2007/08 season preview

Thursday, 30th August 2007

Welcome to the start of a series of reviews, big match previews, and league roundups across the 2007/08 Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) season all from a fans point of view exclusively here at the Official Manchester Phoenix Web Site.

Never have I in recent years, anticipated the start of the season so much that it is starting to affect my everyday life! (Not in a bad way I might add) I have a copy of the Phoenix fixture list stuck to my desk at work… I have one in my wallet so I don’t double book myself on a Home game… I have one on my desk at home to hint at my girlfriend that we shouldn’t really be going shopping at 5:30pm on a Sunday. It’s the same with all fans I have spoken to recently, we’ve got the ice hockey bug and got it for life. This game is infectious.

I’ve been learning to skate in the off season, it’s not being going well, and to tell you the truth I am useless. Honestly, I can go one way round with reasonable speed but anything else and its wobbly knees time. As you can imagine the point I’m making is that, I have a greater respect and understanding of what these ice hockey players do. To pull out all the stops every single match night is astonishing; add a splash of skill, speed and attacking flare with players ready to “mix it up” with you on the boards (imagine big Brett Clouthier skating at you or to a lesser extent Jeremy Cornish!) it just makes me wonder how they get their energy. It’s not a myth that ice hockey players are some of the fittest athletes out there, they have to be. I love this game, and the start of what is shaping up to be, the best elite league season to date is mouth-watering.

Every team has strengthened and retained some of their talent. From big spending Coventry to hard working Edinburgh, Adam Calder returning with the Blaze, Mike Stutzal and JF Perras are two very astute and key signing for the Capitals.

Brad Patterson is returning to the UK with Rick Strachan’s Stingrays. Hull look, as ever, a difficult team to play against and my pick to make upsets a more regular occurrence. The vipers have brought in hard working and fan favourite Derek Campbell for a more attack minded Newcastle side.

Steve Melanson, an Ex-NHL D-Man has signed for what looks like an improved Basingstoke side. A surprise package perhaps?

Things are on the up after a change of owner at Cardiff bay. They are looking at improving on a successful season for the blue-tent-ers (my new nick name for Cardiff’s temporary ice facility). The Devils finished with a heartbreaking loss in the playoff final, but with rink problems just like the Phoenix, a playoff final slot and the British KO cup was deemed a success. Are Brad Voth and Co. the right men for the job of bringing more silverware to South Wales?

How will Ed Courtenay’s Belfast cope without Jason Ruff? The answer on paper looks good, although you never win anything with paper.

Tony Hand is lacing them up again for one more season and with Ex-NHL netminder Scott Fankhouser tending the net, the Phoenix look to improve on their defence. Manchester had an almighty dollop of bad luck last season and at times it looked bleak for one of the founders of the EIHL. A hard working and passionate team coupled with an extraordinary group of fans, owners and staff kept the faith and turned in almost 50/50 hockey with every game as exiting as the last. Phoenix will look to replicate the passionate hockey from last season and wave goodbye to bad luck off the ice.

Johan Molin has been snapped up by the current Elite league playoff champions Nottingham Panthers who are looking like the team to beat on paper, although History shows that retaining the title is a tall order. A special mention for our “friends” from over the Pennines as the Steelers have there first visit to the Altrincham Ice Dome this weekend in a challenge match up. By Sheffield’s standards, last season was not the best; failing to reach the playoff weekend and not picking up any silverware. A big sponsor and renewed enthusiasm sees a Sheffield team looking refreshed and raring to go for this season. The War of the Roses match ups are always tantalising and highlighted on my numerous fixture lists. I’m looking forward to this weekend’s double header against our old rivals, but not as much as I’m looking forward to an exciting, fast paced and exhilarating season.

My Prediction for Elite League Standings:

  1. Blaze
  2. Panthers
  3. Steelers
  4. Phoenix
  5. Devils
  6. Vipers
  7. Giants
  8. Bison
  9. Stingrays
  10. Capitals

Ben Haddock