Ok, so yesterdays post was a glass half empty kind of deal. Let's get the sunnies out, enjoy the sunshine and fill that glass up. There be silver linings to those clouds!
You will have seen on social media, in the days after the Stingrays went under a fan launched a kickstarter campaign to bring back hockey in Hull. Those efforts have seemingly been rewarded and, an ownership group lead by Shane Smith (of the Steeldogs) has stepped in to run an EPL team in Hull. Welcome the Hull Pirates! Out of this messy summer it looks like the EIHL and EPL will run with 10 teams each this coming season. This is great news for the guys in Hull, many fans I have got to know over the years they will make an EPL team a success I know it! As of writing the Pirates had announced their first signing in Sam Towner, GB under 20 international, Hull native and a player who had signed with the Stingrays for the coming season joins player coach Dominic Osman on the Pirates roster.
Another brief titbit, Red Hockey continued their investment in British Ice Hockey by purchasing a 100% stake in the Deeside Dragons. The team who will share their ice with the Phoenix for the 15/16 season. Red Hockey's aims with the Dragons is to strengthen them and, possibly, work them up to becoming an EPL team.
Finishing off this post, in a positive way, its time to talk about the Phoenix 15/16 squad which, despite the off-ice issues is being built a pace. It must be said that, every play who has signed and, talking to a player earlier in the summer. The prospect of playing a season in Deeside has not been an issue in signing on the dotted line at all.
Anyway, onto the roster (correct as of 9th July)
#31 Stephen Fone - A stalwart of the Phoenix now, a player icing his 7th season for the Phoenix between the pipes, Fone is established as one of the best goalies in the EPL. Despite his GAA increasing during last season, he actually had his best save % since going full time with the Phoenix. That leaky defence obviously letting through more shots! Having Declan Ryan as competition will have helped push Fone on during the season. I hope for 15/16 he can carry on his form and backstop the Phoenix to further success.
#4 Luke Boothroyd - Captain Fantastic, #Bootherscoringmachine, just a few ways Phoenix fans like to describe their captain. Luke is returning for his 8th season in Phoenix colours, being named Captain for 6 of those seasons. Luke is one of the few EPL British players who could probably hold their own in the EIHL. A cool head, immensely strong despite his size, you notice his influence on the ice and off it. A freak off ice injury ended his 14/15 season early and you could see the Phoenix struggle on the ice without him. 14/15 will be a season he wants to forget, 15/16 should see the return of the captain we know and love.
#5 Benjamin Russell - Ben comes to the Phoenix from three seasons with the MK Lightning and some junior hockey in North America. He seems to be excited to play in Manchester and, Tony Hand obviously sees promise in him so, I will be excited to see what he can bring to the Phoenix blue line.
#12 James Neil - James Neil has been around forever it seems so, it is amazing to know he is still only 25! 15/16 will be his 7th season in Phoenix colours, a player who is loved by the Phoenix fans and a guy who always has time to talk to anyone about anything. Despite his small stature Neil is a damn hard worker on the ice and a very competent defenceman. He's one of those players you always expect to be there but, always miss when he is not. Another player on last seasons Phoenix roster who lost games to injury, hopefully 15/16 will be better on that front!
#15 Ben Wood - 'Gino' has been playing hockey in the North West since 2002, now a 'veteran' of 27 and one of the Phoenix longest serving players, Ben returns to the Phoenix to ice his 8th season. Speaking to the guy off the ice, signing on for another year was a no-brainer for be. Ben has worked his way up through the junior levels to establish himself as an ever reliable defenceman for the Phoenix. Possessing height, an awesome ability to hit the body and a wicked wrist shot Ben has been slowly proving his worth to the Phoenix. More of the same please Ben!
#44 Mark Thomas - Mark is a stellar signing for the Phoenix the Stockport native returns to his roots in signing for the Phoenix for the new season. Starting his career with the Altrincham Tigers, rising up to ice for the Phoenix in the EIHL, Thomas has played much of his recent career over t'hills with the Sheffield Steelers. During his time winning the EIHL title and playoff trophies amongst others, Thomas brings a wealth of experience, skill and leadership to the Phoenix blue line. Thomas will be in the top line D pairing, possibly with an import D or, with Boothroyd would be my guess! Looking forward to seeing him in Phoenix colours.
#2 James Archer - Currently filling his summer playing for Team GB in the inline hockey championships Arch returns to the Phoenix for his 6th season. Arch has usually filled the 2nd line winger spot and been very productive in that position. He works hard, is skillfull and has a good shot. When Michal Psurny's season was finished Arch did see some time on the top line with Tony Hand. Yet another player who lost games to injury im sure Archer will want to put 14/15 behind him and have a good new season.
#62 Jacob Corson-Heron - He has only played a season and a half for the Phoenix, much of his 14/15 season was lost to injury but, in the games he did play. The Phoenix faithful saw his qualities and worth to the team. Despite his small stature, Croson-Heron has speed to burn and a complete disregard for his own safety! He is a player I didn't expect to see back this season so, am really happy he is coming back!
#66 Robin Kovar - After hearing rumours about Kovar towards the end of his first season in Manchester, it will always surprise me when he signs on for another season in Manchester. Robin is hugely talented, ridiculously strong and all you want in an import forward. Possibly a little selfish at times but, you could argue, the best forwards often are! Over two full seasons with the Phoenix Robin has put up consistent numbers and with, perhaps, more of a staring role on the Ice (due to Tony's retirement) I expect Robin to have an excellent 15/16 season. Who needs Batman, we've got Robin........indeed!
#TBC - Gareth O'Flaherty - A guy Phoenix fans are familiar with, despite the 15/16 season being his first offical season for the Phoenix. Gareth spent the 14/15 season on a three way deal with the Blaze EIHL and ENL teams and the Manchester Phoenix. He iced twice for the Phoenix and, I remember being impressed with him. He brings some new blood into the Phoenix locker room, im looking forward to how he plays this coming season.
So that's the Phoenix summer so far, I hope it has been an interesting read. I know you will disagree with some or all of it, that's ok. Like I said, its just how I feel, I make no apologies for that! I hope to do a few more posts throughout the summer as the Phoenix roster becomes clearer and, hopefully, we get more clarity on the future of the Phoenix. All that's left to say is, enjoy the summer, enjoy your holidays, before you know it, it will be september already!