Well it’s not far away now is it? The teams are fine tuning their preparations, playing the odd exhibition game here and there, ahead of the new season. 30 weeks of blood, sweat and probably plenty of tears await us as hockey fans. I’ve dissected each team and offered my own unique insight on them. Here we have, the 2018=19 season preview.
Belfast Giants: Adam Keefe’s Giants faded away from the title race badly when they were in contention last season, although they did win the Challenge Cup. As usual, the Giants have re-signed a lot of old faces and brought in a few new recruits such as 400 game NHL veteran Patrick Dwyer whom a lot of Giants fans have high hopes for. The recruitment of Tyler Beskorowany if he stays fit could be crucial. Key Man: Tyler Beskorowany.
Cardiff Devils: The team that is the benchmark for everyone who is chasing. The Devils have kept a large core of the team that has brought them the success they have enjoyed the last two seasons, seems to be a Todd Kelman trait eh? They have added three new faces to the roster this season; all of high quality and experience. They will again be the team to beat in my opinion even if Tom Parisi walked out on them after just four days. Key Man: Mike Hedden.
Coventry Blaze: It’s been a few seasons of struggle for the four time EIHL champions, and those glory days seem a distant memory. Losing both Jordan Pietrus and Kevin Nastiuk are two major losses for the Blaze, but can they recover from them? After two trophy-less seasons, could this be Danny Stewart’s last chance saloon? If it isn’t then he seems to be a cat with nine lives. Blaze supporters deserve better than this. Key Man: Luke Ferrara.
Dundee Stars: The Stars have done a lot of reshaping of their squad again; just like most teams do. They are, however, especially on home ice a team that is capable of springing a surprise to anyone regardless where they lie in the table. The word unpredictable definitely sums up them. It’ll be interesting to see what they do this season. Key Man: Matt Marquardt.
Fife Flyers: Leaving your signing announcements to the last proverbial minute is hardly the best way to keep your supporters happy is it? But that’s how the Flyers have done it and if that’s the best way in their eyes then so be it. They had a great season last year but might find it hard to replicate that in the one big league format. A team to be wary of; especially in “The Auld Barn”. Key Man: Shane Owen.
Glasgow Clan: New name, new head coach, new team. After the season from hell, the Clan will be hoping for much better fortunes all round in 18-19. Whether Pete Russell, home boy, can re-create the good times for the Purple Army is open to question but it won’t be for want of trying. A lot will rely on the Beca-Pitt partnership up front and the newly appointed captain Zack Fitzgerald. Key Man: Matt Beca.
Will anyone deny these a three-peat?
Guildford Flames: One of last season’s surprise packets especially in their début campaign. Flames have done incredibly to keep hold of the likes of Calle Ackered, John Dunbar and Kruise Reddick as well as to tie them down to new two-year deals. There could be another season of surprises in Surrey, and teams will find it hard to break them down. Key Man: John Dunbar.
Manchester Storm: The Storm have lost a number of key players in the close season and replacing them could be the biggest challenge that presents itself to Ryan Finnerty in the confines of the Storm Shelter. Like most sides who do well one season, the second season syndrome is the next stage of their development. Can they replicate it? A top half finish will be a success in my eyes. Key Man: Mike Hammond.
Milton Keynes Lightning: It was a hard first season for the Lightning in the EIHL. Whilst they enjoyed some cracking results, winning both home games against the Steelers stands out like a beacon, they also had a number of blips. A massively reshaped squad sees former NHLer Tim Wallace join them after a less than impressive campaign in Sheffield as part of an overhaul. Can Doug McKay take hockey in MK to a new level? We will wait and see. Key Man: Eric Neiley.
Nottingham Panthers: If the season was decided on pre-season games alone then the Panthers would be celebrating. They’ve built a roster that seems hungry and ready to bring the glory days back to the Lace City. But Panthers supporters have heard this many times before and seen them fall by the wayside when it comes on the crunch. Rich Chernomaz has done the talk, can he also do the walk (of success)? Key Man: Brett Perlini.
Sheffield Steelers: Last season was a season of frustration for Steelers supporters, the word inconsistent pretty much summed it up. General Manager/Head Coach Paul Thompson is now in season four of his three year plan if anyone wants to get picky and despite the mass team overhaul he has undertaken; there are still large sections of the Steelers fan base who remain unconvinced that he is the right man to be in charge. Thompson has to start delivering or the Steelers face being cast adrift. Key Man: Evan McGrath.
So who are my picks this season for glory? Well I’m going League: Cardiff, Challenge Cup: Nottingham and Play-Offs: Cardiff. I seldom get it right but we’ll see. What do you think?