Welcome to the start of a new feature that we are going to keep going between us all. We’re going to look at some EIHL Stars of the Past, those players who made quite an impact on us during their time on these shores. To make it even more interesting, some of the names might never have played for the team we individually support.
I bring you the first entry here, Jade Galbraith.
Gifted, unpredictable: those could be just two words that could describe Jade Galbraith. One minute he could win you a game on his own, the next he could disappear into anonymity and have no impact on a game whatsoever. Nobody could ever work him out, whether you be a team-mate, a coach or a fan even. He remains one of the Elite League’s most mercurial talents.
The Hinton native joined the professional ranks in 2002-03 after a productive final season in the junior ranks where he racked up 40 goals and 129 points for Drayton Valley Thunder in the Alberta Junior Hockey League and 203 penalty minutes in the regular season. Team-mates in that Thunder included Dustin Sproat who was briefly reunited with Galbraith a number of years later in the EIHL and Clarke McArthur who was drafted 74th overall in the third round of the 2003 draft by Buffalo and subsequently has appeared in almost 600 regular and post-season NHL games with the Sabres, Toronto and Ottawa. Notable opponents that season included Sheffield Steelers player/assistant coach Mark Matheson and the late Rick Rypien.
Jade Galbraith in action for the Belfast Giants select against the Boston Bruins in 2010. Photo Credit: Timo Savela
At the conclusion of that junior career, Galbraith’s first step as a professional was with the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies. He helped the Bullies to silverware in his only season there as they won the ECHL’s coveted Kelly Cup. Playing alongside him there were future British League acquisitions Scott Matzka (Cardiff), Paul Spadafora (Fife, when they were in the BNL), Shawn Maltby (Basingstoke and Sheffield), Jerry Galway (Basingstoke) and former Sheffield stars Steve Munn and Joe Talbot. He then spent the next three seasons bouncing around the ECHL, featuring for seven different sides in that period.
2006-07 would see Galbraith make his first trip out of North America as he linked up with SC Riessersee in the third tier of the DEL structure. Riessersee won the regular season but ended up empty handed as they were defeated at the semi-final stage of the post-season play-offs. Galbraith though was rewarded though personally as he picked up three awards: Best Winger, Highest Goalscorer (53 in 55 games, regular and post-season combined) and most prestigiously the league’s MVP. It was good enough to earn him a contract the following season in the top flight with Füchse Duisburg.
However, the Duisburg adventure didn’t last long as he moved down a division after just 6 games in which he had posted 3 points. His new home was EHC München where he picked up 39 points in just 44 games. This was enough to alert new Nottingham Panthers player-coach Corey Neilson to bring him to the EIHL in the latter’s début season in his new role. Galbraith wore 40 in his first season in the black and the gold but reverted to 13 for the next two, where he won two Challenge Cup titles. His points production increased each season with the Panthers too but at the end of the 2010-11 campaign, where former junior team-mate Sproat played alongside, he was not offered a new contract by Neilson.
The next step was a move north of the border to join the Braehead Clan, as they were known as, who were entering their second season as an EIHL franchise. It proved to be a landmark season on these shores for Galbraith as he notched an incredible 100 plus points campaign which saw him named in the EIHL First All-Star Team for the second time in three seasons and also the ultimate accolade of the EIHL Player of the Year. However, season two with the Clan as a combination of injuries and general fitness worries severely reduced his points production.
Galbraith was linked with a move to Sheffield Steelers at the conclusion of that second season but nothing materialised and he headed into Europe again after a planned move to Arizona Sundogs also fell through. He spent 2012-13 with the Heerenveen Flyers in the Dutch League and seemingly looked back to his best with more than a point a game for them. A return to the EIHL then appeared to be on the cards when Dundee announced his signing for the 2014-15 campaign but he was refused a visa due to a few concerns and eventually headed back to North America. He joined the Bentley Generals of the Chinook Hockey League and helped them to take the title. It proved to be his swansong too, as he hung the skates up at the season’s conclusion. He’s now 36, which in some terms is still pretty young for a hockey player but is no longer involved in hockey: these days he works for a Calgary based carpet cleaning company called Zamii Clean (thanks to Clan supporter Dave Rennie for the assistance with this).