Gary Russell column: My first season as a pro

The 2015-16 season is my first full-time professional year as a hockey player – what a journey it’s been.

I always remember the day I was contacted by Bruce Richardson in season one to take the back-up role for the Braehead Clan – I politely refused.

Now five years down the line I’ve eventually made the choice to join – I think it’s been the correct choice.

I was in the stands as a kid watching the demise of the great Ayr Eagles in the Braehead Arena which was a major reason I didn’t join in season one.

I was in fear of the stability and scared about how the club would not grow. To my surprise the team has been a roaring success. To say I’m now part of it I am proud.

I’d played with the Solway Sharks for the past 6/7 years – it was a great place to play and improve my game.

When I joined we played in the same league as Fife Flyers and Dundee Stars. It was a good league at the time and very competitive.

As time went on and those teams left, the Solway Sharks found a new league in the NIHL. It was not as good a standard but still a good league.

For a promising kid playing hockey I’d recommend playing there instead of SNL. I got to the stage where I felt I needed to freshen things up.

I wanted to push myself further to progress as a person and a hockey player. I was also in a position at my workplace where I could ask to take on the opportunity when asked.

The Champions Hockey League was a massive draw for me. I was sold on the experience of going to two major hockey teams in Europe and competing against them.

I’ve never been to Germany to watch a DEL match, so getting the chance to do that as part of a job – yes please.

To find out that the club have a good reputation of paying players on time was always a positive to hear.

I played in a place which I called the dungeon – very old, cold and damp. I shan’t name the team, but I’m sure you can take a guess.

I was about 17 at the time and I played there for a season and a half. The sights I witnessed were another reason I stayed away from the EIHL.

Promises treated as toilet paper. Players being promised money and getting none. Players getting paid from a fruit machine was another eye opener. That just doesn’t happen in a normal workplace.

The final straw for me with that team was playing a game in pre-signed shirts because the others had been sold. Just embarrassing.

The Clan had built a reputation of being a great place to play and the fanbase was growing year-on-year – they are my kind of people.

We love to show the east coast how hockey is done properly. We may not have the history to back everything up, but as a club I think the Braehead fans and club have showed Scotland how ice hockey can be progressed.

I’m Glasgow born and bred and now to play for my hometown team and see ice hockey flourish is great. I can also play in front of my family and friends more often which I love.

(Image permission: Carol Ann Jardine)

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