Brian Stewart is what some might call a veteran goalie in the Elite League. If you look through the lists of import goalies who come and play here, most only last a year and some, not even that. Following some of the interviews with the Elite League goalies this season, I can definitely see why that is the case.
Ervins Mustukovs, Latvian native and two time player for the Sheffield Steelers. The 32 year old netminder came back to Sheffield at the beginning of this season after being invited by coach Paul Thompson with an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Continue reading Behind the Mask #6 | Ervins Mustukovs: Sheffield Steelers
When you type ‘Ryan Dingle’ into Google, not a great deal comes up. Elite Prospects, his Wikipedia entry and a couple of articles from the past summer about his re-signing with the Fife Flyers and earning the Captain’s C. Pretty much the usual suspects really and nothing that outwardly screamed ‘read me’. There doesn’t really seem to be much in the way of media surrounding the Steamboat Springs, USA native – which considering his role did throw me for a minute.
A little while ago now, I asked some of the Coventry Blaze players about their furry family members and Jim Jorgensen was kind enough to share some photos with me of his adorable French Bulldog Fleetwood Mac.
So of course I asked Jim about this adorable little cutie!
This photo is the first time that I had ever seen who would become Fleetwood Mac. We were playing in France that season and my coaches wife drove me to the breeders. She was my translator! Alekz was still back home so I had to send pics and obviously we both fell in love with him instantly. So Fleet is an authentic French Bulldog, but sadly left France before he learned any French.
Do you have any furry companions? Share some of their baby pictures today with the hashtag #nationalpuppyday
Recently, I came across the a photo of Miika playing for the New York Rangers. It peaked my interest and I couldn’t find anything about his time with the Rangers. At the time I shared it on my social media, wondering if anyone who followed me had known he’d been signed to the team.
A couple of people guessed it was Miika as I just played a game of “Guess the Goalie” with them. If I couldn’t find anything online about his time with the team, then who better to ask that the man himself.
As a goalie with an awful lot of experience playing all over the world I wanted to ask more about his time in the NHL and playing for various AHL teams.
Considering Wiikman was never drafted; which is how most goalies come to play in the National Hockey league of course the question cam in regards to playing there, curiousity with these things, always gets the better of me.
“How did that come about?” I ask. “Playing for the New York Rangers, I mean.”
“Well I won a championship in Finland. They wanted to sign an AHL contract with me but the team wouldn’t let me go in Finland so I had to play one more year to sign a contract with them.” It all sounds a little familiar. European leagues not allowing some of the best players to go right away.
“So I played the extra year and then I signed an AHL contract and played really well in my first year and then they offered me a two year NHL, two way deal.” Sounds easy enough doesn’t it?
“I played there for three years total, played a couple of exhibition games, never got a chance in the NHL because Lundqvist was never sick or injured. Henrik was playing really well back then so there was no reason to bring up a goalie from the AHL. You have to be in the right place at the right time, that’s all it is really.”
“And Lundqvist?” I asked, leaning in with interest. Henrik is one of my favourites, you hear stories of him but he seems so untouchable at times.
“He’s been a bit up and down the last season but he’s still probably the best goalie I’ve ever seen in practise and yeah, I’ve practised with him a bit.”
I of course wondered if he’d got the meet the King himself, perhaps learn from him or have a share in his wisdom on the game.
“He’s a different kind of guy, he does his own stuff. He’s special for sure. He doesn’t interact with other people a lot. He’s got so much stuff going on off the ice too. I mean he’s got his modelling thing, his foundation, he plays tennis with McEnroe, he plays guitar in a band and stuff like that so yeah, he’s really nice guy for sure, but it’s hard to get a grip on him.”
Somehow that doesn’t really surprise me. I move on to his days with their affiliate instead. Wondering if he got to play with any of the goalies I liked in the NHL or if he still watched them to encorporate anything they do into his game.
“I do my own thing mostly, but of course I watch the NHL goalies too, there’s always something you can try. I’m always open for new stuff and I’ma pretty quick learner too so it’s pretty easy for me to put that into my game and try it.”
“One guy I’ve been watching a lot lately is Bobrovsky in Columbus and obviously Holtby.”
I chuckle nervously. “My favourite.” I say quietly and Mikka laughs. “I know, I’ve seen your twitter.”
“I actually played against him in the East Coast, I beat him 7-0. He was in South Carolina and I was with Charlotte but I remember playing against him.
I have played against a lot of those guys who are in the NHL right now, Halak, Rask. I played against Rask a lot in the Finnish league. Quick, all those guys and it’s just crazy how close to the NHL I’ve actually been.
When I start thinking about it but like I said you have to be in the right place at the right time and make good choices of course.”
A little while back now, during his most recent tour Justin Bieber came and skated with the Manchester Storm. Having seen the video below and knowing that Mike was involved in that, I wanted to ask him a bit about the experience and he was more than happy to talk to me about it.
Jared Staal, at a mere 26 years old is the youngest of the four Staal brothers. Having played his time in the NHL with his brothers he’s since upped sticks and moved to the Scottish capital. Playing on the right wing for the Edinburgh Capitals, he cuts an impressive figure on the ice. Drafted 49th overall by the Arizona Coyotes in the 2008 NHL draft, critics could only imagine that he’d go on to be as successful as his older siblings.
Mike Clemente has played goalie for 20 years, from playing in North America in the AHL, college hockey at Brown University to playing in Denmark and now in the UK’s Elite League, he has many stories to tell about his time playing the game we all know and love.
Title image credit: Panthers Images
Miika Wiikman is in his second season with the GMB Nottingham Panthers and is arguably one of the best net-minders in the Elite Ice Hockey League. This season he has won silverware for the club along with the rest of the team and secured the Continental Cup for the Panthers, making them one of the first British clubs to ever do so as well as qualifying for the Champions Hockey League for next season. Though as always, this interview seeks to take you Behind the Mask and into the mind somewhat of the man who wears it.
Zack Fitzgerald, or Fitzy as he’s so often reffered to as, is a player who divides opinion. Some fans love him (particularly those in Orange!) and some cannot stand him. To look at his stats he doesn’t look like much. Two goals this season so far and not quite as penalty minutes as his fellow Steeler Guillaume Desbiens, some might argue that he’s simply there to rile up the opposition and cause them to make mistakes.