This week some of the best hockey players and influencers had the honour of being inducted into the prestigious Hockey Hall of Fame, where the plaque to commemorate them will hang among the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr and many other hockey greats.
So that got me thinking, what if there was a Hall of Fame in the EIHL, and rather than spend the time dividing opinion that much among an entire league fan base, why not focus in on my local team. Also, it’s a fan base that seems to need cheering up so hopefully this helps.
What if there was a Hall of Fame for Cardiff Devils players. So that’s what I’m going to do, put forward my picks for the Devils HoF, with a twist. In the over 30 year history of the team, seven players have had their jerseys retired, so to me that’s seven guys already in.
So for that reason, I won’t be discussing why Doug McEwen, John Lawless, Jason Stone, Brian Dickson, Steve Moria, Brad Voth or Shannon Hope deserve to be included, I’ll focus on guys who’s jerseys haven’t been retired…yet.
Also not included in this list are any active Devils players/coaches as I think it’s fair to let them play out their time as a Devil before so we can discuss their overall achievements a few years down the line, so if any of you reply angrily asking why Joey Martin or Mark Richardson aren’t on this list, this paragraph you skipped explains why. (Besides come back in a few years and they’ll be a first ballot Hall of Famers)
Netminder – Stevie Lyle
What better player to start with than a local boy, during his lengthy career in UK Hockey, Stevie Lyle emerged young and quickly became one of the greatest British goaltenders of all time. During his time with the Cardiff Devils, he won several trophies, the first being the BISL Championship when he was still a teenager, also being named to the BISL First All Star Team, before winning the first of six British Netminder of the Year awards, a feat only Stephen Murphy of the Belfast Giants has managed more times with eight.
In 2017-18, Lyle was inducted into the British Ice Hockey Hall of Fame, so it makes little sense for him not to be included on our list.
Netminder – Jeff Smith
If you wander around Cardiff now you might see him about running his fantastic Big Moose Coffee shop. The things Jeff Smith has accomplished since his playing days have ended are incredible, but what he managed to do on the ice for the Devils is impressive in itself.
During his five years with the Devils between the 1987-88 season and 1991-92 season, backstopping the team to a league and playoff title in the 1989-90 season. While his stats don’t look overly impressive compared to the goaltending stats of today, this was at a point where players were putting up over 100 point seasons in less than 30 games in a period where scoring was at an unreal high.
His 135 appearances are fourth all time for a Devils goaltender, behind Stevie Lyle, Ben Bowns and Jason Wood. His heroics at Wembly in 1990 and his influence in the community since earn his spot in the Hall of Fame for me.
Netminder – Derek Herlofsky
While Stevie Lyle was emerging as a young star Brit in the UK, Derrick Herlofsky was the man helping him along the way during his four years as a Devil between 1997 and 2001. Coming in initially to share the crease with Frank Caprice (that wasn’t intended to rhyme), once Lyle returned from a stint in North America he played a huge part in developing the young Brit into the player he ended up becoming. During his tenure in the Devils net he helped the team to two second place finishes in the old BISL, as well as a playoff championship in the 1998/99 season.
Defence – Stephen Cooper
In 1988, a pair of brothers first joined the Cardiff Devils, and one ended up playing on defence for the team over the course of six seasons. Stephen Cooper was inducted into the British Ice Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003, and during his lengthy career was named Best British Defenceman a record 9 times, his résumé speaks volumes of why he’s worthy of a spot in the Devils Hall of Fame. Across 230 league and playoff games, Stephen Copper put up a huge 425 points in 230 games in a Devils jersey, good enough for 8th all-time, and the second most among blueliners behind Shannon Hope.
Defence – Kip Noble
Kip Noble spent six years playing hockey in the UK, spending a year with the Durham Wasps and Sheffield Steelers, but four of those were spent with the Devils between 1996-1999 and then another year in 2000-01. In each of his four years with Cardiff he was the leading defensive scorer, finishing top five in team scoring each year as well, being named to the BISL First All-Star Team twice, and to the Second All-Star Team once. Noble was also part of the 1996/97 league title Devils and 1998/99 playoff champions, and earns his spot as one of the defensemen I’m unofficial inducting into the Hall of Fame.
Defence – Andrew Hotham
The most recent Devil on the list, Hotham is just a year removed from his days on the Devils blue line. In his years in the EIHL he was the best defenseman every year, helping the Devils to an impressive run of trophies with two league titles, two challenge cups, three conference titles and a playoff title. His stature in the league was respected throughout every team, and his impact on the team on the ice and his contribution to the community with his influence to the Devils pride nights cannot be overlooked, and helps him earn a spot on this list.
Defence – Gerad Adams
During his years with the Cardiff Devils, Gerad Adams saw his role go from bulldozing defenseman to coach, and he managed to do well despite some difficult circumstances around the club. The way he was unceremoniously given the boot from the club (the year of his testimonial as well) is the only black mark on his time with the club that began in 2005 and lasted for 9 years, winning the Challenge Cup as a player and old Knockout Cup as player-coach. During his coaching reign, the Devils made three consecutive Playoff Finals, and managed to come close to the league title twice with a second and third place finish.
Forward – Ian Cooper
Joining the team with his brother Stephen, Ian Cooper also joins him in the Devils Hall of Fame after an impressive eight-year career for the South Wales side, which was just one part of the reason why he was inducted into the British Ice Hockey Hall of Fame in 2002. He’s the all-time points leader for a British player in Devils history and third overall behind Stevie Moria and Doug McEwen and there could even be grounds to have his number retired . Across 338 league and playoff games, Cooper posted a mammoth 787 points, including 366 goals to average over a goal per game, and an average of 2.328 points per game in total, and had five 100+ point seasons during his days as a Devil. As far as British players go, there a few who can match the heights Ian Cooper reached and I can’t see any argument against his inclusion on this list.
Forward – Scott Matzka
During his years in Cardiff, Scott Matzka was an incredible player, since the millennium, only two players have average more points per game than Matzka who averaged 1.318 a game finishing his two years as a Devil with 145 points in 110 games. A energetic forward with a keen eye for the net, Matzka was a true competitor on the ice and not afraid to get involved physically when he needed to, and he’s taken that fighting spirit into his post hockey life as he battles ALS, trying to raise awareness for the illness he is fighting, and I’m sure there will no questions about him deserving a spot on this list.
Forward – Max Birbraer
Still plying his trade in hockey with the Swindon Wildcats, Max Birbraer was a huge fan favourite during his time in the EIHL with the Devils which lasted from 2006 to 2014 with a one year gap when he spent time in Germany and Kazakhstan. He’s the Devils points’ leader in EIHL history (until Joey Martin catches up) and it wasn’t just his knack for getting on the scoresheet that made him worthy of a Hall of Fame nod. He was big and used it to his advantage making some crushing hits, as well as being a great character guy around the rink to both players and fans alike.
Forward – Ivan Matulik
A big dominant power forward who always played a physical game, Ivan Matulik was a fantastic all round forward, whether it was scoring, assisting or just laying a hit in the corner, his brand of hockey earned him the captaincy for the team between 1997 and 2001, and during his eight years with the Devils he helped them to a league title and playoff title. He posted 426 points in 448 league, playoff games and Autumn Cup and EIHL Cup games, and sits 10th in terms points in league and playoff action for Cardiff Devils all-time history, and growing up he was the guy I used to love to watch so was one of the first names who came to mind for me to include on this list.
Forward – Phil Hill
A home grown talent, Phil Hill was a long serving member of the Devils side after making his debut in the 2000-01 season. Since then he went on to make 522 appearances overall for his hometown club in a lengthy career that saw him feature prolifically for the National Side. In his over 500 appearances, Hill managed 295 points in a 13-year affiliation with the team.
Forward – Neil Francis
Another home grown player to eclipse 500 games for the club, and a person you can still see around the rink week in week out. Neil Francis was never the flashy guy on the ice, but his time with the club that began as a player in 1992 continues to this day as the team’s Director of Corporate Development. Given his influence on the team over the last 26-years, it’s hard to argue with Franny getting his induction to the Devils Hall of Fame.
Forward – Vezio Sacratini
In the late 90s and early 2000’s as I was growing up watching the Devils as a child, one player was a constant and that was Vezio Sacritini. A smaller forward who wasn’t afraid to play a big man’s game either with his gritty play or his mouth (which may have got him in trouble with my mum once upon a time), but his influence on the team during his years as a Devil are unquestionable.
So that’s our list, there will be some we’ve missed that you’d argue deserve a spot, so please don’t be afraid to get in touch in the comments or on social media to let us know who you’d put forward for the Cardiff Devils Hall of Fame.
Featured Image – WalesOnline.co.uk