McKenzie hitting 500 mark

(PHOTO: Jillian McFarlane)

When Fife Flyers take to the ice to take on Wednesday against Milton Keynes Lightning, it will be a special occasion for their Scottish forward Bari McKenzie, who ices for his 500th game in all Elite League competitions.

When it comes to this league, Bari has seen it and done it all and his career, while varied, is one he can be proud of when the time comes to hang up the skates.

We’re talking about a man who has played for a record eight clubs that have played in the Elite League, someone who is the only player to have iced for all four Scottish EIHL teams and only the third Scot to reach this landmark after Colin Shields and Kyle Horne.

If you talk to anyone in the game about Bari, no matter what perspective they’re coming from, there’s one attribute that comes across repeatedly – his tireless work rate.

He may not have been blessed with enough talent to get him involved in the international set-up, for example, but he’s a player you can depend on night after night.

Everywhere he goes, fans love him for that reason.  He’s never been one to shirk and hide on the rink.  He’ll be there, sleeves rolled up and work from the moment he hits the ice till when he comes off.

When he played against former club Glasgow Clan on Hogmanay, although his team were beaten 5-2, his name was chanted by the Purple Army at the end of the game, a gesture he thanked them for on Twitter.

Off the ice, speaking on a personal level, Bari has been one of my favourite players to work with.  I could drop him a text message on the off chance he can spare me a couple of minutes and nine times out of ten, he would accommodate me.

He loves talking about the sport and we’ve had many a private discussion about certain things that have gone on, either in general or in specific.

He’s always honest in his opinions and the best example of this was an end of season game in 2011-12 when Edinburgh Capitals played Fife Flyers, with both teams failing to make the play-offs.

McKenzie will make his 500th appearance in all EIHL competitions when Fife take on MK Lightning (PHOTO: Jillian McFarlane)

Capitals ran out 11-3 winners and Bari scored a hat-trick in a game marred by a bad-tempered second period when at least three fights broke out, seven players were ejected and a normal 20-minute period lasted just over an hour.

He spoke about his hat-trick and he summed up with: “We won the game, I got a hat-trick, but the game was an utter shambles. We’re meant to be professionals and it got out of hand.

“It wasn’t fun to play in and, while it happens in hockey, it takes away from what is a great win for us. However, in the context of the season, it’s too little too late.”

The one thing to take from that, other than his honesty, was the fact he enjoys playing the game, maybe not on that occasion, but he has experienced his fair share of highs and lows.

When it comes to honours, Bari’s picked up medals primarily in the old English Premier League, but has been a Gardiner Conference winner with both Dundee Stars and what was Braehead Clan.

He played in the Champions Hockey League and was involved with Coventry Blaze in the early stages of their dominance of the Elite League just after the league had been formed.

However there have been the lows of seeing Edinburgh Capitals almost go out of business in 2010 and the cricket scores racked up against them as the imports all left.

Being let go by Cardiff was a big disappointment for him, but he bounced back with a play-off winners medal at Manchester Phoenix in the EPL.

Probably the biggest thing you can say about Bari is one of the few players, if not the only player, to be liked by fans of all four Scottish clubs.  That takes some doing.

He deserves his moment in the game against Milton Keynes and the Fife fans will help make it as special as they can for him.  A victory would be the first thing they want. Bari would say himself, but for a player who goes about his business and makes little fuss, he’s a coach’s dream.

It’s a big night for the Dumfries lad and with his fiancée, Gemma, they’ll make it a special one at the auld barn tonight.

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