The off-ice report

Thursday, 11th August 2005

The return of competition in the National Hockey League is a big boost to the sport, but the knock-on effects are being felt throughout the Elite League.  Last season's lock-out saw a glut of NHLers plying their trade with a variety of teams all around the world, including several who chose to play on these shores for Elite League and BNL teams.  Grand-Slammers Coventry Blaze will be without the services of blue-liner Wade Belak, who has signed a new contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, London Racers will be without Scott Nichol who has put pen to paper for the Nashville Predators having previously played for Chicago Blackhawks, Cardiff Devils have lost defenceman Rob Davison back to the San Jose Sharks and Elite League newcomers Newcastle Vipers have lost defenceman Chris McAllister to the Phoenix Coyotes.

It's not all been roster losses this week though, with some new faces arriving in the league as well as a few familiar ones coming back for another year.  Coventry have kept the services of Joel Poirier, with the forward signing for a fourth consecutive year with the Blaze.  With nearly 200 Blaze games under his belt, Poirier's value to the team is immediately apparent, having found the net over 80 times during his stay in Coventry.  Blaze Coach Paul Thompson is happy to see the forward's return, saying "You know what you are going to get from Joel every night.  Joel didn't always stand out and doesn't always get the acknolwedgement that he deserves, but he scored some big goals for us in the league last year.  He got a lot of third or fourth assists, winning the puck in the neutral zone for us and starting the move that led to a goal.  He does a lot of unselfish work and there aren't many games where you can find a bad performance from him."

Coventry have also bolstered their forward ranks with the signing of centreman Evan Cheverie, taking after spells with Long Beach IceDogs and Cincinnati Cyclones in the East Coast Hockey League.  The 25 year-old says that signing for Coventry was a straightforward decision, announcing "I chose Coventry for a number of reasons.  First, I wanted to be on a winning team that had a chance to win a championship.  Second, I wanted to continue my education.  Third, I wanted to be around good people.  It should be a great year and I'm looking forward to arriving later this month."

Elite League newcomers Edinburgh Capitals have been adding to their roster in the shape of Travis Lisabeth and Fredrik Oduya.  Lisabeth plays on the left wing, and previously iced for the Mississippi Sea Wolves in the ECHL, where he notched up 59 points (26 goals and 33 assists) in 70 games, with 96 penalty minutes.  Capitals Coach Tony Hand says "Lisabeth has some very good stats from his time with the Kitchener Rangers and Mississippi Sea Wolves in North America and should fit in well here with the Captials.  He has both speed, height and weight and will no doubt prove to be a valuable addition to the squad."

Fredrik Oduya joins the Capitals after icing last season with HC Orebro and Vallentuna BK in Sweden, and will add some muscle to the Edinburgh team.  Or so hopes Coach Hand, who says "We have been looking for a guy who can look after himself and who isn't frightened of getting his hands dirty to protect the team.  Oduya will add some much needed toughness to our roster this season and will certainly ensure that we don't get pushed around."

Newcastle Vipers have added Simon Leach to their defence, with the British player signing for a fourth season with the Tyneside team. Coach Rob Wilson is pleased with the signing, saying "Simon has been training very hard during the summer and I am sure we will see the best from him during 2005-06. The local players are the heart and soul of our club, we knew that it was very important to again built our team around these guys. Simon brings commitment, leadership and experience to our dressing room and has been an integral part of this organisation for the past three season's. The Elite League is a step up in quality for us all, including Simon, however I believe he can very much play a part in the future of the club and our ambitious plans for the future".

Duncan Dalmao has signed for the London Racers, after spending last season with the Basingstoke Bison.  Dalmao caught the attention of Racers Coach Dennis Maxwell last season, and Maxwell moved quickly to get his signature, saying “Dalmao has proven he can produce on the point. He is a good offensive defenseman and will fit in nicely with our other blue-liners.”

Basingstoke Bison may have lost Dalmao to the Racers, but there will be two more new faces playing for Coach Mark Bernard this coming season.  Brad Cruickshank has joined the Bison forwards after playing with the Motor City Mechanics in the UHL, a team which has recently acquired the services of Nottingham Panthers' forward Konstantin Kalmikov.  Coach Bernard is pleased with the signing of Cruickshank, saying "I spoke with a lot of GM's in the East Coast Hockey League and they all liked Brad, they all agreed that he is a great team player that is always a fan favourite and will stand up for his team mates on all occassions.  I liked Brad from our first conversation back in May, I could just feel the energy in his voice and he was very eager to join his former team mate Ryan O'Keefe."

Basingstoke have also added forward Jim Shepherd to the Bison roster, with Coach Bernard keen to show his pleasure at the signing.  "I was very happy when Jim's name came across my desk," says Bernard, "he's a player that I played against in my last year at Toledo and all I could remember about him was that he was always in my face.  Jim has had a great run in North America and wanted to give it a try in Europe and I'm very pleased he has chosen Basingstoke."

Sheffield Steelers have signed up forward Andrew Luciuk, who iced last season for Kalamazoo Wings in the UHL.  Coach Paul Heavey claims "We have a good one here, I am sure of that, everything I hear about Andrew I like, he can play centre or wing, is gritty and is known as a leader on and off the ice.  Andrew has experience playing pro, mainly in the UHL but he has also been considered good enough to play in the American League for a short time.  I see him fitting in very well with the side I am putting together."

Sheffield's British contingent has been bolstered with the signing of Davey Lawrence and Simon Butterworth, and Coach Heavey has also confirmed the signing of Martin Masa, who makes the move from Bracknell Bees to the House Of Steel.  "I have followed Martin since we played Bracknell last year," says Coach Heavey, "I liked what I saw, he has good presence, plays hard every shift, he sees the ice well, skated well and can finish.  He is in outstanding physical condition and can play all night.  I think he will be a super player for us next year."

Cardiff Devils will be without the services of defenceman Jason Becker this season, with the blue-liner signing for Heilbronner EC in Germany.

by Richard Allan