I like a challenge and when Richard “The Rev” Allan set me the task of writing a series of articles on the Phoenix players from last season, where they are now and what they are doing, I got to work straight away. I guess we all know about the players who have signed for clubs in the UK this season, so I figured it would be more interesting for the fans and more of a challenge for me, to contact a player who isn’t in the UK at the moment.
One of the most popular players from last season was D-man, Mike Lankshear, who likes to be known as “Lanx”. I was lucky enough to catch up with him during the Xmas break and get all his up-to-date news, since he left Manchester at the start of the summer.
Diane Daley - Mike, you've played for Le Saint-Francois de Sherbrooke and then Kansas City Outlaws. Why the change of club and how’s your season going so far?
Mike Lankshear - Sherbrooke treated us very well and was an excellent spot but it is also the toughest hockey league in the world as many may already know and when things get ugly on the ice, they really get ugly. At this time in my career and my style of play, I think a move was in order. It was a tough change but I felt at this point in my career, it would be better for myself and my wife to move to another league. I was hoping to play back in the UK but I didn’t have time at this point to wait and see what teams wanted to do, so we made the move to the States.
In Kansas City we started off as the top team in the league and were unbeatable for a month or so and then things slowly changed. We would win one, then lose one, win one lose one and then we went on a slide, losing a lot of games in a row and that put us near the bottom of the league in the standings. We know we have an excellent team but a young team so with that comes the learning curve.
Now just recently I have made a decision to not play hockey professionally for the rest of this season due to the cost of the off ice insurance in the UHL. My wife and I are having a baby and planned on having it in the United States but it will cost us a whole lot more than we planned on spending to have the baby there. We made a tough decision to move back home to Canada to have the baby where it won’t cost anything. Kansas City were very understanding of the situation and as we all know in the hockey world, family does come first.
The story gets even better.. After being home for just over a week, I received a phone call from the general manager. He told me that they had traded my rights to Richmond, also in the UHL along with three other players. It ended up being a huge 8 player trade which was a little surprising to me and some of the other players involved. This doesn’t affect me at all because I’m not going to play for the rest of this year which Kansas City knew so at least they get a player in return to fill the empty roster spot. I would say that this has been a very busy year so far!
DD - How will fatherhood change your life, both at home and from the playing point of view?
ML - Laura is due on the 24th of February. My prediction is March 1st for the arrival. It will definitely consume a lot more of my time that’s for sure. I want to be very involved in its life and I plan on doing that from day one. As for affecting the playing point of view, I don’t think it will. I still plan on playing so I guess it depends on the team and if they want me and my family there. The moving aspect won’t be a problem because it won’t be old enough for school yet. We always agreed that once the child was in school, I wouldn’t play anymore because in hockey you never know if you’re going to be in the same place and on the same team year to year and trades also happen. I don’t want to move my son or daughter from school to school. I have really mellowed out as for the off ice stuff over the years, but I still like to have my fun and I will continue to do that while still being responsible.
DD - Where do you see your career going in the next few years?
ML - Well I am hoping to return to the UK as soon as possible, I am having withdrawls already... haha! Really though, I see myself back there by next season if I have anything to say about it! I would like to finish my career in the UK and to be more specific, Manchester. I have nothing but good things to say about my time spent in Manchester and my wife has the same feelings. Get that rink built!
DD - How is the NHL lockout affecting other hockey leagues in North America?
ML - I think in North America it has benefited the leagues. Not too many players have signed with teams but there have been some. It has brought in more fans to teams that usually don’t draw as many as they would like and made the leagues better obviously with their skill and work ethic, which rubs off on the other players.
DD - Does this make it tougher for players to keep their place on the roster?
ML - Yes if definitely makes it tougher for players to keep their place on the roster. As I stated above in North America it has not been too drastic because there haven’t been too many signings so only a handful of players have been bumped out of a place on the team. In other countries it has definitely made it harder. Some teams have four or five guys from the NHL so there is a bigger effect both on players getting shafted and not being on a team at all, and also some salary cuts I’m sure, to make room for the NHL’ ers. Those guys don’t get paid peanuts. It also makes it very tough for the lower budget teams to compete with the big dogs at the top of the league who bring in all the money and that can afford these guys.
DD - Do you think the NHL lockout will be resolved this season?
ML - The way things are looking right now I would have to say no. I thought maybe at one time things were going to be settled and I was thinking around Jan things would be settled and the games would proceed but now I think not which is too bad.
DD -Do you have any plans for “life after hockey”?
ML - Yes I do. My plan is to be a police officer in Ontario. I’m planning on doing my written and physical testing as soon as the hockey season is finished this year just to get the ball rolling because you never know what’s going to happen in hockey and I have a wife and kid on the way to think about as well.
DD - Have you kept up to date with what the other Phoenix players from last year have been doing this season?
ML - Earlier in the season I tried my best to track down the players to see how they were doing and what team each one was playing on. I keep in touch with Platt and Awada through e-mails and Thomas a little bit during the summer. That’s really it from the personal contact with some of the guys but I do check team websites to see how the others are doing. Hopefully a lot of us can re-unite one day in a Phoenix jersey.
DD - Finally Mike, do you have a message for the Manchester Phoenix fans?
ML - I would just like to say hello and to say that they were really great throughout the entire season and were very supportive. There were many changes, including a lot of player changes that took place during the season but they still backed us and kept on supporting. They did everything they could to bring hockey back to Manchester before it all got started and I was happy to be a part of it and I know that many of the other players were as well. We all know how much hard work was also put into keeping the club running behind the scenes and throughout the season from people who actually were employed with the Phoenix and people who just wanted to help and give support, the fans. I don’t want to list everyone’s names but you know who you are and so does everyone else. Your hard work is greatly appreciated by all and wasn’t unnoticed. I hope to see you all very soon.
My sincere thanks to “Lanx” for taking the time to answer my questions and of course everyone’s best wishes to Mike and Laura on their impending new arrival. News will be posted on the official Phoenix Forum as soon as we hear anything!
More news soon…. from “The Menace”!
By Diane Daley
If you believe in a dream for long enough it becomes reality - Neil Morris - April 2003.