David Clements is a Coventry boy, born and bred. He’s been a part of the Coventry Blaze for most of his adult playing carer with just a short stint with the MK Lightning before they rose to play in the Elite League.
This season started well for the 16-17 Elite league champions and their fans have seen them win their conference and ultimately the league title.
Mike Clemente grew in Great Falls, Virginia. From a young age, he wanted to be a netminder. Growing up he idolised Ollie Kolzig, who played at the time for the Washington Capitals, Clemente’s closest NHL team growing up. It was meeting his idol at a young age that meant that Clemente pursued his love of hockey and being an netminder.
Brython Preece. Known to his teammates as Preecey or Giraffe and to some fans as Dave… the Welsh goalie is 19 and embarking on his first professional season with the Blaze, backing up Canadian Kevin Nastiuk.
I’ve never met another Brython so I just had to ask about the pronunciation of his name. The y is more like the i in Britain. His middle name, in case you were curious, is the very easy to pronounce Mark. His brother James also plays hockey and used to play on a two way deal with the Blaze from the Telford Tigers, he got the middle name Tomas, which isn’t pronounced like Thomas. Just to make things interesting!
Following his brothers footsteps took him to the family run Ontario Hockey Camp. He liked the way the academy was run but says it was very much a case of being thrown in at the deep end. From being away from Mum and Dad for the first time to simply traveling and maneuvering an airport on his own, he says it was the first time he had to be responsible for himself. While out there, he not only spent time on the ice training but came away with a whopping 8 A-levels, studying PE, the single sciences as well as a few others. English was his favourite and he has enjoyed reading some of the English classics. Getting up in the morning for classes and keeping his bedroom tidy were two of the hardest things he had to learn to do as he claims to be one of the messiest people, but the school was run in such a way that if you didn’t go to classes, you didn’t get to go on the ice so lay ins weren’t an option.
When talking to Brython about playing goalie, he had fond memories of the early days of playing in the Cardiff Academy. He always wanted to be a goalie and his parents still have his first pair of tiny pads. He says he wasn’t always the tall kid and that when he was younger he was actually quite small and so he’s deceptively quicker than his height might suggest as his growth spurt never really changed the way he played. He still plays like the small kid, even now he’s 6ft 5! When asked about the way fans have come to perceive goalies as being ‘weird’ he laughed.
“I don’t get why they think we’re weird or crazy.. We wear full face masks, more padding and don’t fight. We’re the sensible ones.”
I asked about how his relationship had developed with Nastiuk and whether the older goalie had given him any advice. “Not so much advice, I mean not in the beginning anyway. It was more support from a guy who had been where I am now 10 or so years ago. He knows what I’m dealing with and can be there for me in a way most of the other players can’t.”
He thinks it’s extremely important for a young talent to have the direction of a goalie coach. He explains that the job of a goalie specific coach isn’t quite the same as a coach for the rest of the team and not only encompasses the mechanics of actually playing the game but also covers development on a more personal level as well. “The work is there but it isn’t such a pressure or a strict relationship and it’s far more relaxed. Which really helps.” Brython goes on to discuss the mental side of being a goalie. “If you’re playing your absolute best and someone scores on you, it makes you angry and annoyed but if you know you’re not playing your best, you can laugh it off and think, well you got one, but you won’t get any more.”
When the time came to set foot onto the ice in his first professional game, I asked him about his thoughts when he was on the bench. “Everyone said I looked really confident afterwards. I just treated it like any other game. I got into it and acted like there was no pressure… If I worried about it or got too much pressure on myself then in goal, you notice it. If there’s no pressure on myself then I can only do what I can do.”
Brython is so far enjoying his first season within a professional team and was surprised with how well he has kept up. Talking to him, I can tell he has a stellar work ethic and a will to succeed. He is an asset to the Blaze and a player we can all depend on to always do his best. It was such a pleasure to sit down with Brython and I look forward to seeing him on the ice more during the season.
This article was first published in the November 2017 edition of the Coventry Blaze’s match night program OnFire and has been reproduced here with permission from the editor Stu Coles now the program is out of print.
Of the four seasons of hockey, preseason, regular season, post season and offseason, offseason is the one that all hockey fans dread in equal measure regardless of their teams success in the months previous. It always brings a lot of chance to the rosters we know and love. That is without question. This edition of Them Over There focusses on two of our [Coventry Blaze] competitive opponents in September, the Manchester Storm and Braehead Clan.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How much do we really know about what Coventry Blaze’s Kevin Noble has been up to this offseason? I took a few minutes to chat with Kevin about friends, hockey, surfing and going down under.