the guys and girls.  However, this is only the beginning. We have approximately 18 months to bring our team up to the level required to ensure we put on a good show for the visitors, and don’t disappoint our local fans.  Coach Morrison may have worked hard as a professional player, but I have a feeling that he will have to work harder than ever before in his career to ready the team for the games!

MOI – What do you see as areas of strength for the Tridents at the big event? Conversely areas that you’ll be looking to improve before the opening game?

KG – I think one of our big advantages is the fact that we are a ‘services’ ice hockey team. The guys and girls who play for us are used to working in high pressure situations as a team, and all have the determination and fortitude you would expect from emergency services personnel.  So when the going gets tough, and I sense from your questions that we are not alone in thinking it will during the competition, we will be relying on the professional focus and resilience our team members display in their day jobs.  One area we will be looking to improve before the Games are the systems that Coach Morrison has been working on with us throughout this first season as a team. These systems have allowed us to put up a decent fight against some of the more experienced local teams even when our individual skill-set has been lacking in some areas. I think that these systems are going to be integral to the team’s chances of success when the visitors come to town.

MOI – How has the local interest and reception been for the club since you officially launched on June 30th with your team uniforms and details?

KG – Local interest in the team has been building steadily since the official launch.  This is due to the support from the wider ‘services’ family within Northern Ireland, from high profile local personalities such as Dame Mary Peters (Patron of the NI WPFG) and Mr Drew Harris (our club president and Assistant Chief Constable with the Police Service of Northern Ireland). As well as local businesses who have sponsored us in our first year.  A local school has also carried out interviews with the team under the ‘WPFG School’s Programme’ and has printed an article about the team in the school magazine, raising the profile of the sport and team further still with local kids.  Now that the team is into its first proper season, interest is really starting to take off, with fans from around the world starting to follow us on our Facebook page. It has been very exciting to see the level of interest rise from where we were 18 months ago when we weren’t even sure we could get the funding and backing to form an official team, through to the exposure being enjoyed by the team today! And I believe it will rise steadily right up until and through the Games.

MOI– I’ve played in Belfast, and know the home crowd are great, and they really get behind their teams! Do you think the knowledgeable Belfast hockey fans will be just the extra factor in supplying a lift for the Tridents at the WPFG?

Aaron Cuskeran scores for the Tridents.

KG – I think there is a definite advantage to being the home team. There’s nothing like the sound of supporters cheering you on to make you hustle harder for the puck in any zone, so I am hoping that the local supporters will be the added lift the team needs throughout the Games. Northern Ireland fans have a long history of unwavering support for their local teams even against what appears to be insurmountable odds. You only have to look at the loyalty and passion for the local Northern Ireland Football Team at every World or European Cup match.  Local hockey also enjoys massive support for the Belfast Giants, with many fans making personal sacrifices to attend the many away games on the mainland. So I really do think the same loyalty and passion will supply that extra lift for the Tridents throughout the competition.

MOI – With the tournament still being a good ways away, what are the most important things on your radar as the Team Captain?

KG – As you can imagine there is a long list of things on the team’s radar that need to be addressed in the next 18 months.  For me personally I see there are real challenges around gaining sufficient ice-time for the team to prepare properly with only one ice rink in Northern Ireland available for training. We know our competitors will be on the ice several times a week in the run up to the Games.  There is also a real challenge around gaining exposure to much needed ‘game’ experience within Northern Ireland and wider afield. We have had offers from hockey teams within the UK emergency services, the armed forces, and are looking to exploit these opportunities – but this all costs money for the team members. I suppose finally, one of the things that is most on my radar in this regard is continuing to build and expand the profile of the team in an effort to obtain the much needed sponsorship and support to allow the members of the team to gain this needed exposure.

MOI– And finally Kyle, 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?

The NI Tridents will play in the biggest event Belfast has ever hosted.

KG – The one thing that the fans can expect is that the team will give 100% in every period we play, from the first face-off until the last second of the final period, we will be out there to show the hockey world what the Tridents are made of.  The 2013 World Police and Fire Games is quite simply the biggest sporting event ever to hit these shores with 10,000 competitors and 15,000 family, friends and supporters expected. And because of the huge following for hockey in North America and Europe, the Tridents can expect to be right at the centre of attention in the local Games.  Hockey fans can expect a fully loaded competition with many teams from across the world planning on attending the local Games, so for those hockey fans who don’t normally get as much hockey as they would like, the 10 days of the Games should be a highlight for their calendars.  We cannot guarantee what the placing will be against the more experienced nations, but we can guarantee that the Tridents will display all of the passion and spirit associated with hockey, and that hockey won’t be the same in Northern Ireland after 2013!

MOI – Sounds good! Thanks again Kyle, this has been a pleasure. Good luck to the Tridents with all the preparations and of course the Games!.

KG – Thanks Murph, my pleasure! Hopefully we’ll see you over here for the event!

“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.

You can follow Murph on Twitter @MurphOnIce

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