The off-ice report

Thursday, 18th August 2005
Elite League Grand Slammers Coventry Blaze have retained the services of club captain Ashley Tait, signing him to a two-year contract. Tait's overtime goal in the 2005 Play-Off Final secured the clean sweep for the Coventry team, and brought the captain's tally to 35 goals and 37 assists for the season.  Blaze Coach Paul Thompson sees the value of Tait to the team, declaring that "Ashley has matured as a player and a leader in the time he has been with us and that showed last year throughout a season that ended with the biggest goal of his career.  He is reaching his peak as an athlete now and I'm overjoyed to get him tied up to a two year contract.  I see him as the ideal person to lead us into Europe."
Blaze have also added to the roster with the signing of ex-Peoria Rivermen forward David Kaczowka.  At 6'2" and 230lbs, Kaczowka looks to be stepping into the role recently vacated by Andre Payette, who has transferred to Newcastle Vipers.  Coach Thompson reveals that "David is a big tough winger and I think everyone knows what his role will be.  He is built like a tank and hits like a tank with his fists and shoulders.  What appealed to me was that he wanted to add another dimension to his game.  He got a regular shift at his previous club but didn't get much scoring responsibility.  I want him thinking how he can help us win games.  We want to go out there and play hockey, but if teams take liberties against a side with David and Graham Belak in, well I don't think they will!"
Cardiff Devils have added more muscle to their roster in the shape of 6'5", 235lbs enforcer Brad Voth.  A 1998 St Louis Blues draft pick, Voth iced last season for the Texas Wildcatters after spending a season with the Columbus Cottonmouths.  Devils Coach Ed Patterson sees this addition to his team as a strong yet skilled one, saying "He is a good player that will stick up for his team mates all the time.  I didn't want to sign a guy that could not skate.  It's also a good thing for the fans because he is not so tough that no one will fight him, so he will step up to the plate and the fans will like that.  Anyone that qyestions our toughness is silly."
Cardiff will be without the services of forward Nathan Rempel this season, with the Canadian signing for Elite League rivals London Racers.  Faced with the news that new signing Jay Woodcroft had decided not to take up his roster spot with the Racers, Coach Dennis Maxwell moved quickly to plug the gap with the signing of the former Devil.  "Rempel is a great addition to this club," says Coach Maxwell.  "He is really underrated and I think he is going to have a real impact up front.  We have definitely worked hard this off-season to bring more goal scoring to the team.  Hopefully it pays off, I am really looking forward to getting back to London and working with the guys."
Belfast Giants have filled the all-important position between the pipes with netminder Mike Minard.  Giants Coach Ed Courtenay says "I'm delighted to announce that Mike Minard will be goal tending for the Belfast Giants this coming season, skating onto the Odyssey ice on Friday the 9th September against the Newcastle Vipers.  Mike’s statistics speak for themselves.  Selected in the fourth round by the Edmonton Oilers in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft, Minard began his professional career in 1996-97 with Wheeling of the East Coach Hockey League. He also played in the ECHL with New Orleans, Dayton, Reading and Toledo, and finally last season completed a good year with Columbia Inferno where he had an impressive 5 shutouts during the regular season.  I believe he will be outstanding in the Elite League this year."
Nicknamed "Mini", the netminder has earned plenty of praise not only for his on-ice abilities but also for his off-ice community projects, including a programme entitled "Mini's Munchkins" which was ran in aid of sick children and their families.
Belfast have retained the services of Curtis Huppe, Jason Bowen and Leigh Jamison, and have added newcomer Shawn Skiehar, signing the forward from the Louisiana IceGators.  Coach Courtenay has a specific role in mind for Skeihar, stating that "In his career so far Skiehar has received over 1190 penalty minutes, so I'm sure it won't be long before the other teams realise that he isn't afraid of throwing his weight around.  I have played with and against Skiehar, he's certainly a guy you want to have on your team!"
Mike Peron has signed for a third season with the Sheffield Steelers, putting pen to paper on a one-year deal. "I always said that I never wanted to leave Sheffield and that was the case," says Peron, who was reportedly a target for both Nottingham Panthers and Newcastle Vipers.  Steelers Coach Paul Heavey breathed a sigh of relief at securing the signature, saying "Mike is a key guy and one we wanted here to build a winning franchise.  He is a core player in my thinking, it's his third season and you need guys who are going to bring continuity to your team.  We also know what we are getting, there are few risks, you get leadership guts, character and a guy who will go that extra mile to help your team win."
Basingstoke Bison have announced the signing of Canadian forward John Wheaton for the forthcoming season, and Bison Coach Mark Bernard is openly pleased with the acquisition.  "Doug Sheppard is the one who actually put me onto John and after doing some checking I found we might have discovered a diamond in the rough," says Coach Bernard. "One of my friends that scouts for the Calgary Flames rated him very highly and thought he would do very well over in the UK.  John is a player that I will be looking upon to create some excitement with his hard-hitting style, he has very good hands and will surprise a few defenders if left open for too long."
Wheaton himself is looking forward to playing for the Bison, saying "I can't wait to get over to Basingstoke and start playing, I've really been training hard and want to make the most of this opportunity.  I've been skating with Shawn Maltby this summer and he's helped me already with little tips that will help make my rookie campaign a sucessful one."

Nottingham Panthers have signed foward Dan Welch from the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, where he spent three seasons.  Panthers coach Mike Blaisdell is keeping a cool head with regards to making signings, saying "I am being patient on the recruitment front, there are plenty of players out there but I want to get guys who will play the right way,  Dan Welch fits the bill, he is gritty and hard working.  He is a good player, great on the penalty kill and a great athlete.  I like what I hear about him."
by Richard Allan