The off-ice report

Wednesday, 27th April 2005

Shaun Johnson has put his name on the dotted line for the Newcastle Vipers and will be icing in his second season for the team this year. The forward from Durham signed with the Vipers last season after spending a year with the Coventry Blaze.

Johnson is looking forward to the challenge of EIHL competition: "It was a pretty straightforward decision to sign up for another year. I spoke with Rob (Wilson) and I like what he's saying about the team we're going to have next season. The Elite League is a big step up, but the Vipers will have a very competitive roster that's for sure."

London Racers have retained the services of their Brit Pack for next season, with Adam Dobson, Matt Foord and former Phoenixers Jason Hewitt and Mark Thomas signing up for a second season under coach Dennis Maxwell. Maxwell is keen to stress the benefits of home-grown talent: "This is one of the first steps towards next year. All of these guys worked hard for us and we knew we wanted them back. It is always important to have a valuable British contingency."

Basingstoke's swift move in signing young Brit Mark Richardson appeared last week to be the signing of the off-season, but it now seems that the deal is off and Richardson won't be icing for the Bison this year. Having announced at the Bison Fans' Forum last week that Richardson had joined the club, the Bison were left in the lurch when the youngster decided not to sign the deal on his return from Hungary where he has been representing Great Britain in the World Championship Division One Group A competition.

Bison Coach Mark Bernard couldn't hide his disappointment with the young Brit: "I normally never release a player 'til his name has been signed but I really trusted Mark and we thought this would be an exciting announcement for the supporters at the Fan's Forum. I guess I learned a lession. The one thing I will say is that I'm very big on having players with character and it's better to find this out now and not later. Hockey is a very small world and if a player doesn't want to play here that's fine, but don't agree to a deal and even have the deal released only to back out of it because something better might come your way."

Richardson's efforts in Hungary with the Great Britain team did provide some success at the World Championship Division One, with GB retaining their Division One status. GB beat China 10-0 in their final game, a result which saw the freshly promoted Chinese team instantly relegated again. The British team had been narrowly pipped by Japan in a 5-3 game, but Great Britain also caused one of the upsets of the tournament with a 3-0 win over the hosts Hungary, which was a much-needed result after their 8-3 defeat at the hands of Norway earlier in the week.

by Richard Allan

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