During 14 seasons in British Ice Hockey, Slovakian forward Martin Cingel has established himself as one of the most popular imports to grace these shores.
The former Edinburgh Capitals, Dundee Stars and Manchester Phoenix star spent last season in NIHL North, undertaking a dual playing and coaching role with Solway Sharks.
Cingel’s played with and against some top players during his early career, including Richard Zednik, Lubomir Visnovsky, Pavol Demitra, Miroslav Satan and Zdeno Chara who all made it to the NHL.
His British debut with the Capitals in 2002 was a baptism of fire, with Dundee Stars dishing out a 16-3 hammering. Cingel remembers the game well.
“Local boys mentioned Tony Hand’s name a lot and we couldn’t understand why,” he said.
“After the game we knew why as he scored maybe eight points that night. I never thought I would spend the next 14 years in Britain.
“I had a lot of offers in the USA, Europe and Britain, but chose to stay in Edinburgh.”
Cingel says his favourite season was in the BNL in 2003/04, where he iced alongside the likes of Adrian Saul, Miro Droppa and Steven Kaye.
Defenseman Droppa makes Cingel’s best line of players from his time with the Capitals, alongside goalie Cody Rudkowsky, ‘D’ man Michal Dobron and forwards Mark Hurtubise, Colin Hemingway and Hand.
His favourite coach was Doug Christiansen, with former NHL legend Theo Fleury singled out by the Slovakian as the best player he has ever played against.
“What a player he was even when he came here to Belfast in the late years of his career,” said Cingel.
“I couldn’t imagine how good a player he was when he was in his prime at Calgary Flames. He was two levels ahead of everybody else that year.”
Cingel moved to the EPL in 2011, with Tony Hand persuading him to join the Phoenix for a season. He returned to the Capitals a year later, before moving to the Stars in 2014. Cingel switched to Dumfries at the start of last season.
“I was thinking about joining the Sharks two seasons ago, but Stars offered me a contract so I stayed in the Elite League for another year,” Cingel said.
“I heard Sharks had a great organisation and after speaking with Martin Grubb and Rab Murray I eventually signed for them.
“I have a full-time job now so it fits in well. I’m assistant coach with the Sharks and help to coach some junior hockey at Murrayfield, so along with my young family I’m very busy these days.
“I still watch the Capitals when I can – I had a great time playing for the team and made a lot of friends there.”
(Image permission: Jan Orkisz)