Departing Cardiff Devils netminder Ben Bowns paid tribute to the club as he gets ready for his big move to EBEL side Graz 99ers.
The GB goalie is leaving Cardiff after six success laden years to move into Europe, where he’ll join the Austrian side in time for next season.
But he goes with the heaviest of hearts, but excited for the new challenge ahead after establishing himself as the country’s best stopper, backed up by some top drawer performances in high profile games both domestically and internationally.
“It’ll be tricky getting my head around the fact I won’t be a Devil next season, after spending so long there, the success I’ve enjoyed and the great people there,” Bowns told British Ice Hockey. “Without them, this move wouldn’t have happened. It’s as big for them as it is for me.
“It would have been great to sign off with a Challenge Cup before the season ended the way it did, but that’s one of those things. Sadly, there’s much more going on in the world, it’s not the most important thing.
“I’m mega excited really and it’s hard to put into words. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and as a kid, you dream of going all the way to the NHL, but you soon realise, as a Brit, how hard that’s going to be so you start looking at other options.
“Now that it’s a reality, it’s a pretty awesome feeling and I can’t wait to get going.”
WATCH: Ben Bowns showreel from the World Championships last year
Bowns joined the Devils in 2014 after two seasons with Hull Stingrays and was a huge part of Andrew Lord’s side as they got their hands on two league titles, two Challenge Cups and two play-off crowns.
The 29-year-old also played in three Champions Hockey League campaigns and impressed for Great Britain at the World Championships, especially last year in the top group where he broke the record for most saves.
He revealed he could have gone last year after his heroics in Kosice, but Bowns is comforted by the fact that an old pal will be there with him in Graz when he and wife, Jade, look to adapt to their new surroundings and culture.
He added: “A top side in the EBEL had been in contact, as well as a Danish team, who were progressed the furthest, but I didn’t feel it was the right step for me at the time. With all due respect to the Danish league, I feel the Elite League is better so Cardiff was the best place for me.
“Going to Graz is a great move for me and made a lot of sense. It’s a great rink, having played there with Cardiff in the Champions Hockey League last year.
“The coach is an English speaker, which helps and having a familiar face in Dease, over there as their equipment manager, is great also for us. Plus Dease’s girlfriend, Gwennan is some familiar company for Jade too.
“Going to a new city and experiencing a different culture with someone I already know is very settling and will be a big help to us.”
As he starts to look back on his time with the Devils, Bowns says his decision to move on wouldn’t have come as a surprise as he paid tribute to the Red Army, who have supported him immensely during his time.
But he spoke of how he’s keeping busy during the lockdown and it’s fair to say, Bowns is definitely making the most of his free time.
He said: “We’ve been working on the garden since we’ve been stuck in the house, so I’ve had the time to do some extra stuff in there. It’s going to be a long off season so I’ve taken it steady and took the first couple of weeks off completely, but I’m starting to do a bit more fitness.
“We’ve also set up a small clothing business and it’s an idea I’ve had for a while. I’ve linked up with a couple of friends, one of which is a tattoo artist and we’ve came up with some designs. From there, we’ve set the other things up, including branding and it’s been going well so far.
“About the move though, Cardiff were really good about it all, of course and there had been a lot of interest in me last year because of what happened in the World Championships. I think they’ve been expecting it after the interest last year so they were really happy for us.
“Everyone’s been great about it and it made things easier for me. The fans in Cardiff have been great to me during the last six years and I want to thank them for everything they’ve done, all the support they’ve given me. Cardiff have given me a lot and the fans are a huge part of that.
“Without them, I wouldn’t have my house or my dog and I’ve got a great life in Wales. I’ll never be able to repay them and I want to thank everyone, including Lordo, Todd Kelman and all my team-mates, for all they’ve done for me.”