The off-ice report

Wednesday, 22nd June 2005

Graham Belak will be following in brother Wade's footsteps this coming season, having signed for the Coventry Blaze. The Grand-Slamming Blaze featured Toronto Maple Leaf Wade Belak on their blue-line last season, thanks to the NHL lock-out, and Graham will be icing for the team as a forward. At six feet five inches tall, and weighing in at 230 pounds, Belak's role with the Blaze seems clear. "Graham could have had a shot at the NHL this year but for the lock-out," opines Blaze Coach Paul Thompson. "He is an intelligent player who knows his role and carried it out well. One of his former coaches said he goes into a fight as if it were a business meeting." Hopefully this doesn't mean he brings a briefcase with him onto the ice...

London Racers have added to their roster with the signing of left winger Scott Wray, who iced last season for the Hull Stingrays in the BNL. Wray had previously iced for the Amarillo Gorillas in the CHL and the Fort Worth Brahmas in the WPHL, and had returned to the Gorillas after his time at the Stingrays was over. Racers Player/Coach Dennis Maxwell knows the role that Wray will fill on the Racers squad, stating "Scott goes to the net hard and scores by getting lots of chances. That is definintely what we were missing last year, we need more traffic in front of the goal."

The Racers have also strengthened their 2005-2006 squad with the retaining of defenceman and Assistant Coach Jason Robinson, and Dennis Maxwell is very happy about keeping the longest-service Racer. "Robbie is the hardest hitter in the league," enthuses Maxwell. "He comes to each game or practice and gives one hundred percent, he expects nothing less from his team-mates and that is why he is so valuable."

After much speculation, Basingstoke Bison have confirmed the signing of forward Greg Chambers, who joins the Bison following a season with Varese HC in the Italian league. Bison Head Coach Mark Bernard is pleased with the team's latest acquisition, saying "I'm very excited about having Greg on board for this season, he has put up very impressive numbers in junior and in pro. I have no doubt he will come here and contribute to our offence right away. I have had nothing but glowing reports about Greg and he is very excited about bringing his game to the UK. I think this will be a great addition to the line-up and help us in an area where we struggled at times last year - putting the puck in!"

The Bison will be running without the services of Assistant Coach Jeff Flanagan this coming season, with Flanagan taking up the role of Assistant GM at the Powell River Kings of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League. Mark Bernard is philosophical about the team's loss, musing that "Jeff did a great job for me and the club but unfortunately that's what happens when you have first class people in your organisation, other teams want them."

Mike Blaisdell has wasted no time settling into his old job at Nottingham Panthers, getting two of last season's players to put pen to paper for the forthcoming season. Back-up netminder Geoff Woolhoouse and team captain Calle Carlsson are the first two players to sign for the Panthers for the 2005-2006 campaign, where the team are hoping to build on their impressive end to last season in which they made it all the way to the Play-Off Final only to be defeated in overtime by Coventry.

Coach Blaisdell saw the decision of re-signing Carlsson as a simple one, saying "This was a no-brainer, everyone knows exactly what you get with Calle. He turns up to play every night, you can't give him too much ice time, he just loves to play and train. He's been a big part of the Nottingham team and he has a big year ahead of him too!"

Carlsson himself is glad to be back, seeing Nottingham as his home. "It is no secret that I just got married and that we live in Nottingham," says Carlsson, "so I am thrilled to have done a deal to stay with the club that I enjoy playing for so much. It is a great city with great fans and with Mike in charge we all know it is going to be an exciting year."

Blasidell is equally pleased to retain Geoff Woolhouse, revealing "I know Geoff from his junior days, he is a great prospect with fabulous potential, it was recommended to me that we keep him on board and I had no hesitation in setting the wheels in motion and telling the club to get on with the signing. These two signings are both good ones for the club and the team has done well to get these guys on board."

by Richard Allan